I have discussed before in this blog the importance of the skin as a barrier and what happens when it gets disrupted.
The “acid mantle” is part of the skin barrier, and probably one you don’t have to worry about unless you keep washing your hands with an antiquated alkaline bar of soap. Most soaps now are milder, more acidic and contain detergents rather than alkaline soap (or a mix). Even when washed with the wrong kind of soap, the skin will go back to a more natural pH (acidity) within a couple of hours. Remember: soap is rinsed within seconds! Studies on the effect of pH on the acid mantle that test the effect of skin washing by leaving soap or detergents for hours are useless, because they don’t reflect the reality of hand or face washing.
There is more to the skin barrier than the acid mantle, though. What’s the point of worrying about the skin pH is you keep perforating it with needles, eroding it with acids, blasting it with sand or heating it with lamps and lasers? Maybe what we should be discussing is the contribution of fake “skin care” to the disruption of the skin barrier and how we, by listening to advertising, make our own skin problems. The skin and hair care industry has a bad rap and it may be well deserved because of unrealistic advertising, but you can’t compare the effect of a serum that may not improve your skin (but will not harm it either) with the effect of abrading the skin daily.
Some people have become aware of effect of bad skin care, and there have been many silly proposals: don’t shower, don’t wash your hair, etc. These options are, to say the least, incompatible with civilized society, you would not like to be sitting in an airplane next to a person that does not wear deodorant or washes his/her hair. In any case, the problem here is not the brief disruption of the skin (or scalp) barrier that happens when you wash your hair with shampoo or your hands with soap. Your skin is quite capable of shifting back to its natural pH after a couple of hours. Your skin is alive and its metabolism doesn’t stop when you wash your hands. So go ahead and wash your hair, and wear deodorant.
What you can’t do (and get away with it) is to treat your skin as you would treat a dirty wall. You must respect your skin if you want it to last for the many decades you will need it.
What to avoid:
1) Treatments that heat your skin with lasers or LEDs unless it is part of a treatment indicated by a respected dermatologist. Lasers are high energy tools that should be used only when destroying cells for a very good reasons. The energy of LEDs will be released in your skin and will, at least, cause inflammation. You’d better have a very good reason for that. For people with a tendency to respond to stress with hyperpigmentation,
2) Anything needles! Micro, macro, medium or whatever. Inflammation and worse (infection) can ensue. And, again, for people with a tendency to respond to stress with hyperpigmentation,
3) Strong acids unless it is part of a treatment indicated by a respected dermatologist. Acid peels are a great tool in the hands of a specialist, but remember than any acid peel starts as a chemical burn.
This does not mean that you have to forgo skin renewal accelerated by, say, retinoids. Retinoids have been shown to help with skin aging, photoaging, pigmentation problems and lots more. Retinoids should be a part of the skin care routine, although they don’t need to be used daily. Choose a retinoid that is gentle on your skin, like those we make at Skin Actives. Harsher forms will not give you extra benefits. Retinoid receptors will bind to retinyl esters without the side effects of Retin-A.
Mild skin exfoliation with acids like the alpha/beta exfoliator solution from Skin Actives can also be used, especially if you have abnormal keratinization (blocked pores) as in bumpy skin or acne. But don’t do it every day, because you would be eroding away the epidermis, and that is your skin barrier.
More than anything, get used to the idea that your skin will never look like a baby’s skin and it shouldn’t. The skin of a newborn is totally unprepared to deal with the environment, and you have to contend with a dry environment, pollution and the sun. For that, you need all the help your skin can give you.
DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.