The Acid Mantle
What is the acid mantle?
Imagine a protective film covering your skin generated by your body from three different sources:
- Sweat, lactic acid secreted by sweat glands along with various amino acids
- Sebum, the oil produced by the sebaceous glands, water proofs the skin and is broken down by enzymes on the skin’s surface to form free fatty acids.
- Dead skin, additional amino acids and Pyrrolidone carboxylic acid which is part of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor.
All these oily secretions blend together and are distributed across the skin’s surface. They have a PH of between 4.5 and 6.2 hence the name acid mantle.
Functions of the acid mantle
The acid mantle performs protective functions like:
- Mechanical protection from (wind, cold and water)
- UV radiation protection
- Microbial protection
- Regulates chemical penetration that can lead to disorders
- Its scale like layered structure limits its movement and disturbances. This waterproofs the skin’s surface keeping cells tight and flat making it harder for bacteria, and viruses to penetrate the skin.
The acidity neutralises any contamination and any other chemical substances that are alkaline (have a high PH), providing direct protection against alkaline substances.
Disrupting the mantle by excessive washing or neutralizing with alkaline substances leaves the skin exposed to damage and infection. In the absence of the acid mantle, cells start separating leading to loss of moisture which causes small cracks through which bacteria can enter the skin. A weakened mantle results in a rise in the PH. Above 6.5 the skin is highly predisposed to damage and infection.
Factors which disrupt the acid mantle
- Environmental conditions like sunshine, water exposure
- Unhealthy Diet – undernourishment prohibits your body from producing the essential fatty acids it requires.
- Skin diseases –
- acute eczema can raise the pH of your skin as high as 7.5 which is beyond that protective range.
- dermatitis, a result of exposure to cleansing agents.
- Systemic diseases like diabetes and some vascular diseases also increase skin pH
- External factors such as age, stimulation of medication and chemical substance and stressful lifestyle,
- hormonal imbalance
- bad weather also disturbs the balance of acid mantle and weakens the protection of acid mantle.
- Topical product use can damage the mantle.
Here are some contributing causes of acid mantle disruption.
The mantle will eventually restore itself.
It can take between 14 hours and up to 2 months for the for the acid mantle to restore itself once damaged, during which time we will have already washed our skin again. Hands are especially exposed to this stripping of the acid mantle. Moisturising the skin after washing helps keep the skin’s PH within the normal range. PH can be pushed to alkaline levels with just one wash and restored within a few hours.
Protecting your Acid Mantle
It is very important not to damage your acid mantle as demonstrated above. The best way to do this is to use gentle non irritant products in your skin care regime.
Personally I prefer an oil-based regime. I have formulated a cleansing oil as part of my skincare range, which can replace any other cleansing products you have been using.
Mimi’s Organic’s cleansing oil contains Jojoba oil. A liquid wax excellent unclogging pores also containing essential omega-3 and 6. It also forms a protective layer over the skin.
Almond oil and Apricot Kernel oil are also used in the formula as they are excellent for cleansing and soothing skin whilst gently removing impurities without damaging the epidermis.
There are of course many other oils and products which are gentle, kind to your skin and suitable for use as cleansers. Mimi’sOrganics range
Essential oils such as tea tree may be added to the cleansing oil as they contain antibacterial properties.
Using a cleansing oil combined with toning, moisturising daily whilst exfoliating frequently (at least once a week) for normal skin types makes for an adequate basic cleansing routine.
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