When used properly, acids like alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids can be great for your skin. They penetrate deeply into pores to whisk away dead skin cells and give skin a radiant, lit-from-within glow. However, when improperly applied, acids can do major damage to your visage. Which is why when we discovered people of the Internet are topically applying literal acidic ingredients like lime juice to their faces — as a cleanser — we had to step in to offer our expertise.
Deep in the subreddit forum for skin-care fanatics, aptly named SkincareAddiction, Redditor potatomyteries shared a story of sheer skin-care horror:
“Overheard ‘natural skin care’ conversation at work: ‘I wash my face with lime juice.’ I couldn’t help immediately crying out ‘NO’ from across the room, which caused a lot of defensiveness. He proceeded to try and school me on the fact that ‘most [skin-care] products are too alkaline’ and ‘acids are great for your face,'” wrote potatomyteries. But it didn’t stop there. They continued, “He also informed me that he follows up the lime juice with an ‘abrasive sponge’ to really ‘scrub the top layer of skin off.’ I wanted to poke my eyeballs out.”
Eeeeeeeeeeek, no. Please, just no. When we reached out to New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner for this story, he basically had the same sort of initial reaction — he was more or less frightened for the state of someone’s skin. But before we dive into the lime juice cleanser debacle, let’s quickly go over what we mean by “alkaline” and “acidic.”
The pH system, which stands for “power of hydrogen,” runs from zero (the most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with 7 considered to be neutral. So that means pH levels less than 7 are said to be acidic, while those above 7 are alkaline, or basic. According to Zeichner, the pH of the skin is slightly acidic, which is “why it is commonly referred to as the ‘Acid Mantle.'” “A pH of 5.5 is ideal for skin cells to function optimally to maintain hydration and protect itself from the environment,” he explains.
And as Zeichner points out, traditional soaps and cleansers are alkaline in pH, which can strip the skin of essential oils, disrupt the skin barrier, and lead to inflammation. Which is why our Reddit friend’s coworker avoids products in lieu of “natural” options, like the lime juice. But see, here’s where they’re wrong.
“Just as an alkaline pH is harmful to the skin, extremely acidic pH products can cause skin damage as well,” explains Zeichner. “Using acidic products, even natural juices, can significantly irritate the skin. Abrasive scrubbing, even from sponges, can make it worse.”
More about DIY skin care:
- My Failed Experiment With Homemade Beauty Products
- Whip Up This Soothing DIY Chest Rub From The Ayesha Curry Cookbook
- Could This DIY Contouring Mask Change Your Beauty Routine?
Now, find out how to make this DIY lip scrub: