What is My Acid Mantle and What Does it Have to do With Healthy Winter Skin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

“The acid mantle is a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of human skin acting as a barrier to bacteriaviruses and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin.[1] Sebum is secreted by the sebaceous gland and when mixed with sweat becomes the acid mantle. The pH of the skin is between 4.5 and 6.2, slightly acidic.[2][3] Since blood is slightly alkaline (7.4), pathogenic bacteria that become adapted to the pH of the skin and are able to reach internal tissues will encounter an environment to which they are less well adapted. This combination of acidic exterior and alkaline interior is one of the body’s non-specific host defenses against bacterial pathogens.”

This is some of the most important knowledge for you to have this winter as you are trying to care for your skin. “Why?” you ask. Because your acid mantle is your first defense against the ravages of dry air and moisture sucking central heat. 

So how do you care for your acid mantle. The first thing I recommend is to stop using soap to cleanse your entire body. I know this goes against everything you hear (and probably shouldn’t be said by a soapmaker), but soap has a pH of about 7-8 and your acid mantle is between 4.5 and 6.2. When you use soap you are actually washing off your skin’s natural barriers. During the winter soap should be saved for the armpits and groin area. The rest of your skin will take care of itself. Even water isn’t the ideal pH for your skin since it is between 6.5 and 7. So what to do!?!

The best way to care for you skin is lots of natural oils. These can be used in a variety of ways to help your skin out and protect your natural defenses. First, how about what oils to use? Go ahead and use any organic, plant based oils that you have available. By this I mean olive, coconut, avocado, grapeseed, sunflower, etc. You should have many of these already in your cupboards. These oils all have a pH that is similar to your skin’s sebum and will compliment your acid layer as well as offer some anti-bacterial and healing benefits. They all have different benefits and skin feels so keep trying until you find the right one for you. Or feel free to ask me and I will provide you a sample pack of several to try.

Second, when and how to apply? Right after you shower you should be rubbing on a thin layer of oil before the moisture has evaporated from your skin. This will protect your skin and offer one of the best ways to fight dryness. Oil also soaks in best at this point when your skin is warm and damp, so it won’t leave you feeling oily all day.

What to do if you are experiencing dryness between showers and don’t want to use oil because it will leave you, well, oily? This is the time to pull out a favorite lotion. Any lotion you use should have been formulated with the skin’s pH in mind and should work with your skin’s natural sebum and acid mantle. The best lotion to use will contain all natural ingredients. The reason lotion works so well is that it contains water to replace the water lost by your skin as well as oils that offer the occlusive (barrier between skin and air) layer of protection from evaporation and environmental stressors. They should also contain humectants which are ingredients like glycerin that draw moisture from the air to your skin. 

I hope this has been helpful in keeping your skin healthy and moisturized this winter. Of course, I am always happy to answer questions you may have. Skin is a subject I have been studying for 13 years and there is more to learn. Feel free to call 206-694-9170 or email anytime. 

LANAE RHOADS

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