Is pH Testing Your Cleanser the Secret to Better Skin? Here's How to Do It

Is pH Testing Your Cleanser the Secret to Better Skin? Here's How to Do It

Jude Chao
Jude Chao

Aug 11, 2017

Did you know the pH of your cleanser can make a dramatic difference in your skin — either for the better or for the worse? Here, Editor at Large Jude Chao demonstrates how easy pH testing your favorite cleansers is.


In a recent article, I discussed the impact your cleanser’s pH can have on your skin. Not every brand lists the pH on the label, however. If some other skincare fanatic hasn’t already tested the product you’re using and posted their results online, you may have to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work yourself.

Luckily, the dirty work isn’t hard at all! Let’s take a look at how to determine the pH of a cleanser.

You will need:

1. Water-soluble cleanser

Foaming cleansers are water-soluble, but gel and milk cleansers count, too.

2. Water

While pure water is a neutral (7) pH, other substances present in your tap water may affect final pH results, so I like to test from the tap, with the water I’ll be using to wash my face.

3. pH testing strips

In a pinch, single-color litmus strips can determine a general pH range and should be fine for simply finding out if your cleanser is below neutral or not. I prefer the four-color strips pictured below, however. These give a more accurate reading. There are also fancier digital pH meters available, but for our purposes, I find them unnecessary.

How to test the pH of your cleanser

1. Get a couple of pH strips out of the package and place them within easy reach of your sink.

2. Mix your cleanser with water in your hand.

3. Gently press the testing side of your strips into the mixture so that the strips are well saturated with product.

4. Compare the color of your pH testing strips to the guide on the package to determine your cleanser’s pH.

Is your cleanser’s pH 7 or lower? Congratulations, it’s neutral to low pH and likely to be much gentler on your skin’s moisture barrier than if it is higher than 7!

Is your cleanser’s pH higher than 7? Sit back and think hard about whether your skin could do better with a less alkaline product. Low-pH cleansers are especially important if your skin is:

  • Dry
  • Dehydrated
  • Sensitive
  • Acne-prone
  • Being treated with strong or multiple chemical exfoliants

Having fun yet? pH testing strips are a handy tool to keep around. Now you can test all those cleanser samples I know you have hoarded from your K-beauty hauls!

Have you ever pH tested your cleansers? What did you find?

Jude Chao
Jude Chao
Jude writes as Fiddy Snails at the K-beauty and skincare blog Fifty Shades of Snail and can be found on Instagram @fiddysnails. Named the ELLE Malaysia Beauty Blogger of the Month for June/July 2017 and one of ELLE Magazine‘s 10 Cool Beauty Bloggers to Watch in 2018, Jude loves ginseng, snail, honey, propolis, and tuna fish kimbap, though she generally doesn’t put the kimbap on her face.

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