Taking better care of your acid mantle could be the key to solving your skin issues for good!
What is an acid mantle?
The acid mantle isn’t a physical skin layer, but rather a protective barrier that is present when your skin is at the optimal pH – which is usually somewhere between 4,5 and 6.
The acid mantle is formed when sebum (good old fashioned oil secreted by your skin) mixes with sweat and NMF (short for Natural Moisturising Factor, which is also present in your skin). Hey presto! You have a slightly acidic film that forms a protective barrier over your skin.
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What does the acid mantle do?
This barrier is your first defence against excessive moisture loss, and it also protects you against fungal and bacterial infections.
That’s what most people know about their acid mantle – it does a whole lot more than that though. Your acid mantle also serves the following functions:
- Prevents pathogens from entering your bloodstream, thus preventing infections
- Secretes enzymes that break down excess sebum, which in turn improves acne and problem skin conditions
- Keeps your skin looking supple (i.e. free from abrasions, cracks, lesions)
- Protects your skin against environmental factors and external aggressors (cold, heat, wind, pollution) which cause redness, dryness and itching
What damages your acid mantle?
Damage to the acid mantle is mostly self-inflicted. Some of the biggest culprits are harsh, soap-containing cleansers. Soaps and soapy cleansers are alkaline, and because of their unsuitable pH, they strip away your acid mantle and all its protective functions. When your skin is without this vital protective layer, it’s vulnerable to a myriad of different skin reactions ranging from slight dryness to full blown acne or eczema.
What are the symptoms of a compromised acid mantle?
Symptoms vary from one person to the next and depend on how healthy your skin is to start with.
Dry skins will feel tightness, and tingling and itching in more severe cases. You’ll see redness and when it’s more severe you’ll see fine cracks or fissures and patches of flaky skin. Your skin may also feel warm.
Oily skins will often become more oily and will likely have breakouts. Skin will be red and feel warm since there will probably be inflammation present.
The above symptoms are relevant to relatively healthy skins – if you have a skin condition like eczema or rosacea, all hell will break loose if you disrupt your acid mantle.
How do you keep your acid mantle healthy?
It’s not that complicated. Use gentle, soap-free products to cleanse with. Avoid rough granular exfoliators, and rather use enzymatic or AHA exfoliants to slough off dead skin cells instead. Moisturise your skin daily to help with barrier protection against the elements.