Updated: May 27, 2020
No, it’s not the name of my punk rock band. Sorry. Nor is it the name of that cult that was disbanded last year.
And, no, it’s not available in Amsterdam!
As a matter of fact, it’s something that you produce without even realizing it! The acid mantle is a protective veil that is formed by the sebaceous glands (read the blog on Simple Skin Science) and your sweat. Just as sexy, right? I thought so.
Let’s explore this name a bit, shall we?
Acid means that it has a pH of below 7 (seven being neutral). Healthy skin has a pH of around 5.5, thankfully slightly acidic, since harmful bacteria thrive under alkaline conditions. Mantle is a cloak or a shawl. Put this together, and you have an acidic cloak that is wrapped around our body.
Did you know?
Pathogens (harmful bacteria) love alkaline environments. Our blood is alkaline (roughly 7.5 on the pH scale). Therefore bacteria want to be in our blood stream. The acid mantle is an environment that these pathogens are less well-adapted to, stopping them in their tracks.
The acid mantle, a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of the human skin, acts as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential environmental contaminants that might penetrate the skin. Furthermore, by secreting enzymes, it helps to break down excess sebum in the skin.
But it does more than protect! The acid mantle keeps your skin soft and supple. Thanks to this characteristic, your skin stays free from cracks and other abrasions.
In addition, the acid mantle boosts the immune system by retarding the growth of pathogens, thanks to its slightly acidic nature (that was a give-away in the name!).
Why is it so important to know about this when we are discussing skincare and cleansers?
It is very easy to damage your acid mantle by using cleansers and products that are too high on the pH scale. Lots of commercial products are highly alkaline. When using a damaging cleanser, it changes the pH of your skin for a short time, about 20 minutes. This might not seem important, however with long-term use of these highly-alkaline cleansers, it can prevent the skin from maintaining its optimal pH levels.
How should I take care of my acid mantle then?
Just like with everything in life, it’s all about moderation. All you have to do is not overdo anything. Don’t over wash, don’t use any product that causes a stinging sensation, and don’t use heavy oils.
Lesson du jour: Like the Earth, our body knows how to take care of itself!