Exfoliation and Acid Mantle

When old skin cells start to pile up on the surface of the skin, it can lead to skin looking dull, rough and dry. Dead skin cells build-up can result in excess oil and clogged pores which would lead to blemishes and acne. Also, build-up of dead skin cells obstructs penetration of skincare products thus hindering their efficiency. In fact there are numerous reasons to exfoliate which makes it easy to get carried away with exfoliating your way into brighter tomorrow. That said, you should mind you exfoliation practice as it can disturb your acid mantle making skin vulnerable to bacteria, pollutants and harsh chemicals.  

Exfoliation methods and acid mantle


Mechanical exfoliation

Chemical exfoliation

What is it? Any abrasive material or substance that physically removes cells from the skin Exfoliants that use chemicals as hydroxyl acids and natural enzymes in order to break apart bonds between the cells


Be aware           Strip skin of natural oils that support acid mantle

          Exfoliating “beads” are uneven in size which often causes micro tears in the skin creating perfect environment for bacteria to thrive unencumbered by the skin’s protective acid layer


Consider using chemical exfoliants like BHAs (salicylic acid) and AHAs (glycolic acid):


          BHA is an exfoliant that works that works primarily on excess oil, which it targets and clears pores without damaging the acid mantle


          Glycolic acid (AHA) helps to exfoliate the upper layers of skin and speed up cellular turnover, again without damaging the acid mantle



In order to have young looking skin, you have to exfoliate and chemical exfoliation would be the perfect method to do so. That said, facial acids are rather powerful skincare ingredients so it is worthwhile to learn a bit about their nature.



pH dependent skincare product ingredients

There are certain ingredients in the skincare worlds that require specific pH to work their magic. This is known as pH –dependency. Mostly it applies to active ingredient like chemical exfoliants and serums.

Facial acids / chemical exfoliants like BHAs (salicylic acid) and AHAs (like glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, etc) have something called a “Free Acid Value” which will tell you the true strength of its exfoliating powers. Essentially, the lower the pH of the product, the deeper chemical exfoliants will be able to penetrate, work more effectively and have greater concentrated effect. Low – pH also means that products are more or simply too powerful and have to be used by professionals or highly competent consumers in order to keep the integrity of the skin and acid mantle.

When facial acid is formulated at a pH below 2.0 the entire percentage of that acid in solution is considered “free” – competently unrestrained to do everything it’s going to do like unclog pores, slough off dead skin, upregulate collagen production, increase cell turnover , etc.

For example, if you have a 20% salicylic acid product at a pH of 2.0 than the entire 20% is “free” to work its magic. However, the closer the pH of that product to neutral (pH level of 7), the less of the total 20% will actually work.


Thanks for reading,


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