You really should be paying attention to your acid mantle barrier

When it comes to skincare, it can’t be said enough: more is not more! And I’m not just writing this because skincare can set you back a pretty penny. Using too many products, especially alcohol-based ones, can actually do more damage than good because they can destroy the skin’s acid mantle barrier. This is precisely why we’re seeing a rise in products calling out the fact that they’re pH-balanced. So why exactly is that important and what is the acid mantle barrier? I turned to dermatologist Dr. Sapna Palep of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City to find out.

What exactly is the acid mantle barrier?

The acid mantle barrier is a thin acidic film on the surface of human skin that acts as a barrier to bacteria, viruses, and any other potential contaminants to the skin. It’s a balanced microflora ecosystem of sebum and sweat, with a pH of 4.5-6.2 that helps maintain the skins hydration.

What can we do to make sure we are not harming it?

There are a couple things you can do to make sure you are not harming the acid mantle barrier including avoiding alcohol-based astringents and toners, excessive exfoliating, harsh oils, excessive water temperatures, harsh weather, and pollutants.  Proper moisturization and daily sun protection are also key.

What are some common ways that people do to damage to it?

The most common way people damage the acid mantle barrier that I see in patients is the overuse of different skin care products, which drastically alters the pH of your skin. Keep your skin care routine simple. I recommend a gentle pH-based cleanser, a moisturizer and mineral-based sunscreen in the morning and a retinol at night.

Can you reverse past damage?

If you’d like to try to start to reverse past damage at home, stop over cleansing, use sunscreen daily, avoid fragrances, stop all treatments (masks, eye creams, etc.), adopt a minimal skin routine, use moisturizers with barrier restoring ingredients, avoid long and hot showers, and avoid fragrances.  I see patients all the time at my practice at Spring Street Dermatology in New York City that need my help in paring down their skin care routines, and selecting the products that are right for them to restore balance and ultimately, reverse past damage.

Image: Vogue

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