How to keep your skin’s acid mantle intact

Posted by bodyverde on October 28, 2011

We wrote previously about how skin conditions such as eczema can impact the skin’s natural pH balance. The opposite is true as well – if the pH balance is off, the skin is more prone to eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, acne and other problems.

Known as the skin’s acid mantle, the layer of surface skin is supposed to have a slightly acidic pH to protect it from pollutants and microorganisms. The trouble is that many soaps and cleansers are too alkaline for the skin, stripping away natural oils.

Ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate have a pH level of 10, when products that are closer to a pH level of 5 are considered balanced. (If a product’s pH level is not indicated, it can be tested with a home pH testing kit. This web site offers a listing of pH levels of skin care products, but we can’t vouch for its accuracy.)

Overly acidic products can also weaken the skin’s natural defenses, making it more susceptible to breakouts or dryness. Watch products that contain alpha hydroxy acids, amino fruit acids and similar ingredients.

The skin’s pH balance also appears to play a role in aging. Elle magazine reports that according to one study, women with more alkaline skin developed more fine lines and crow’s feet thank those with acidic skin.

In addition to using products with a skin-healthy pH level between 4 and 6.5 on a scale of 1-14, here are other steps you can take:

  • Use sunscreen daily to preserve the skin’s acid mantle.
  • Find a good daily moisturizer with natural oils that work with your skin, not against it. Look for jojoba, safflower, coconut, argan and olive oil.
  • Rethink toner. Many skin care companies encourage use of a toner after cleansing to “restore pH balance.” The reality is that toners may be overly drying or irritating for many skin types. An exception is very oily skin, which may benefit from the use of a non-alcohol-based toner. (Read more here.)
  • Consider what you eat. Unlike the skin, the body’s internal pH should be slightly alkaline, which will improve overall health and promote healthy-looking skin. Limit intake of acid-forming foods such as sugar, dairy, meat, processed grains, yeast, alcohol, caffeine, and sweet fruits in favor of water with lemon and foods such as broccoli, carrots, avocados and tomatoes. (Many experts recommend juicing vegetables.)

Have you tested your skin’s pH level or your skin care products? Please comment here.

Image: Matt Molina / Flickr

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