Korean Perspective: Skin pH

Some time last year, at the gym, I found this beauty magazine called Beauty+ that was just lying around (I stopped buying glossies when I was perhaps 14) and members of the gym were free to take home a copy.

One of the articles was titled ‘Is my skin [at pH] 5.5?’ and today I thought I should share its (translated) contents, just in case you might find it useful. If you enjoy skincare and are somewhat passionate about it, you’ll be aware that pH has really become a major factor in how we view and select skincare.

You may also already know that purified water has a pH of 7 and that healthy skin apparently, supposedly, is lightly acidic due to its acid mantle, with a pH of 5.5. Many people including yours truly enjoy a pH balanced cleanser to help manage acneic skin, especially following Skin and Tonic’s seminal blog post on the importance of pH in skincare, which I highly recommend if that is a topic you are interested in learning more about.

Here’s what the magazine says your skin’s pH might be, depending on your issues – translation by moi with the help of Naver (Korean online dictionary) especially for some technical terms:

TYPE 1 – pH 4 to 4.5

Excessive acidity; oily skin. The secretion of sebum around the forehead and nose is severe and visible even with the naked eye. In the afternoon, foundation disappears due to sebum production. Large pores. Blackheads and whiteheads are concerns. Inflamed pimples often arise.

TYPE 2 – pH 7.5 to 8

Normal to dry skin, acne prone skin. The whole face is red and sensitive. Milia. Dryness causes makeup to separate or crack. There are many days when the skin is not in good condition. Skin texture tends to be rough.

TYPE 3 – pH 8.5 and higher

Alkaline/extremely sensitive and atopic skin. The skin is usually dry. Makeup tends to settle in wrinkles and fine lines, or you have lots of dead skin. After washing your face, skin is dry and after only a short time, it starts to feel hot. Skin peels and flakes. Your skin shows symptoms of atopy, skin irritation.

TYPE 4 – pH 5.5

You don’t get oily except a little in the T zone. In the afternoon, your skin naturally glows. Your skin is supple and even. Your skin is neither dry nor oily after washing your face. You usually don’t have zits.

Now the question is… what’s your type? My skin doesn’t really fit into any one type, which leads me to think that pH is not really my issue. Genetics and hormones might be, though. Let me know in the comments!

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13 thoughts on “Korean Perspective: Skin pH

  1. I have mostly Type 1 skin. Very oily with pores, but it’s that same oil that I fight all day that keeps me looking young, so it’s a tradeoff 🙂 I’ve seen cleansing products that are for “combination” skin, so I’m assuming it’s a mix of two or more types?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Combination skin usually refers to skin that’s dry on the cheeks, oily in the T Zone (forehead, nose, chin).

      As for the test, I wouldn’t take it as gospel. It’s an indicator that perhaps if you have oily skin, you could look at acids to exfoliate, and if you have dry skin, you could check it switching your cleanser for a pH balanced one might help. But seeing as skin is a hugely complex organ, simply reducing skin issues to pH results in oversimplifying the subject matter, in my mind. I for one know that pH can’t be the root of my issues.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. If your skin is super oily, have you tried adding more moisturising/hydrating products? I used to have extremely oily skin too until I realised that it was dehydrated, causing it to produce sebum excessively. Ever since I went down the road of hardcore hydration, I no longer get the oilies and pimples heal much better too. Unfortunately I still get breakouts – that’s something hydration could not rid me of.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I tried that, but it made me even oilier. I think it’s just genetics, because my mom was the same way. I really don’t know much about skin.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well you’ve come to the right place (my blog) 😁 In all seriousness though, most people are probably okay using a 3-4 step routine. Makeup remover and/or cleanser, toner and/or serum, moisturiser and/or SPF.

        Unless you’re my hubby with his 2 step routine, who gets away with washing his face with my regular face wash and then puts on rosehip oil in the night and sunscreen during the day, and he has absolutely beautiful skin. Smooth and glowy, not a single wrinkle in sight at almost 42. Those beautiful Korean genes of his might have something to do with it as well though. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hahaha Lucky him! My husband just uses soap and never gets acne. Guys are lucky aren’t they? 😝

        I’ll definitely keep reading your blog. Shiny/oily skin is something I’ve dealt with my whole life with minimal success. I just accepted it one day and don’t know if it will ever change.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I found this to be super interesting! One of the first things I learned when diving into skincare was they 5.5 was the ideal pH for cleansers…but never heard that it may be different depending on skin type. I identify with the struggles of Type 1 but also can be in Type 4 depending on the day (haha). I’ll have to keep an eye out for cleansers that fall into the sub 5.5 range to see if they help my skin. I would love to see your cleanser recommendations based on type!


    1. For super oily skin I’d recommend cosRX’s Good Morning Low pH cleanser.
      For sensitive acne prone skin I love Acwell’s 5.5 Bubble Free cleanser IF you can get over the fact that it won’t lather up.
      For reactive sensitive acne prone dehydrated skin (my current go to, repurchased twice already) I cannot recommend Uriage’s Xemose syndet cleanser enough.

      For makeup removal I’m using the Sensibio micellar water and a cleansing lotion as a first step cleanser. Haven’t found an outstanding cleansing lotion yet but Neutrogena seems an ok (if not slightly basic) option for now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you! Now I’m thinking that 5.5 might be just right for me because the Cosrx Good Morning was just a tad too drying for my skin. I have the Acwell 5.5 pH Balancing Micro Foaming Cleanser in my stash which I think is a bit different but I’m looking forward to trying it!


    1. The magazine did offer some recommendations re products but it all read like one big ad/product placement so I didn’t pay it much attention at the time.

      What products are you using at the moment? I’d imagine you’d benefit from gentle (chemical) exfoliants maybe, peptides, hydrators and occlusives?

      Liked by 1 person

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