Understanding Your Skin’s Chemistry

Understanding your skin’s basic needs can be confusing when you often see phrases like “the acid mantle” or “pH balance” being thrown around, making it seem like a firm grasp of chemistry is necessary to obtaining clear skin. However, having a basic understanding of the acid mantle is crucial when determining what to treat your skin with and how it can react to different environments. One of the worst things you can do for your skin is upsetting the pH balance of your acid mantle when using products that are too alkaline for the healthy function of the skin. Lathering up with these foamy, oil fighting cleansers weakens the skin’s immune system and increases dryness, leading to the dreaded dry skin and acne combo. Drying out the skin with these products only makes the sebaceous glands produce more oil. This works in a counter productive way, leading to a vicious cycle of drying out the skin, treating it with harsh topicals, and adding moisture back onto the surface. Re-evaluating your skins daily regimen and following the proper skin chemistry is the first step in achieving a healthier, blemish free complexion that can protect your acid mantle from bacteria and restore it to it’s natural form.

What Is The Acid Mantle?

The acid mantle is essentially our skin’s protective barrier made up of an acidic film that keeps bacteria out of our skin cells and contains a mixture of secretions and inoffensive bacteria. These secretions of bacteria work together to provide a number of essential roles in the breakdown of the skin that guard the skin from adverse environments such as pollutants, UV rays, or temperature changes. Many include protecting the outer layer, boosting the immune system, adding moisture that helps skin elasticity, and most importantly, secreting enzymes to help break down oil. Sebum is also an important factor that contributes to the acid mantle. It is an oily secretion that spreads over the hair and skin. Sebum’s main role is to waterproof the skin and hair, but when combined with sweat, excess sebum can lead to oily, acne prone skin and lack of sebum can lead to dryness and wrinkle formation.

Why Should You Care About Your Acid Mantle?

Stripping the skin of its natural oils with drying agents and oil fighting cleansers does the opposite of reducing oil and preventing irritation. If the skins outer layer, or acid mantle, is temporarily removed by harsh soaps, the skin then becomes susceptible to breakouts, dryness, and infection. In order for the acid mantle to protect the skin and kill bacteria before it gets inside the body and provide moisture to the skin, natural sweat and oils must be allowed to occur. Sometimes excess sweating can alter the acid mantle and pH levels, throwing them off balance. This combined with the tendency to use oil-fighting soaps can worsen pH levels. That’s why focusing on certain acne treatments that restore the skin’s pH to acidic levels can help prevent breakouts and irritation.

How To Protect Your Acid Mantle?

There are a few things that can be done to protect your acid mantle and it can take anywhere from two weeks to two months to fully restore the acid mantle after using harsh cleansers.

Steps Taken To Protect Your Acid Mantle:

  1. Avoiding the use of foaming soaps high in alkaline, shampoo running down the face, and oil stripping toners are effective ways in protecting the skin against unbalanced pH levels.
  2. Focus on using oil cleansers that restore the skins moisture and balance its oil production at the same time.
  3. Don’t over cleanse. There should be no need for deep cleansing in the morning if you’re waking up with skin cleansed the night before. We don’t want to over cleanse our skin as this will only irritate the skin and cause more oil production. Deep cleaning while balancing our skins oil production at the same time is the objective to cleansing our skin properly.

These preventative steps are necessary in balancing pH levels, protecting the acid mantle, and restoring your skins barrier to fight off unwanted bacteria from entering the top layer of your skin.

Sources:

http://www.smartskincare.com/skinbiology/sebum.html
http://www.doctoroz.com/blog/audrey-kunin-md/chemistry-lesson-healthy-skin
http://thenakedchemist.com/understanding-the-acid-mantle/
http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-the-acid-mantle.htm
http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com

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