We’ve all heard about our “protective skin barrier” and “acid mantle”. But what are they and why are they so important to good skin?
It’s time to buckle up and go to skin school! We promise it is much more fun than normal school.
Skin = your body’s protective barrier
Your skin is the brick wall that acts as your own personal protector. Your skin cells are the bricks and the skin’s lipids are the mortar.
When it’s healthy and strong, this wall keeps moisture in so all the important organs like your lungs and heart keep working in tip-top condition.
Your skin also keeps out the daily marauders i.e. pollutants, allergens, dust, fumes, UV rays and pathogens.
When your skin’s brick wall gets cracks in it, the marauders can squeeze through and your healthy skin can quickly become dry, sensitive and irritated. Impaired skin barrier function and the dry skin that comes with it are main causes of uncomfortable skin problems like atopic dermatitis and eczema.
Acid Mantle = your skin’s protective barrier
Zoom in on the microscope a little. The acid mantle is the top layer of your skin. It’s the first line of defense for your skin’s protective barrier.
Have you heard of pH? It’s a way of measuring how acidic or alkaline a substance is and values range from 0-14, with 0 being very acidic, and 14 being very alkaline. Water is neutral at 7, and a healthy acid mantle is slightly acidic at 5.5 (and conventional soap is quite alkaline at a pH of around 9 to 11).
Your acid mantle is a balanced little micro flora ecosystem made up of sebum (oil) and sweat which keeps out viruses, bacteria and other harmful dudes.
But why do I need to know this?
Upsetting the balance of your acid mantle is a bad thing, and unfortunately our acid mantle is a fickle soul and very easy to upset.
A healthy and balanced acid mantle means soft, smooth and supple skin. But skin with an unbalanced acid mantle is prone to lots of skin conditions like acne, dryness, irritation and sensitivities.
Harsh cleansers (including skincare products and household cleaning products), air conditioning, medications, heating, pollution, UV rays and alkaline ingredients (even seemingly harmless bicarb soda and conventional soap) can all make your skin’s protection system chuck a wobbly.
Your acid mantle is probably too acidic when:
- You rarely need to use moisturiser
- Your skin is reactive and sensitive to products
- Your skin is oily and breakout prone
- Your skin often feels irritated and looks red
- Your skin looks greasy
Your acid mantle is probably too alkaline when:
- Your skin feels tight and dry after cleansing
- You need to apply moisturiser throughout the day
- You sometimes get dry or rough patches of skin
- Your skin looks dull and in the morning shows more lines
- Your skin might sting or get irritated after applying products
- Your skin rarely appears plump and dewy
If you think your acid mantle is a bit out of whack, the good news is that you can help your skin protect itself. Aside from minimising all those wobbly-causing things we listed earlier, you can give your skin a bit of a cuddle with beautiful natural products that will help keep that acid mantle balanced.
Some sage advice to keep your protective barrier happy:
- Don’t use soap or strong surfactants (e.g. SLS/SLES) to cleanse with. This can temporarily remove your acid mantle (oh no!).
A better way – ‘Cloud 9’ Deep Cleansing Balm
- Use a toner to rebalance the pH of your skin after cleansing.
A better way – ‘Tickled Pink’ Perfecting Tonic or ‘Raindrops on Roses’ Hydrating Tonic
- Moisturise with products containing emollients (like butters and oils) that leave a light protective film to help your acid mantle do its job.
A better way – ‘Laugh Out Loud’ Active Jojoba Oil, ‘Perfectly Happy’ Light Anti-Oxidant cream or the ‘Blissed Out’ Body Oil.