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The acid mantle
You’ve got skin problems……..
Hopefully, not enough to force a trip to a dermatologist, but enough to be a bother.
You’re not alone…..
Layering up with expensive creams and lotions, is standard practice. Most products do provide some relief, in the short term, at least.
You seem to need to keep using the product, to sustain the “relief” – i.e. they habit forming.
But is this really what Mother Nature intended ?
Burn baby burn
Now one of Mother Nature’s “weapons” of protection is acidity.
We’re all familiar with this strategy, it is how the stomach protects us from “nasties” entering the body, via the mouth. The acidity nukes the little critters who arrive inside our food and ……. as an added bonus, it kick starts the process of digestion.
Stomach enzymes NEED acid to go about their business
So what ?
Guarding the portals
Well, the stomach is not the only part of the body using acid for protection. In fact, most of the body’s portals i.e. entry gates, are acidic.
The skin is NO exception.
Healthy skin, clocks in at a pH of 4.9.
There are variations across the skin surface, the most acidic part of you is typically your forehead (4.4), the least acidic spots, can be found in between your fingers and toes (6.1) and around your anus (7.4).
This acidic covering, has been nicknamed…..
The acid mantle
And just like stomach acidity, skin acidity is NECESSARY.
As in the stomach, the acidity provides protection, in the case of the skin, it is less about nuking nasty critters, who arrive via the air or surfaces, we come in contact with, and more about discouraging, them from taking up residence.
Skin “nasties” are typically alkaline loving.
This is particularly important for us humans………
As “naked” apes, we don’t have the extra protection of a thick woolly layer of hair, shielding us from wandering critters – so, human skin ends up being, a little bit more acidic than other animal’s skin.
The very outer layer of the skin, known as the stratum corneum, does the heavy lifting.
Keeping the skin pH this low, takes team work.
Skin pH is managed
Scientists have identified several systems that help to make the skin acid….
- the structural components of skin, such as filaggrin, fatty acids and melanin
- as well as, a specialized proton pump
If the skin pH rises, corrective action is taken, immediately.
But the acid mantle, is more than just about ……
Burning the bugs
The outer layer of the skin NEEDS a low pH, to function at it’s best.
You see, the very outer layer of your skin, is a wall of rather flat, dead cells. These highly specialized cells, known as corneocytes, grip one another tightly, at corneodesmosomes. To help them stay connected, and keep the layer water tight, there is a fatty layer of glue, squished between the cells.
This “glue” is secreted by the cells directly underneath.
To protect against “sticky accidents”, it only becomes “sticky” when enzymes break down the lamella lipids. Now it turns out, these enzymes are rather sensitive souls, they are only active, when the skin pH is low.
The dilemma, this glue is…………….
Not alkaline-proof glue
If the skin pH rises, even just a little, the glue is not quite as effective.
This is not the only problem, facing the corneocytes in this scenario – they find another set of enzymes, find the alkaline environment, rather invigorating. These are the kallikreins, they set about, prying apart the corneodesmosomes………..
This causes the corneocytes right on the outside, to fall off.
Into the abyss
The process is called desquamation.
It is perfectly natural, to slough off these dead skin cells, but only when the timing is “right”. An alkaline pH, speeds up the process, leaving the skin barrier, a tiny bit worse for wear.
Because it’s thinner.
Being thinner, it is more vulnerable…………..to attack, from bugs, chemicals and the weather.
So happy healthy skin should be a little acidic !
Skin pH usurped
But it might not be……………..
Many of the products we expose our skin to, are ALKALINE i.e. they raise the pH of the outer layers of the skin.
Yes, it is a temporary effect………but it adds up.
So what can you do about it ?
Watch the acidity of your skin care products.
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