The acid mantle ensures that the skin is able to function effectively while increasing the body’s ability to fight against external irritants like bacteria and pollution (preventing subsequent infection and damage). As such, the acid mantle plays a critical role in overall skin health, texture and quality. So we need to take care of it! With all the marketing and misinformation out there, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the use of more products instantly equates to better skin. But despite the misconception, more is not more, it’s best to stick to a simple, results-driven routine.
What is the Acid Mantle?
Our acid mantles are compromised of a very thin layer of oil and sweat. It is vital for skin health for several reasons; it regulates moisture levels, protects from environmental damage and irritants like UV radiation, wind, and pollution, inhibits bacterial growth (which leads to congestion and inflammation), keeps skin taut and protects from oxidative damage (your very own antioxidant layer).
How do I know if my acid mantle is compromised?
If your skin is feeling dry, devitalised, dull, sensitive or congested it’s likely your acid mantle is off-kilter. Maintaining your acid mantle begins with an effective skincare regime. To do this, stick to products that work with your acid mantle, not against it. Look for labels with hypo-allergenic and fragrance-free, and avoid products that are alcohol-based or contain soap (often disguised as sodium laurel sulfate, DEA, TEA and MEA) as these can be harsh and strip your skin.
Go back to basics
A streamlined skincare approach aims to soothe and nourish compromised skin, helping to restore the skin’s acid mantle and reset the barrier function. A streamlined routine should pare back the amount of products you use, meaning there’s less opportunity for irritation. Strip back the actives and rebuild with the fundamentals of cleansing and hydrating, with diligent use of SPF during the day.
Excessive physical exfoliation can wreak havoc on your skin’s acid mantle, so if you do prefer to manually exfoliate, be very, very gentle and don’t overdo it – two to three times per week is more than enough. Otherwise, opt for chemical exfoliation instead. Keep in mind though, that with chemical exfoliation comes another set of concerns – too many acidic products can throw your acid mantle out of whack and lead to irritation and inflammation. The more you love your acid mantle, the more it will love you back (by way of a clear, bright and radiant complexion
Put down the actives
When the skin is compromised it’s best to remove all active ingredients completely until the skin barrier function is repaired. When we mix too many actives the skin will eventually become oversaturated and flare-up. Follow the simple philosophy of daytime is for prevention and nighttime is for correction with one targeted treatment for each. For example, apply an antioxidant serum in the morning and retinol should be applied at night (if your barrier is compromised save the retinol till it’s repaired).
Sleep in a Reparative Masque
When the skin is feeling agitated or sensitised, applying a thick, restorative mask and leaving it to infuse overnight can work wonders. Apply a generous amount, allow it to activate for 20-30 minutes and then gently tissue off the excess before hopping into bed.