Skin is the body’s largest organ. It consists out of 3 layers – hypodermis (the fat, bottom layer), dermis (the middle, supporting layer) and epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). The skin you can see when you look in the mirror is called Stratum Corneum (it is the uppermost layer of the epidermis).
Stratum Corneum or the lipid/moisture barrier is what shields our skin from the harmful outside influences such as environmental pollutants and irritants and keeps it looking healthy, bouncy and plum.
The Acid Mantle
One more term you need to familiarize yourself with – the acid mantle.
What is the acid mantle? A thin protective layer that consists out of sweat, sebum, moisture, amino and fatty acids and makes the top part of Stratum Corneum. Why is it important? Because it protects the skin from environmental pollutants, it keeps your skin hydrated, reduces the risk of infections and keeps the sebum production in check.
Our skin is naturally acidic. The pH can range between 4.5 and 6.0. When we damage our acid mantle in turn our lipid barrier gets messed up and it will lead to trans epidermal water loss. Trans epidermal water loss can cause not only dryness and dehydration, it can also lead to irritation and acne. Sometimes damage to the lipid barrier can lead to overproduction of sebum (fancy way of saying oily skin).
All of this can happen if you mess with your acid mantle. A number of things can be responsible for disrupting your acid mantle. Apart from health related issues, two most common culprits are overexfoliation and using a wrong cleanser.
When it comes to chemical exfoliation it is always advisable to go slow. We cannot stress this enough. If you introduce a new chemical exfoliant into your skincare routine start by using it a couple of times per week. Up the usage if your skin is tolerating the product well, but always err on the side of caution.
Cleansers on the other hand are products we use on daily basis. If our cleanser is too alkaline and we use it twice a day, we keep upsetting the natural pH balance of our skin. Our acid mantle cannot return to its normal state. That in turn can lead to anything from sensitivity and irritation to dryness, increased oiliness, breakouts and acne.
The pH of your cleanser is important for your skin’s health. If your skin feels tight and uncomfortable after you wash your face, your cleanser might be too harsh for your skin. Look for gentle cleansers with the pH between 4.5 and 5.5 and that will clean the skin without drying it out. This rule applies even if you have oily and combination skin.
Are you happy with your cleanser? How long did it take you to find the right one?