The importance of the acid mantle: things you need to know
The more you learn about your skin, the more complicated caring for your skin seems! Right?
At GoodieCo we want to simplify skincare, once and for all. But some of our ideas and routines may seem a bit strange to you, especially if you have always heard that oil is bad for your skin, and that you should always try to remove it. Wash it off, scrub it away, blot it out, flush it away!
Well, we very much disagree, and we have the science (and the results) to back us. Which is why we want to tell you about the acid mantle.
First off, what is the acid mantle?
Your skin’s acid mantle is the thin film on the skin’s surface that helps act as a barrier against bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants. It also holds in moisture and liquid, retaining the skin’s hydration levels. The acid mantle is actually made up of sebum – that waxy, oily substance that is secreted by the sebaceous gland under the skin. When the acid mantle is mixed with amino acids from sweat, this creates our skin’s happy pH level.
Your skin is vulnerable to invasion and dehydration without it. Sebum (oil) secreted by your sebaceous glands and amino acids contained in perspiration make up the acid mantle. Together, they provide a thin layer of barrier that serves as your first line of defense against dangerous bacteria, viruses, fungi, pollen, pollution, and other environmental hazards. Additionally, it aids in preventing skin dehydration, commonly known as trans epidermal water loss.
We need to first talk about pH, which is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline (basic) a solution is, in order to better comprehend how your acid mantle functions. From 1 (the most acidic) through 14 (the least acidic) (most alkaline).
Our natural pH levels are threatened in a number of ways, most notably by soaps and other skin care products, which can actually boost your pH and cause it to fall outside of ideal ranges. For instance, a higher pH promotes the development of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). And as you probably inferred from the name, this bacteria is a big contributor to a variety of acne types.
What does the acid mantle do?
- Protects from environmental assaults like harsh weather and pollution.
- Reduces the risk of infection and/or occasional breakouts.
- Secretes enzymes that help break down excess sebum, keeping skin oils in balance.
- Helps to soften skin and keep it hydrated.
- Works with the skin’s own immune system to produce antigens that keep bad bacteria away.
- Help keep skin cells tight and flat, promoting a smooth, strong barrier.
- Prevents against water loss.
While an excess in sebum can lead to unwanted oiliness and clogged pores, sebum is essential to make up the acid mantle and therefore protect the skin. Harsh, soapy and foaming cleansers can be damaging to the acid mantle, as they strip away ALL oils of the skin – including the sebum that makes up the skin’s protective barrier. This leaves your skin susceptible to bacteria and environmental stressors!
This is why we opt for oil cleansing. Oil cleansing breaks down EXCESS oil, but does not completely strip away all the natural oils on the skin. The oil that makes up the acid mantle is therefore still able to do its job and protect your skin! Coming back to basic science, it can be boiled down to: Like dissolves like. Oil dissolves oil. Make sense?
So by using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals that heal, protect and nourish your skin. All this while maintaining the natural pH levels of your skin.
Acid mantle responsibilities and functions
This layer serves a number of crucial purposes, which is why we are so concerned about it:
Defends skin from harmful germs.
The acid mantle is the skin's initial line of defense, despite the fact that we frequently state that the skin is your body's first line of defense. According to doctor Kara Fitzgerald, N.D., who says that opportunistic bacteria often fare better in alkaline conditions, acidity "helps restrict the formation of diseases."
Mamina Turegano, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, concurs: "That slightly acidic state practically acts as a protective shield to other invaders like undesirable bacteria or other microorganisms and toxins."
Keeps moisture within.
Our skin's ability to serve as a barrier is also influenced by the acid mantle. When your skin's barrier is damaged, it can't stop transepidermal moisture loss (i.e., the evaporation of water through the skin).
Keeping a strong acid mantle can help overall even though there are other elements of your skin barrier function, such as ceramides, the microbiome, collagen, and others.
Enables the health of your microbiome.
Having said that, keep in mind that you still want bacteria and other microbes on your skin. The combination of these is referred to as the skin microbiome, and when it is in balance, it helps control inflammation, strengthens our immune system, and defends against environmental irritants. Therefore, the good bacteria are able to do their duties more effectively while your acid mantle is intact.
Things that can harm your acid mantle
Cleansers and soaps
Soaps have a higher pH by nature and can cause the pH of the skin to rise. Have you ever used soap to wash your face and felt tight and "squeaky clean" afterwards? Acid mantle damage. Even worse than harsh face cleansers can be them.
It's vital to look for cleansers that feature hydrating elements such as aloe, glycerin, and moisturizing oils such as jojoba. Our Daily Face + Beard Cleanser was created with the express purpose of defending your acid mantle and promoting a healthy microbiome.
Our skin naturally becomes more alkaline as we age. Our skin is more likely to get dry and damaged as the pH level rises. Because of this, it's crucial to include a daily moisturizer in your grooming regimen.
The dirty little secret of the skincare industry is fragrances. Men's skincare products can contain any one of hundreds of different synthetic fragrance compounds without having to disclose the harsh chemicals that went into making it. On an ingredient label, the word "fragrance" may refer to five compounds or 500 different substances.
For many years, dermatologists have advised patients with sensitive skin to use fragrance-free cosmetics, but only recently have we begun to fully comprehend the harm fragrances can do to your acid mantle and microbiome.
There is no way for you to know which chemicals make up the "fragrance" indicated on the container, but that is not to mean that all fragrance compounds are dangerous. Some are completely safe.
5 signs that your acid mantle could be compromised
Signs of an unbalanced acid mantle include:
- Clogged pores/blackheads
How to restore the acid mantle
Less is more when it comes to your acid mantle. If given the chance, our bodies have a remarkable capacity for self-correction. Your body eventually adjusts the pH of your skin on its own, so just because you used a soap that made it more acidic doesn't imply it stays that way permanently.
It does become a concern if your pH levels are routinely off or if you frequently use items that cause your skin to go into overdrive trying to repair itself.
Simply being nice and kind is the most important lesson we can teach you. You don't need to take any active steps to promote the production of your acid mantle because it forms naturally.
Instead, simply pay attention to the cleaners you're using and make sure they're not overly abrasive (hint: your skin should never feel "tight" after washing; just clean, hydrated, and refreshed). You can reconsider how frequently you wash your face.
The act of washing more than you need to may be just as harmful as using a strong face or body cleanser. Always wash your face before going to bed is a good rule of thumb, but otherwise, follow your skin's instructions.
5 ways GoodieCo can help you
- Simplified skincare specifically formulated to repair, protect and maintain the acid mantle
- Take our skin quiz to find a routine that's right for you
- Our skincare solutions addresses your actual skin concern/s
- Ingredients containing nothing that will cause additional stress to already sensitive skin - no artificial colour, no artificial fragrance, no parabens, no silicones, - just 100% plant-based goodness
- Delivered straight to your doorstep
The acid mantle, a naturally occurring component of your skin's surface that you may not be aware of, serves a number of crucial roles, chief among them barrier protection. The good news is that caring for it is not difficult at all. Just remember to be kind and that less is always more.
It is a component of the delicate matrix that builds a healthy skin barrier along with the microbiota. The primary function of the acid mantle is to keep good things like moisture in and bad things like germs and pollution out. Consider it as a necessary shield—the covert face mask you weren't aware you were wearing.