Derm DMs: What Is the Skin’s Acid Mantle?

September 27, 2022
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
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The skin has many fascinating layers and characteristics, and one you may not have heard of is the acid mantle, which refers to the slightly acidic condition of the uppermost layers of skin. We spoke with expert, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a NYC-based board-certified dermatologist, to learn more about what the acid mantle is. Ahead, we share his insights, as well as our editor’s product picks with pH-balancing benefits to incorporate into your skincare routine.

What Is the Skin’s Acid Mantle?

According to Dr. Zeichner, the acid mantle refers to the acidic pH maintained by the outer layer of the skin. “The skin has a pH around 5.5, which is necessary for the proper functioning of skin cells [at the surface level],” he says. “When the pH of the skin is disrupted, the skin barrier cannot function optimally, which can lead to dryness and irritation.”

What Products Can Help Maintain the Acid Mantle?

You can help maintain your acid mantle by using skincare products that are designed to provide hydrating benefits to the outer layer of skin’s surface without stripping it. “That squeaky clean feeling you may be looking for after cleansing represents post-wash dryness and can actually be harmful to the skin,” says Dr. Zeichner. Instead, opt for gentle, hydrating cleansers. We love the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser formulated with hyaluronic acid, ceramides and glycerin.

What if Your Acid Mantle Is Disrupted?

If you think you’ve disrupted your acid mantle (i.e., your complexion is dry and irritated), Dr. Zeichner recommends using bland moisturizers to restore skin barrier function and hydration. “Acidic toners that contain ingredients like glycolic acid can be useful in this case, but don’t overdo it, as pushing the pH of the skin too low can lead to peeling,” he says. We recommend trying the Alpha H Liquid Gold Treatment, and then applying a moisturizer right after, like the Skinceuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, which helps restore the skin barrier.


Design: Hannah Packer

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