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PH Labelling of Skin Cleansers Can Lead to Better Options for People with Atopic Dermatitis

AAAAI News Release

February 5, 2024

Candace Archie, Communications & Public Relations Manager
(414) 272-6071

Liquid synthetic detergents are more likely to be acidic than other cleansers, making them a good option for people with atopic dermatitis.

MILWAUKEE – Atopic dermatitis patients may find better results using liquid synthetic detergents according to new research being presented at the 2024 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting.

“Shopping for skin cleanser products for Atopic Dermatitis can be dizzying with so many options available and different claims made on the labels,” said primary author Adil Khan, MD. “Manufacturers that choose to disclose a products’ pH on the label can help narrow the choices. In particular, liquid synthetic cleansers most closely mimic normal skin pH.”
Skin with atopic dermatitis (AD) changes pH from acidic to alkaline, which contributes to skin-barrier dysfunction. Acidic cleansers are typically preferred for AD skin care, but information on product pH is scarce. To explore this topic, researchers collected 250 cleansing products from local retail stores in a medium-sized US city and measured pH of those cleansing products using Accumet pH meter (model AP115, Fischer Scientific). Solutions were made by dissolving 1mL of liquid product or 1g of bar scrapings in 9mL distilled water, and pH values 6.65 to 7.35 were considered neutral.
Of the 250 cleansing products, 37 were soaps, 32 bar soaps and 5 liquid soaps, and 213 were synthetic detergents (syndets), 14 bar syndets and 199 liquid syndets. All soaps were found to be alkaline, although none of the soap labels disclosed pH levels. In 14 syndet bars, 6 had neutral pH and 8 were alkaline. Among the 199 syndet liquids, 84.9% were acidic, 11.1% were neutral and 4% were alkaline. Only 32 syndets, 16.1%, disclosed pH levels. Nine syndet bars were labelled “balanced,” with neutral pH in 6 and alkaline pH in 3. Of the other 23 syndets, the pH was also referred to as “balanced” in 20 with pH measured as neutral in 2, acidic in 18 and “in pH range 4.25 to 6.0” in 3 whose measured pH was actually 4.40 to 6.11.
Only 12.8% of marketed cleansers disclosed pH. The pH of the tested cleansers varied widely among brands, and all tested soaps had an undesirable pH, whereas 84.5% of liquid syndets were acidic and 11% neutral. These findings suggest that patients with atopic dermatitis may find better results with liquid syndets compared to other skincare options. Including pH levels on product labels can be beneficial for people with atopic dermatitis as health providers could advise patients appropriately.  
Visit to learn more about atopic dermatitis. Research presented at the 2024 AAAAI Annual Meeting, February 23-26 in Washington, DC, is published in an online supplement to The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) is the leading membership organization of more than 7,100 allergists, asthma specialists, clinical immunologists, allied health professionals and other professionals with a special interest in the research and treatment of allergic and immunologic diseases. Established in 1943, the AAAAI has more than 7,100 members in the United States, Canada and 72 other countries and is the go-to resource for patients living with allergies, asthma and immune deficiency disorders.