Acid Mantle on Your Skin: Significance and How to Protect It

acid mantle
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Nika_Akin

The acid mantle is a natural part of your skin’s surface that performs some very important functions. We’ll tell you how to effectively maintain a healthy acid mantle.

The acid mantle is a thin film on the skin’s surface composed of lipids from the oil glands, mixed with amino acids from your sweat. The acid mantle is slightly acidic, fluctuating between a pH of four and seven. Today, the term acid mantle has become known most importantly to refer to the protective barrier of the skin, helping to keep moisture in and harmful bacteria and pollution, out.

If you experience skin conditions such as dry flaky skin, sensitivity, or if you see signs of premature aging, this is a sign that your acid mantle is damaged. These skin problems can arise when the lipid barrier has been stripped away and the natural pH of the skin is disrupted. This is usually caused by the use of abrasive skincare products, which can be too harsh on the skin. 

How Well Proven Is the Importance of the Acid Mantle?

An imbalance of the skin's pH levels can lead to various skin conditions.
An imbalance of the skin’s pH levels can lead to various skin conditions.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Kjerstin_Michaela)

The idea of the acid mantle is not new: the term was coined in 1928 by German physicians Heinrich Schade and Alfred Marchionini in Kiel, Germany. In short: our skin’s pH, created by the acid mantel, helps to ward off infection. Much research has been done to understand more about the significance of the skin’s pH balance, the make-up of the acid mantle, and bacterial growth. The research shows that soaps and skincare products can disrupt the pH levels of the acid mantle, which can make the skin prone to conditions (such as eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, and acne).

Do You Need to Use Products on the Acid Mantle?

Skincare products that are too abrasive can damage the acid mantle.
Skincare products that are too abrasive can damage the acid mantle.
(Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / dungthuyvunguyen)

Because the acid mantle is a fine layer of natural oils, amino and fatty acids, and sweat, any ‘harsh’ product or environmental change (like pollution or aging) can alter or damage it. If the acid mantle has become damaged, it can usually repair itself, but this can take time. When it is damaged, it also makes your skin more prone to dryness and infection. You can help to repair your skin’s acid mantle by switching from skincare products that are too abrasive, to natural products that promote clear skin

Some skincare tips for repairing and maintaining a healthy acid mantle include:

  • For many people, washing their face with just water works great. Cheap and sustainable, and it won’t alter the pH levels of your skin like other cleansers. 
  • Stop using cleansers and soaps that leave your skin feeling ‘squeaky-clean’, as they can strip your skin of its natural oils, which are an important part of the acid mantle. Serums and moisturizers can help to hydrate, but they are not the same as the natural oils our skin produces.  
  • Avoid using face scrubs that are grainy and sandy, as the particles are too large and abrasive, and can damage the acid mantle. Instead, try glycolic acid — it is a naturally occurring active compound that can be extracted from sugar cane, sugar beets, and other fruits. Exfoliants that contain Glycolic acid can be a better choice as it tends to be gentler on the skin.
  • When buying a moisturizer, look for the ingredient hyaluronic acid, a substance that naturally occurs in the fluids in your eyes and joints. In cosmetics, it is used to hydrate your skin and give it a chance to repair itself from harsh products that have damaged the acid mantle.
  • Have a balanced and healthy diet, to keep your body healthy from the inside out. Studies show that maintaining a healthy diet helps to reduce skin aging

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