By Lena Ladenheim, RN, BSN.
Acid mantle: /ˈasəd/ man(t)l/. noun. Composed of sebum, natural oils, retained stratum corneum and sweat, it is a both a delicate as well as a slightly acidic barrier, coating the surface of our skin which works to protect us from potentially harmful toxins and impurities as well as working to retain moisture and hydration. The acid mantle is one of the human body’s exquisite innate nonspecific defenses. Our skin’s pH is naturally acidic, ranging from a 4.7-5.7 on the scale, while the environment inside the skin is naturally alkaline. This provides the perfect balancing act for the acid mantle which maintains and oversees the health and homeostasis of our skin.
Within the last few decades, increasing studies have shown that sustaining the optimal pH of the acid mantle is intrinsically connected with the ideal degree of stratum corneum function. In the event that a microorganism is able to penetrate the acid mantle, or if the pH is thrown off by topical products, the integrity and overall performance of the skin’s barrier can become compromised. Consequently, this will cause the skin to become more dry or more oily, and will result in a wide array of conditions including (but not limited to) atopic dermatitis (eczema), acne, irritant contact dermatitis, Candidal intertrigo (yeast), and ichthyosis (scaly skin). Utilizing products that fall directly into that perfect pH range (about the same as your skin’s natural pH) aids in supporting and nourishing your acid mantle and keeping it just as happy as it wants to be. It’s just like owning a plant! Give it sunlight, the right amount of water, and a little TLC. Next thing you know, you have a gorgeous blooming basil plant on your window sill! Additionally, it’s crucial to note that other external factors including diet, your environment, and stress may each play integral roles in keeping your acid mantle content.
Our skin is so intelligent that it knows inherently how to take care of itself and work seamlessly. One of the most natural and fundamental human secretions is sweat, cleansing our pores and releasing water laced with trace amounts of minerals, urea, and proteins. When we sweat, nitrate turns to nitric acid which integrates itself within the acid mantle and is one of the chief components of said barrier. However, it’s considered to be hygienic practice to cleanse the skin after sweating from exercise to prevent breakouts or other irritation. Enter the mask (to prevent the spread of COVID-19), sweating because that’s a natural bodily function (and it’s summer so that doesn’t exactly help), wearing the mask for durations of time which traps skin debris, sweat and bacteria all within an ultra-rich moisture environment, coupled with not having a chance to wash our faces properly until hours later. Mix it all together and what do we get? Maskne. Sad face.
How to fix this new phenomenon occurring as a byproduct of protecting ourselves from COVID-19? For starters, it’s imperative to cleanse your mask nightly with a gentle detergent and allow it to air dry overnight. If you wear the clinical masks, ideally you would change them daily. If that’s not possible, try not to wear them more than a few days in a row. A swipe of an alcohol pad on the inside of the mask is better than not wearing a mask at all! Next, cleanse your skin before and immediately after wearing the mask with a gentle cleanser like the Skinfix Barrier+ Foaming Cleanser. Moisturize with the MMSkincare Revive serum all over your face to calm redness and irritation, and use the MMSkincare Balance serum as a spot treatment on active acne to kill the zits. For extra credit I love the MMSkincare Balance face masks twice weekly which help to stave off breakouts. Finally, be sure your oral hygiene is on point!! Rebreathing all that oral bacteria all day under your mask means it’s vital to BRUSH UP (haha) on your flossing, mouth washing, and tooth brushing habits!! So what we really want to say, is thank you, Acid Mantle. For working tirelessly day in and day out to protect us from pathogenic bacteria and preserving our moisture and intricate surface of our skin which faces the world on a daily basis. Sending the biggest love, skin BFF!
Until next time,
Lena Ladenheim, RN, BSN.
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Acid Mantle on the Skin: DermaScope
pH Scale: WikiMedia