Welcome to Beauty Brief — where we take a deep-dive into the industry's top-rated skincare, makeup and haircare brands. We test them out exclusively for 30 days, learn from the founders and formulators, and let you know our 100% honest opinion. 👋
We've covered the Alkaline Diet on LEAF before, which is supposedly great for anyone dealing with skin imbalances. But, what about topicals? What is "pH optimized skincare"? Well, we found an answer (or two!) straight from the creator and founder of PHACE BIOACTIVE — one of the first skincare brands out there to create a line scientifically focused on building the perfect pH balance, for your face. For 12 years, founder Marisa Vara Arredondo, was an analyst on Wall Street researching and investing in cosmetic, drug and biotech companies. It was this first-hand experience with skin biology, ingredient technology and a discouraging past with cystic acne, that led her to build PHACE.
The result of this labor of love is a skincare line that is razor-focused on helping men and women find balance within their skincare regime. It's not solely focused on anti-aging, acne or pigmentation, but an all encompassing ~glow~ that you find when everything comes into harmony.
I've personally been using the Clarifying Serum and literally wake up glowing — it's a gel that I normally use at night only (although you can use it AM/PM) and works to combat acne and wrinkles. I also think it's done wonders for blackheads around my nose!
I had the chance to interview Marisa, to learn all about what pH optimized skincare means, the biggest misconception people have when it comes to skin health, and tips on fighting cystic acne.
What exactly IS pH optimized skincare??
It's a routine that is solely targeted towards bringing your skin back into balance. The ideal pH for skin is in a mildly acidic range of pH 4.0-6.0. When skin is mildly acidic, its skin barrier remains in-tact, which helps seal the moisture in, keeping your skin firm and elastic, and also protects from environmental damage, as well as pimples and inflammation.
As we age, our skin naturally becomes more alkaline, or dry and brittle. This is why you want to use mildly acidic skin care, or PHACE BIOACTIVE, to instantly bring your skin back into balance, so it is healthy, even-toned and more youthful-looking. Another "fun" note is that men's skin tends to be slightly more acidic than women's, which is why they appear to age more gracefully than us. 😏
Mildly acidic skin is healthy, even-toned, firm and elastic, and clear ….not red, oily, acneic, dry, or dull. If you purchase a line that does say it is pH balanced, it's probably because it's not. If you buy a product with alkaline ingredients, like soap, detergents, foaming agents and sulfates, you are damaging your skin instantly, and accelerating the signs of aging.
How did you learn about the importance of pH balance in skincare?
As a teen, I suffered from cystic acne which came back, albeit in a less severe form, as a young adult. This lead me to try anything and everything: buff puffs, soap, sulfur, benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, retin-A, corticosteroid injections into my cysts, and finally, Accutane. The Accutane worked, for a short while, but as I mentioned, eventually my pimples came back in the form of adult-acne. This is what lead to me to Wall Street after graduating from Stanford University, to become a Research Analyst for 12 years, studying dermatology and cosmetic companies. I wanted to find a cure for my skin problems and my job afforded me the opportunity to meet the CEO's and heads of R&D, AND the top dermatologists and product developers in America.
In a meeting with the head of Research at Merck Pharmaceuticals, he taught me about the critically important role that pH plays both in formulating medicines as well as in skin products and the skin in general. This was my lightbulb moment!
What is the biggest misconception people have when it comes to caring for their skin?
Squeaky clean skin is a good thing; it's not. If your skin is squeaky clean or feels dry and taut after cleansing, you have damaged your skin's protective barrier. This happens when you use any cleansing product that has a harsh detergent or foaming agent in it, like sulfates, or even pure soap, which is totally alkaline. When you strip your skin's barrier, you immediately dry out and damage your skin, making it vulnerable to redness and inflammation, pimples and pre-mature wrinkles.
Another misconception is that acids are bad for your skin. Mild acids are exactly what you want to be applying to your skin to keep it even-toned, healthy and youthful. Mildly acidic skin care, or pH Optimized Skin Care®, is formulated to effectively work with the naturally acidic pH of healthy skin. In other words, it brings your skin back into balance which means you will see a clear, even-toned, glow-y complexion in the mirror.
What is your #1 tip for someone going through painful cystic acne?
My #1 tip is to cleanse properly. That means drop the Clarisonic, or any cleansing brush for that matter – these can damage your skin barrier. No rough particle exfoliants either. Check that your cleanser is void of alkaline ingredients – like sulfates, alcohol, soaps, and detergents. Use a pH optimized cleanser with lukewarm water, not too hot or too cold, which can damage the skin's barrier. When your skin isn't behaving properly, less is often more, and it likely starts at the most important stage of a skin care ritual, the cleansing stage.
How long did it take you to notice a change in your skin after using pH optimized skincare?
The change was instant, starting with the cleansing step. My skin felt smoother, clean and soft… not tight, dry or greasy – which is what every other cleanser did to my skin. The reason is because our cleanser, in clinical studies, instantly improves your skin's barrier function by +55%. Further, because I am so sensitive, it's not uncommon for me to break out or turn red from the toxic ingredients in other skincare – we're free of toxic ingredients, so that never happens to me now.
Using the cleanser together with the other products – in a few weeks, I saw more changes - redness disappeared, pore size appeared smaller, my skin was clearer, and I had a more glow-y complexion. The effects of the change in diet took a little longer…those changes were improved immunity, energy, mood and sleep – all factors that contribute to feeling and looking great.
What kind of diet do you follow?
I follow the "alkaline diet". On the outside, our skin has a mildly acidic pH of 4.0-6.0. Internally, our body has an optimal pH range of pH 7.35-7.45. The alkaline diet is 80% alkaline/20% acidic. Alkaline foods consist of leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds… I try to avoid acid-forming villains like dairy, alcohol, caffeine, red meat, sugar and processed grains. Following the alkaline diet gives me more energy, better sleep, stronger immunity, and a healthy mindset.
What is your go-to breakfast recipe?!
A big cup of YOGI Super Antioxidant Green Tea with either FAGE Greek Yogurt, berries with local honey and/or organic granola OR a slice of Mestemacher "Fitness Bread" toasted with organic Italian almond butter.
What does your skincare routine look like these days?
Morning: I wash with PHACE BIOACTIVE Detoxifying Gel Cleanser for 1 full minute and rinsing with lukewarm water. Then I pat dry and apply PHACE BIOACTIVE's Revitalizing Eye Gelee under my eyes and on my lids – it feels cool and helps to "de-puff" my eyes and reduce swelling. Then I follow with PHACE BIOACTIVE's Soothing Day Cream + Primer SPF 46, all over my face and neck. This gives me the hydration, sun protection and it also acts as my primer, with anti-aging ingredients. I follow with either a light foundation and/or bronzing powder.
Nighttime: I cleanse with PHACE BIOACTIVE's Detoxifying Gel Cleanser and again, massage it into my skin for 1 full minute and rinse with lukewarm water. It removes all dirt and makeup from the day, including your eye makeup, without drying or stripping the skin. Then I pat dry, apply the Revitalizing Eye Gelee to my eye area, and follow with PHACE BIOACTIVE's Clarifying Serum on the fine lines on my forehead, my laugh lines, and my chin, where I tend to get hormonal acne. I allow it to dry for 1 minute and then follow with PHACE BIOACTIVE's Regenerating Night Cream all over my face. When I remember (which isn't often enough), I apply PHACE BIOACTIVE's Rejuvenating Decollete Cream on my neck and chest.
What are your go-to makeup brands?
Laura Gellar for bronzing powder and eye shadows, Bobbi Brown "Pale Pink" for blush, and MAC for lipstick and Strobe Cream.