What is the skin's Acid Mantle? And why it is important?

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Let's discuss your skin normal pH level and why it is important to maintain your skin's acid mantle to avoid dry and acne prone skin. When I see someone with red and irritated skin, it is an immediate signal to me that their skin's acid mantle is out of whack. They are various things that can cause the acid mantle to be disturbed however we must first understand the function of the skin's acid mantle. 

What is the skin's acid mantle?

The acid mantle is a protective slightly acidic film that sits on the surface of the skin. Sometimes you will hear the acid mantle referred to as a ‘hydrolipidic film’ which means a film of oil and water.  The skin normal pH level is 4.5 and 5.5 (hence the term acid mantle because it is slightly acidic). The acid mantle discourages the growth of fungi and bacteria.  Constant disruption of the acid mantle can lead to inflammation, dermatitis and atopic skin diseases.

 oatmeal and lavender soap

oatmeal and lavender soap

How does soap or harsh cleansers affect our acid mantle?

Soap has the biggest effect on the acid mantle because most still use it to cleans the skin. Most commercial or "synthetic" soaps have a pH of 7-11 depending on the process and ingredients used to make it. However, some handcrafted soaps, are ok for the acid mantle. Look for handcrafted soaps that have a high superfat of 5-10%. I have found by making and using handcrafted soap that these types of soap bars are much gentler on the skin does not cause havoc on the skin like commercial soap bars. When using these harsh cleansers,  the pH level of your skin is raised and iit goes into an alkaline state, which causes dryness of the skin (that feeling of tight dry skin after washing your face). Our skin's mantle is comprised of the following:

  • Water
  • Lactic Acid
  • Urocanic Acid
  • Fatty Acids (Sebum)
  • Pyrrbidine Carboxylic Acid
  • Amino Acids secreted by eccrine glands

Once disrupted, the acid mantle can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 14 hours to restore itself. Regardless of what you wash with, if you don’t apply a toner, serum or moisturizer within 60 seconds, the skin will start to dehydrate. The reason for this is that in a dry climate, the air looks to steal water from wherever it can get it.  Our skin needs water and acids. 

Steps to Repair your Acid Mantle

If your acid mantle is out of whack and your skin needs serious realignment I suggest getting a facial treatment with a focus on salicylic and lactic acids to assist with repair and restore your skin to its normal pH level. From that point, it's important to choose the right at home products to maintain your skin's pH level. There are some things to avoid in your at home products:

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  • Skin stripping, Astringent ingredients
  • Synthetic Fragrances
  • Parabens
  • Synthetic Colors
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Triclosan and triclocarban

Ingredients are you should be looking for:

  • EFA (essential fatty acids) rich oils - read our previous blog post about EFA's
  • Botanical Extracts 
  • Botanical Water

Cleaning the face with a gentle cleanser is important to maintain the balance of your skin's acid mantle. Using an EFA rich facial oil high in linoleic acid is a perfect choice. Our Clean Facial Oil is cleansing and gentle. A facial toner is important for keeping skin hydrated and balanced Spray the toner liberally over the face after cleansing, ensuring it is saturated, follow with an EFA rich serum and if needed a moisturizer then lastly a natural sunscreen.

SkincareDonica JohnsComment