Ah, the acid mantle.
Now you can be forgiven for thinking it is the name of a psychedelic pop band.
We all have one – a protective mantle over our skin.
It’s a film of amino acids and delicate microflora that protects your skin from premature ageing, breakouts, acne, and irritation.
Your personal acid mantle’s relative success or failure depends upon its pH level.
But what exactly does that mean? And is there anything you can do about it?
Understanding the acid mantle
Your protective acid mantle – also called the “hydro-lipid film” – is a slightly acidic film that sits on your skin’s surface; it kinda acts like an interface between you and the outside world.
In the 1920s, Marchionini and Schade (1) identified the acidity of the skin, which they called the “acid mantle”. They found that this mantle discouraged the growth of fungi and bacteria.
It wasn’t until much later that it was discovered that chronic alkalisation could knock this acid mantle out of balance, which can lead to inflammation, acne dermatitis, and many other atopic skin conditions.
As far as skin structure goes, we must admit it’s pretty cool; there is a unique micro-flora made up of abnormal secretions covering the entire surface of your skin.
- the oily secretions originate in the sebaceous glands
- the water phase is from perspiration in the sweat glands, which exhibit a potent bactericidal effect
- secretions also come from our natural moisturising factor
All of this helps to keep your skin gorgeous, glowing and healthy.
How do I know if my acid mantle is out of balance?
If your acid mantle is not functioning correctly, questions you may have about your skin are:
- My skin is constantly inflamed. Every product I use just stings, so I must be careful with what I use.
- I have to keep my skincare routine very simple. I use products for sensitive skin, but my skin is always red.
- My skin is constantly dry and flaky and always looks irritated.
- I’ve always had delicate skin, but it worsened in my mid to late ’30s.
If you’re still finding the term “acid mantle” a little technical, let us try to help by giving you another scenario.
Have you ever washed your face with soap or an astringent cleanser and experienced sensitivity or a tight, dry feeling? That was your acid mantle being stripped and knocked out of balance.
This is why you are advised not to use soap on your skin. Most soap has an alkaline pH of well over nine, and although your skin might feel squeaky clean, it is stripping and drying your skin out – the article, the soap and water debate, does an excellent job of discussing this topic further.
The anatomy of the acid mantle
Bear with us as we get a little skin sciency here.
This study demonstrates that your acid mantle skin is made up of the following (2).
- lactic acid
- urocanic acid
- fatty acids
- pyrrolidine carboxylic acid
- eccrine glands, which secrete amino acids
Friendly secretions that help with skin metabolism
They protect against environmental assaults and secrete enzymes that break down excess sebum in your skin.
They prevent harmful bacteria and viruses from entering the bloodstream, keeping your skin soft and supple so it stays free from cracks and abrasions.
They boost the immune system, which produces antigens close to the skin’s surface; these antigens retard the growth of harmful bacteria, known as pathogens.
Sadly, like all things in life, there will always be things that upset the status quo, and your acid mantle is no exception.
Unfortunately, our world is full of different environments, some of which can hurt us.
Dust, sun damage, pollutants, central heating, air conditioning, harsh treatments, and astringent products contribute to stress in the skin, which breaks down our cell’s natural defence mechanisms.
Our skin’s barrier function gets knocked out of balance. The intercellular lipids between our cell walls designed to keep this barrier intact begin to break down, creating all sorts of inflammation.
Bacteria, allergens, and foreign bodies find a passageway through your skin, causing havoc; once they hit the bloodstream, they create inflammation, allergies, and breakouts.
This is why acid mantle repair is essential if your skin is out of balance.
The importance of your skin’s pH
This is where your remnants of high school chemistry come back into play.
The pH scale is the crucial factor for determining healthy bacteria and the level of acidity to recap.
It measures the hydrogen concentration at one to 14; a neutral pH is 7; anything above creates an ALKALINE environment. Anything below creates an ACIDIC environment.
As this study shows, if your skin falls on the alkaline end of the scale, it creates a disturbed barrier (3). Your skin will be drier and more susceptible to wrinkles; however, if it is too acidic, it may appear red, irritated, and more prone to breakouts.
If your skin is healthy, it will have a pH of around 5.5; this will register only slightly acidic and conjures up desirable adjectives such as plump” and glowing. It really is the epidermal sweet spot, so to speak.
But did you know there is a good reason why your skin is slightly acidic? It is because pathogenic bacteria thrive under alkaline conditions.
This is why your skincare products must be formulated without strong astringents, which tend to upset the delicate microflora and can throw your acid mantle of balance.
You can determine your skin’s pH level by its behaviour; again, acne-prone means it’s too acidic. If your skin is dry and flaky, it means it is alkaline.
It never hurts to remember that your body is a system, and the things you put on it can hurt it.
So how do you reach equilibrium with your complexion and maintain a healthy balance on your skin? It’s important to avoid harsh treatments such as micro-needling and astringent ingredients, opting for gentle, neutral products instead.
A Skincare routine for your acid mantle
To be kinder to your acid mantle, especially on your face, consider an oil-based cleanser, such as miracle cleanse – a gentle oil-to-water cleanser that protects as it cleanses.
Toners are also healthy pH promoters and suitable options to include.
Ideally, the ingredients within an acid mantle cream must be gentle enough to keep your pH levels balanced, that is, if you want your skin to remain friendly and healthy.
Fortify barrier repair cream and Bio Lipid Complex are designed to restore your barrier function’s integrity.
They are carefully formulated with the perfect ratio of skin-identical ingredients like ceramides and fatty acids to balance missing elements in your skin whilst keeping your acid mantles healthy microflora intact, helping to return your skin to a youthful, healthy glow.
To conclude. The naked truth
Healthy skin equals the delicate microflora that makes up your acid mantle intact.
To achieve this, your skin can’t be too acidic or alkaline; the correct pH is nothing more than a balancing act.
While all this information is helpful if your skin is genuinely impaired, it’s probably best not to try to play amateur chemist; instead, consult a skin specialist who will give you the most accurate reading where your skin is concerned.
Finally, whilst we rarely knock competitors, we often meet skincare manufacturers and chemists who have never heard of the acid mantle, let alone know how to repair it.
Yet, as manufacturers of good quality skincare products, we feel we have a responsibility to truly understand skin science.
Otherwise, how can we expect to formulate products that get our customers’ desired results, essentially healthy, balanced skin?
If you want to know more about the skin’s acid mantle, the following article discusses its role in more detail and is an excellent technical read.
The Acid Mantle: A Myth or an Essential Part of Skin Health?
Skin pH: from basic science to essential skincare.
- Skin pH: From Basic Science to Basic Skin Care
48 thoughts on “The Acid Mantle (and how to care for it) is Where Skin Health Begins in 2023”
Is the acid mantle composed of ceramides too, if so can applying a product with ceramides in it benefit the acid mantle?
Thank you! ?
The components of skin is yes comprised of ceramides and yes it helps with repair
Where can the acid mantle be purchased?
This is my fortify moisturiser or bio lipid oil. kind rgds samantha
Has your acid mantle repair cream launched yet? If so, where can I get it? Thanks!
This comes in the form of a serum acid mantle repair serum and also fortify barrier repair complex, I hope this helps, Samantha
Whay happens if acid mantle is impaired?
Your skin loses the delicate micro flora, therefore it becomes sensitised and more prone to infection
Hi, I am suffering from severe skin sensitivity/damage. I have pustules and am constantly battling cancer, clogged pores, redness, inflammation, loss of elasticity and collagen. I know that I have done damage to the lipid barrier by overpeeling the skin (in fact, I think I chemically burned it twice) and have Used too many products over the years…deemed by the industry mind you. I also have reason to believe that my medication has worsened my skin’s condition. I have been taking a low dosage of adderrall for 2 years now and have recently learned that the drug has numerous affects on the body, including compromising the lipid barrier. As a result of the combination of all of these things, I have caused detrimental damage and accelerated aging. On top of it all, I was a smoker for 20 years, socially drank alocohol, mainly beer, smoked pot for many years and lacked in exercising my body, further causing damage by not excreting toxins properly. I am a disaster in my opinion, although, many wouldn’t say so, but I know my skin and body well enought to see what has happened. I am wondering if there is any way to recover from such heinous damage. I am deeply depressed and feel like I want to hide form the world. Another concern and contributing factor is candida overgrowth. I feel it is making things worse as well. What are your thoughts on medications and how they afffect the integrity of the skin, and based on the info I have provided thus far, how should I help myself? I basically use oils to cleanse and moisturize these days. The adderrall seems to have really exacerbated the fragility and healing is taking forever! At this point, I follow the less is more philosophy and sometimes only use water to cleanse. I’m completely lost as to how to care for my skin at this point. Please help! What’s left of my youth is slipping away! 🙁
Gosh I am so sorry about your battle with cancer and it sounds a bit like you have had quiet the lifestyle in the past and now your health and skin may be paying for it some what. I think it is really important to start getting your body into an alkaline state there are numerous diets around this, this apparently is an environment cancer can not reside in very well, this will also help with your candida which indeed could be resulting in breakouts. Medication will impair your barrier it really will and I love the less is more approach. Be warned constantly using just oil on the skin can be very drying over time. Its internal for you mostly and healing your gut digestive enzymes and probiotics I would say and topically with fragrance free products, sos, savior and fortify and bio lipid will be good for you from my range. Please subscribe I have an exciting new blogs coming out on vitamins and nutrients for skin health it would be beneficial. Good luck with everything.
Could you tell me on what date your items will be lunched. If you have any idea?
Hi khan thanks so much for your inquiry. I expect it to be in the next 4 weeks as I am just finalising the branding. Samantha
Are your products are lanched plz let me know?
They will be in the next two months I will drop you an email once they are, thank you for your enquiry Samantha
Hi Samantha have you heard of Kansa, the ayurveda metal that massages the skin and sometimes the skin goes black, when the acid in the skin comes out? Do you think this is beneficial or not?
Kim I do apologise that Ayurveda medicine is not my forte so I would not like to comment, although I do highly respect this wonderful ancient therapy. x
Hi. Natures Plus makes a “soap” that protects the acid mantle: Natural Beauty Cleansing Bar. (Ph 4.5) Widely available online in a blue box. (Although, I recently came across – which looks like the same product – in a yellow box sold by Dreamquest under the NP brand name.) This is a one of a kind cleanser & absolutely wonderful! I’ve been using it for decades and before that I used Redken Amino Pon Bar until that was discontinued, and I was lucky enough to find the NP bar. I first learned about the acid mantle in the mid 80’s when I read a book my mom had bought called Super Beauty by Ann Crenshaw. Crenshaw was a client of Janet Sartin. Sartin still makes astringent based products including a tinted dual performance makeup and a nightly white astringent treatment, and they are worth checking out, as is the super fatted soap. I heard that since Sartin passed away, her son has taken over; so I’m not sure if the ph formulation is the same. They now sell a few moisturizers, and they never have before; according to Crenshaw, Sartin did not care for moisturizers as they all tip alkaline. So I’m not sure how far the Sartin philosophy has strayed from its original strict concept of protecting the acid mantle, although its astringent products and soap appear to have remained true.
Thanks for this information it is an interesting read, just spent the last half an hour reading up on Sartin and Crenshaw very interesting philosophies.
The Naked Chemist Skin care is the most amazing skin care I have tried. They also have kept everything as the original and will never change that. My mom has used the range for a long time and started me on it as a teenager and it has really helped to repair my barrier, balancing the micro flora on my skin to heal my impaired acid mantle. Its an amazing line and I highly recommend it.
Can you tell me how long though I appreciate that.
A couple of months at the latest
I damaged my acid mantle, by using first time a cleanser, call “clean and clear morning burst” from johnson and johnson , my face totally changed went from normal status to super dehydration and dry . My question is,does acid mantle fully restores back to normal condition , if it does? How long does takes where skin comes back
to normal condition.
It will restore in time but it needs lots and lot of help, including using very gentle products that are fragrance free and contain no extracts. You also require products that contain similar ingredients to your skin such as cholesterol and lipids. I would recommend using something like an acid mantle rebuilder, containing copper peptides that will help to thicken and strengthen the skin.
I will be selling a similar product in the not to distant future so please check back..You also need to avoid stimulating treatments like microdermabrasion and peels, less is best good luck.
Has your product been lunched and what is the name of the product. Grace
My products have not quite been launched but will be ready soon, I will only be doing a soft launch. The name NakedChemist will be used and the tag line is sustomised cosmetics for your skin, please check back soon for product information.
What about people that bath continuously using soap and scrubbing. I was told when I was young that it disrupts the acid mantle., that Americans have a lot of skin problems as a result.
Hi Alicia anything harsh on the skin will create sensitivity, disrupt the barrier and impair the acid mantle, scrubbing with irregular beads will also cause tiny micro tears in the skin.
In my experience of working with clients over the years, I have met two elderly ladies on seperate occasions who had wonderful skin, the reason each claimed that they had such amazing skin was due to never using traditional soap from a lye solution! interesting concept but was evident to see how wonderful and youthful their skin was. Just putting that little theory out their interesting to say the least!
Samantha I to need yr acid mantle product when do u anticipate it will be for sale
Hi Jessica, certainly in the next couple of months thankyou for the inquiry.
Please let me know by email that I provided when the barrier serum is lunched . Thanks
Thanks for your enquiry, I most certainly will thankyou
OK at 50 I have done all the exfoliation, peels, and topical..Now I have SUPER sensitive, dry skin and know I need to repair the mantle. Do you have an ETA on product?
Hi June, thankyou for your enquiry, I estimate in another 2 months for customisation of products. My advice is to stay away from any harsh treatments give your acid mantle and skins barrier a chance to recover.
Less is best and please use a good sunscreen. depending where you live source a lovely emollient balm loaded with healing herbs such as chickweed, calendula, marshmallow or chamomile, the percentage of actives in a regular cream won’t be healing enough..thanks for reaching out Samantha
Exfoliating is the worst. Women need to stop buying those products and machines. Use your washcloth and cleanser to gently exfoliate. Having to do so should be the exception, not the rule.
Hi Carol, in many respects I agree with you especially if your skin is sensitive, the exception to the rule is thick leathery mature skin or very dry skin that needs a regular boost to reveal new skin underneath. Thanks for the comment. Samantha
Proper exfoliation is key to maintaining clear, healthy skin. For example, glycolic acid is great for exfoliation because it increases cell turnover resulting in the reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, acne, the appearance of scar lesions, and more. Using a washcloth can be too abrasive, especially if you rub it into the skin repeatedly. Using exfoliation as a luxury instead of a priority is terrible for your skin’s overall health.
You don’t need ANY cosmetic products to improve your skin. All you need is raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Apply it directly to the skin after washing and you will cure problematic skin. It is FOOD which can also be ingested, so there are no negative side effects. A $7 bottle can last months. It can also be applied to hair.
I agree that cider vinegar has many wonderful benefits internally, especially making the body more alkaline and breaking down acidic build ups that sit in the joints. However I suffer from sensitive skin and psoriasis as do a lot of my clients. It would be unethical of me to suggest that they use cider vinegar directly on inflamed burning skin and it’s something that I would not recommend. In saying that if it works for you that is great, after all we are all metabolically different.
Apple cider vinegar’s pH level is around 2.85 (Bragg’s ACV) and is great for a number of reasons for internal use! I’m on board with Ms. Miller about not using it for the face, though. It seems like it would be too acidic to use on a regular basis and could cause more problems than it would fix. However, everyone’s skin is different. Using ACV doesn’t work for my skin, but it would be fantastic if it could work for others as a frugal alternative.
Julie I hope that helps and Mel I agree in terms of using it for the face it’s really going to mess with the pH. However agreed internally it is awesome, and as it happens I am sat in my office sipping some with my water as we speak! Have a great day
Actually ACV is slightly less acidic at about 4.5 to 5.0 and I beleive Bragg’s is 5.5. ACV can be diluted with water and/or Hydrosols. I use it all the time with no issue. Its best used at night and the smell diminishes quit quickly. Should give it a try before labeling it as too acidic or nit effective for skincare.
ACV with 5% acidity has pH 3 not 4.5 nor 5, based on pH tester prob. It is acidic and not close to skin pH 5.5
Vinegar sounds like a crazy idea! They will be those who might just be desperate enough to slap it on neat with some cottonwool pads. Madness!!
So, we all go around smelling like salad dressing? I like the idea, I’m just not sure about the social responsibility to not smell weirdly. Or, should we care? Thanks for that post as I like to use Bragg’s organic apple cider vinegar in the kitchen. Now maybe I’ll try it in the bathroom. I know it works for tinial infections.
where can I buy Acid Mantle?
This is a product we will be releasing in the next 6 months, it is taking a lot of research to get the balance of ingredients right. In the meantime you may find fortify useful, it is a barrier repair serum, made from similar ingredients that are found in our lipid barrier. this formula will also help to heal an impaired skin.
Please let me know when your new product is available
Hi Bill, products are launched in the next month..Kind regards Samantha