May 28, 2020

Why The Acid Mantle Is an Essential Part of Your Skin’s Health

The term “acid mantle” was coined in 1928 by German physicians researching the effects of bacteria on skin, but it hasn’t entered mainstream conversations about skin health until recently. In fact, this might be the first time you’ve heard about it—but this unsung dermatological attribute could very well be the culprit behind many of your complexion woes. Dry skinRosacea? Pimples? They could be appearing because your acid mantle is compromised. But what exactly is the acid mantle, and what are the best ways to keep it robust? Read on for everything you need to know.

What is the skin’s acid mantle and what does it do?

The acid mantle is a thin film on the skin’s surface composed of lipids from the oil glands mixed with amino acids from sweat. Along with the microbiome, it’s part of the delicate matrix that creates a healthy skin barrier. The acid mantle’s main job is to keep the good stuff (like moisture) in, and the bad stuff (like bacteria and pollution) out. Think of it as an essential shield—the invisible face mask you didn’t know you were wearing.

Is it related to skin pH?

Yes. The acid mantle derives its name from the fact that the skin’s ideal pH is slightly acidic, about 5.5, and anything that can skew it too alkaline can disrupt its ability to function optimally. ““When our skin has this slightly acidic pH, the barrier is healthy and intact,” says Whitney Bowe, renowned New York dermatologist and author of Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin. “This acidic pH of the skin protects against overgrowth of pathogens—bad bugs, essentially—that thrive at a higher, more alkaline pH. The acidic pH also protects against aging.”