Clear, healthy and happy skin, the kind we all want, is dependent on much more than just purchasing a few products that seem targeted towards your skin type. There are many factors to consider, but one important and often overlooked is the acid mantle. The acid mantle and the pH of your skin affects your skin’s ability to stay hydrated, affects your skin’s microbiome (aka healthy bacteria), and much more.
We are getting ahead of ourselves, though, and if you’re shaking your head in confusion, wondering what the pH has to do with skin health, don’t stress. We’ll break it down into bite size steps that will make it easy to learn.
Keep reading to learn more about natural ways of protecting your skin’s acid mantle so you can feel confident in your skin every day, the way it should be!
What is my skin’s pH and how does it relate to the acid mantle?
First things first. If you are struggling to maintain healthy skin, then you need to understand what pH is and how it relates to your skin.
PH is a measure of alkalinity and acidity. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, 7 being neutral (neither alkaline or acidic). Anything under 7 is acidic and anything above 7 is alkaline.
You’re probably dying to know where your skin falls on the pH scale. This may come as a surprise, but the skin is actually naturally acidic. The average person’s skin pH exists at a healthy pH of 5.5, which is only slightly acidic. The acidity plays a key role in the health of your skin.
What is the acid mantle?
Also referred to as the hydro-lipid film, the acid mantle is the thin, slightly acidic, protective layer on the surface of the skin, designed to keep invading microbes out by creating an environment where bad microbes cannot survive, while promoting the growth of a healthy microflora.
To put it into easier to understand terms…
Think about the last time you washed your face with a new cleanser and experienced a tight or dry feeling. This was due to your acid mantle being disrupted!
And for those who like to get slightly more technical…
The acid mantle is made of the following secretions:
- Lactic acid
- Urocanic acid
- Fatty acids
- Pyrrolidine carboxylic acid
- Eccrine glands (which secrete amino acids)
Which help to…
- Protect against environmental damage
- Break down excess sebum
- Keep the skin soft and free from abrasions
- Prevent bad bacteria from entering the bloodstream
- Boost the immune system
- Produce ceramide molecules and free fatty acids which are essential for healthy skin permeability barrier homeostasis (what is needed to keep skin hydrated)
It is easier to see now why keeping the skin at a healthy pH level of 5.5 helps maintain balanced and healthy skin that is hydrated, free of breakouts, and simply happy.
What happens if the acid mantle is not balanced?
If the acid mantle becomes unbalanced, you will start to notice the effects simply by the changes that occur in your skin. You may notice dryness, flaking and peeling, redness, increased sensitivity and frequent breakouts.
Our skin’s natural immune response includes our skin’s pH, our skin microbiome - the synergetic microorganisms that live on our skin - as well as certain processes require our skin to maintain that healthy pH. When the skin’s pH is disrupted, it can inhibit some healthy bacteria growth and processes.
Studies show that when our microbiome is impaired, it is likely that our acid mantle pH is unbalanced. This makes sense considering that the acid mantle helps regulate which type of microbes flourish on the skin! Abnormal pH also affects the skin’s ability to shed skin cells, and a disrupted acid mantle can result in abnormal desquamation which will give you scaly/ashy looking skin.
This imbalance in the acid mantle is usually a result of the types of products you choose to use on your skin, along with the foods you’re eating. Using products that disrupt the acid mantle affects your skin barrier ability to defend itself against microbes such as bad strains of P. Acnes, as well as your skin’s ability to shed skin cells, resulting in a dull complexion.
Here’s a fun fact for you! Did you know that our blood is more alkaline than our skin, so microbes that can survive on the skin and are able to enter our body often times cannot survive in our body because of the difference in pH! Isn’t the human body simply incredible!
Why the pH of your products matter
Needless to say, using topical products that are not pH balanced for the skin can affect your skin’s pH. So if your goal is to enjoy healthy skin without an array of pesky skin issues, it makes sense to use products that are pH balanced and respect your skin’s delicate pH.
Although you may have started checking the ingredient list of a product before purchasing, pH is usually not listed and is hard to determine before purchasing a product. You may assume that most products are pH balanced, but we also thought it was common sense to use non-toxic ingredients - which not all companies do. For example, many products targeted towards acne use ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide that only work at a pH level of 4 or lower.
Now that you understand how important respected the acid mantle and pH is, you can see how using non-pH balanced products could leave you with unhealthy skin and an unbalanced skin microbiome. The skin care products you choose should stay within 1 pH of skin’s pH, ideally in a pH range of 5.0-6.0.
You may not think that a difference of 1 pH can really affect the skin, but on the pH scale, a difference of just 1 number is a power of 10! This means, for example, that “a pH of 4 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 5. A pH of 3 is 100 times more acidic than a pH of 5. A pH of 2 is 1,000 times more acidic than a pH of 5. (If this doesn’t sound logical, it’s because the pH scale is logarithmic, not linear.)”
Here at Apoterra, we formulate our products with the skin’s pH in mind because we believe that improving skin health is the most effective way to achieve radiant skin. Our products are infused with skin balancing oils, hydrosols and powerful antioxidants to target all your skin woes gently, safely and effectively.
What actions you can take to rebalance your skin’s pH
If you think your skin’s acid mantle and pH may be unbalanced, the first step is to find the culprit. Most likely it is your current skincare products. Start by discontinuing the use of any products that leave your skin feeling tight or dry, or that are acidic/basic. Switch these out for pH balanced products. We love our facial mists and facial oils to help rebalance and maintain healthy skin.
Another thing to consider is your cleansing routine. Over-cleansing is often the culprit of a disrupted acid mantle. Read more about over-cleansing in our Skin Cleansing Tips blog post.
Don’t over exfoliate. Exfoliating is so beneficial, but over doing it can really do damage! Read more about how to exfoliate properly in our Benefits of Exfoliating blog post.
Along with using the right products and following a healthy skin care routine, we highly recommend eating foods that help keep your skin pH balanced. Believe it or not, the food you eat is intricately linked to your skin health. Modern foods tend to be acidic, so integrating more alkaline foods (hint: think whole fruits and veggies!) can help maintain a healthy body and skin pH.
Follow this advice and you’ll help to repair and maintain your skin’s acid mantle within a matter of weeks!