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Friday, March 21, 2014

driving in neutral: skin pH restoring

What is pH?

pH is a sciencey chemisty shorthand for "potential of hydrogen", or the ratio of hydrogen to oxygen. Basically, a term we now use to define the acidity of something. Low pH has a lot of hydrogen. High pH has a lot of oxygen.

You see this useful little key I pinched from several places online? (Can't find the original source. Sorry. Not that it's amazingly unique anyway.) See the detergent a pH of 9, and everything higher than that being some sort of cleaning product? Yeah. Most of your personal cleansers and products fit into that high pH range, too. Your shampoo, your pore tightening scrub, your shower gel and shaving foam... Not just your dish soap.

Now see the vinegar listed with lemon juice at 2 pH? Apple cider vinegar is closer to between 4 and 5.

Your skin? If you're a woman, you fit between 4 and 6, and if you're a man, between 5 and 7. Approximately. Yes, women are slightly more acidic than men (ha, ha, get out your laughs now), in particular when it comes to private bits. But basically, on this little scale of 1 being pure acid to 14 being pure alkali, humans fit in the middle. Neutral.

Oh, boy. Did we just get personal?

Well, this is one of the causes for infections and skin irritations, not merely a result of them. Sometimes, when men and women get down under those sheets, especially if they are not sexually active or frequently active, yeast or urinary tract infections follow, more often for the women. Poor us, and not just the fault of our anatomy. It's not uncommon for a newly pregnant mama to experience some of the same discomforts as her body changes for a growing babe. Women who are not being slowly turned into balloons or rolling in the hay with some guy are also susceptible at times simply due to hormones, which fluctuate throughout the course of each month, not to mention over decades. Sometimes, hygiene habits just need a little tweak. Cotton knickers that breathe, maybe swapping out the disposable unsanitary "sanitary" feminine products for cotton reusables that really can be ensured safe and clean, the habit of urinating after intercourse. Those things can help. But sometimes, the main problem is that area's pH is off, leaving sensitive skin vulnerable. It needs to be balanced again.

Apple cider vinegar to the rescue.
  1. Skin toner -- check out my anti-acne plantain acv facial toner recipe.
  2. You can also use plain ACV, diluted to 50% strength with water, aloe juice, hydrosol, herbal infusion, or other skin-gentle liquid as a body rinse in the shower after soaping.
  3. One of the reasons a diluted ACV rinse helps soothe sunburns is -- you guessed it! PH balancing. I recommend going with an aloe juice instead of water, for extra soothing and healing power.
  4. Hair rinse. I like to clean my hair by rubbing my scalp with a paste of baking soda and water, sometimes a few drops of lemon or tea tree essential oils added. After rinsing clear, I then dilute several tablespoonfuls of ACV in a cup of plain water, dump it all over my head and let it soak in for a few minutes before rinsing again. This BS/ACV method is sometimes called, "no poo" cleansing, but I find that mildly disturbing so will stick with the abbreviations. The ACV helps to bring my scalp skin back to a neutral pH after the baking soda cleansing. We recently traveled to England and I used my mother's Pantene shampoo and conditioner. Big mistake. I came home with a nasty, prickly, flaky, sore, itchy patch of contact dermatitis on the back of my scalp above the nape of my neck. It healed with my return to BS/ACV cleansing, totally toxin-free, along with an extra rinse each shower of chickweed and plantain tea. I could have used plantain-infused ACV, too, but I was waiting on a new batch to finish at the time. 
  5. My Personal Australia rinsing, or vaginitis relief. (Are you getting the idea?) No need to douche unless you really want to, but a quick splash of straight up vinegar or 50:50 ACV and water any time needed after intercourse, or during menstruation, or during menopause, or pretty much any time your skin may be a little vulnerable, exposed, or off for any reason, can rapidly help restore your natural pH and halt discomfort in its tracks. To up the ante and really knock an incipient yeast infection flying, mix 1 part ACV with 1 part strong infusion of plantain and lavender, and wash the area using a little squeezy peri bottle each time you use the loo. You can also follow up with 1 drop each -- just one -- of castor oil and tea tree essential oil applied to any itching external areas. You probably won't need to do this even for one day.
  6. Bathing with vinegar. Yep. Once again, same benefits, plus sore muscles will enjoy soaking up the minerals for faster recovery from an injury or a workout. Drop anywhere from 1 cup to 1 gallon of ACV into a deep bath and soak in it. Lovely. I often added a little ACV to my son's baths when he was a baby. Heck, I do even now. But tiny infants have especially vulnerable skin, having been grown and protected in the perfect pH environment, and now they are out in the world and exposed their skin is open to all kinds of attack. Diaper rash is usually as simple as contact dermatitis. So I'm not a big fan of baby soap for babies. I do highly recommend several Tbs of ACV and aloe vera juice to a sink or large bowl of baby bath water, along with a small posset or teabag of skin-gentle herbs such as chickweed, calendula, rose petals, lavender, oatstraw, and using a rubdown of castor and apricot or coconut oils as a cleanse from any poop or dirt. No soap needed.
  7. Foot fungus, like athlete's foot, will take a needed kick in the bum with regular ACV rinsing. You can make a tincture of apple cider vinegar and antifungal herbs, like Four Thieves blend (peppermint, lavender, rosemary, sage, wormwood 1 part each by size, not weight) or eucalyptus leaf, and make a foot soak every evening as a curative, or after every workout as a preventative for those who are prone to flareups. 
  8.  I have not had this problem with my deodorant, possibly because it is not predominantly baking soda, or possibly because I use ACV in my hair so frequently that it rinses over most of the rest of me as well, but Crunchy Betty's post on troubleshooting homemade deodorant with a pH balancing act (namely ACV rinsing) explains much of the above, plus some useful embedded links for further reading.

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