Understanding skin | Skin Science & Anatomy | Skin Conditions | Sensitive Skin

Discover the Vitality of Your Acid Mantle

The best foundation you can wear
is glowing, healthy skin

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 a delicate microflora.

One that protects your skin from premature ageing, breakouts, acne, and irritation.

Your 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?

Understanding the acid mantle

Your protective acid mantle—also called the “hydro-lipid film”—is a slightly acidic film on your skin’s surface; it 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 impaired?

If your acid mantle is not functioning correctly, questions you may have about your skin are:

  • My skin is constantly inflamed, and 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 strips and dries 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 comprises the following (2).

  • water
  • lactic acid
  • urocanic acid
  • fatty acids
  • pyrrolidine carboxylic acid
  • eccrine glands, which secrete amino acids

Friendly secretions 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 skin soft, supple and 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.

When our skin’s barrier function is disrupted, 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.

To recap, the pH scale is the crucial factor for determining healthy bacteria and the level of acidity.

It measures the hydrogen concentration from one to 14. A neutral pH is 7. Anything above creates an ALKALINE environment, and 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 conjure up desirable adjectives such as plump” and glowing. It is the epidermal sweet spot.

But did you know there is a good reason your skin is slightly acidic? 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 in an acid mantle cream must be gentle enough to keep your pH levels balanced if you want your skin to remain friendly and healthy.

Fortify barrier repair cream and Xcell Skin Shot are designed to restore the integrity of your barrier function.

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 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 are responsible for truly understanding 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 is an excellent technical read that discusses its role in more detail.


  1. The Acid Mantle: A Myth or an Essential Part of Skin Health?

  2. Skin pH: From Basic Science to Basic Skin Care

49 replies on “Discover the Vitality of Your Acid Mantle”

Is the acid mantle composed of ceramides too, if so can applying a product with ceramides in it benefit the acid mantle?

Thank you! ?

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.

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?

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