Understanding the Acid Mantle

Understanding the Acid Mantle

The best foundation you can wear
is glowing, healthy skin

Acid mantle, you can be forgiven for thinking it is the name of a psychedelic pop band.

In reality, we all have one – a protective mantle all over our skin.

It’s a film of amino acids and delicate microflora that protects your skin from premature ageing, breakouts, acne, and irritation.

The relative success or failure of your own personal acid mantle depends upon its pH level.

But what exactly does that mean? And is there anything you can do about it?

Understanding the acid mantle

This protective acid mantle – also referred to as the “hydro-lipid film” – is a protective and slightly acidic film that sits on your skin’s surface, acting as the interface between you and the world.

In the 1920s, Marchionini and Schade identified the acidity of the skin, which they called the “acid mantle”. They also 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 have to admit it’s pretty cool; there is a unique micro-flora made up of strange 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 powerful bactericidal effect
  • secretions also come from our natural moisturising factor

All of which helps to keep your skin gorgeous 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 always inflamed. Every product that I use just stings, so I have to be really 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 started to get worse 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 the reason why you are advised not to use soap on your skin. Most soap has an alkaline pH of well over nine. Though your skin might feel squeaky-clean, in reality, it is stripping and drying your skin out – the article; the soap and water debate does a good job of discussing this topic further

The Anatomy of the acid mantle

Your skin’s acid mantle is made up of the following:

  • water
  • 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, preventing bad 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 bad bacteria, known as pathogens

Sadly, like all things in life, there are always going to be things that upset the status quo, and the acid mantle is no exception; our world is full of different environments, some of which – unfortunately – can hurt our skin. 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, and the intercellular lipids between our cell walls are designed to keep this barrier intact, break down, and create dry skin conditions. Bacteria, allergens, and foreign bodies find a passageway through your skin, causing havoc; once they hit the bloodstream, they create inflammation, allergies, and breakouts.

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, which is at a range of one to 14; a neutral pH is 7; anything above creates an ALKALINE environment. Anything below creates an ACIDIC environment. Skin that falls on the alkaline end of the scale will often be drier and more susceptible to wrinkles. A skin that’s too acidic will often appear red, irritated, and more prone to breakouts.

If your skin is healthy, it should 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 have a real tendency 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 while irritated.

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.

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 good 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 nice and healthy.

Our Ceramide Barrier Repair Balm has been designed to rebuild your skin; it can be layered underneath Fortify and Bio Lipid Complex, which are both designed to restore your barrier function’s integrity. Rich in lovely ceramides and fatty acids, they balance missing ingredients and keep healthy microflora intact, helping to return your skin to a youthful, healthy glow.

Conclusion

So as you can see, a lot is going on within your skin, and you need to pay close attention to ensure your skin is not too acidic or alkaline. If you are trying to treat your skin right, the correct pH is really nothing more than a balancing act.

While all this information is useful if your skin’s truly impaired, it’s probably best not to try to play amateur chemist; instead, consider consulting your dermatologist, who will give you the most accurate reading where your skin is concerned.

On a final note, we are going, being honest here; we rarely knock competitors, but we often meet skincare manufactures 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 do have a responsibility to understand skin science truly. Otherwise, how can we possibly expect to formulate products that get our customers’ desired results, which is essentially healthy, balanced skin?

If you would like to know more about the acid mantle, the following article discusses its role in more detail and is an excellent technical read.

48 thoughts on “Understanding the Acid Mantle

  1. Ashley says:

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

    Thank you! ?

  2. Jennifer says:

    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! 🙁

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      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.

  3. kim says:

    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?

  4. Juliet says:

    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.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi Juliet

      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.

      Regards

      Samantha

      • Dave says:

        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.

  5. Bilal says:

    Hello,Samantha
    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.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi

      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.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi

      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.

  6. Alicia Alwyn says:

    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.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      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!

  7. June says:

    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?

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      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

    • Carol says:

      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.

      • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

        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

      • Kim says:

        Carol,
        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.

  8. Julie McAdams says:

    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.

    • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

      Hi Julie
      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.

    • Mel S says:

      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.

      • Verified Author Samantha Miller replied:

        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

      • Mike says:

        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.

      • Michelle says:

        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!!

    • Randel DeWees says:

      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.

      Best,

      Dr. D.

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