Health, Skincare

What Is The Acid Mantle and Why Is It Important?


The Acid Mantle isn’t a new thing – a quick google search reveals tons of articles and a sparse wikipedia page – it’s just not something commonly talked about or considered when discussing grocery store aisle skincare. You’ll find products claiming to be “pH balanced” but not detailing what pH the product is. And we all know that claims on bottles aren’t always fact.

The Acid Mantle is a thin film or layer that lies on top of and protects your Lipid Barrier.

The lipid barrier is super important to the top layer of skin (the epidermus). It helps prevent moisture loss (transepidermal water loss or TEWL) and protects the lower layers of skin from environmental pollutants, irritants and microorganisms. It’s like a arrogant medieval gate-keeper.

It’s made up of dead skin cells, fatty acids, lipids and ceramides. When the lipid barrier is healthy and happy it keeps your skin properly moisturized and protected. When it’s damaged or pissed off, it tends to overreact by over-producing sebum and oil to make up for the TEWL and it lets all sorts of bad stuff in the castle.

Now, here is where the acid mantle comes in. It’s aptly called the acid mantle because it should be at a 4.7-5.5 on the pH scale.

Which, if you remember correctly from high-school chemistry, is actually on the acidic side. Why is the skin naturally, and happily, acidic? Because bacteria and microorganisms hate it. It’s your skins way of making your face an inhospitable habitat for bacteria to thrive and flourish. (and what happens when bacteria flourishes?Β ) Β Most baddies that want in your skin are alkaline, so the acid pH level works as a neutralizer.

Oily skin usually has a lower pH, and drier skin has a higher pH. When the pH of your skin is lowered or raised too much, your lipid barrier can’t function properly.

Symptoms of a damaged barrier:

  • dry skin
  • dehydrated skin
  • flaky skin
  • redness
  • irritation
  • tightness
  • excessive oil production
  • dull appearance
What can damage the acid mantle?:
  • over exfoliation
  • chemical burns
  • sunburns
  • using products with a pH over 6
  • not moisturizing enough
  • using harsh cleansers or over washing
Once you notice your lipid barrier or acid mantle is damaged, it can take 14-17 days for it to fully recover. First off, stop doing whatever it is that’s damaging your skin. Treat your skin like a baby’s bottom and care for it gently. Stop any exfoliation, start using awesome sunscreens and make sure it’s drowned in hydration like a fish. Look out for products with a pH between 4.5-5.5 and avoid cleansers containing soap.
If you need to continue treating skin problems like acne or wrinkles, be gentle and patient. Let your skin get accustomed and used to harsher products that are made specifically for skin. Use occlusives like mineral oil or petroleum jelly to avoid any unwanted moisture loss (TEWL). Take it slow and plan for future acid mantle problems to watch out for.
UPDATE: Be sure to go check out the new Acid Mantle post I wrote with updated sources.
Miss C xoxo
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