Skin — a continuously self-renewing (and fascinating) organ — yes— organ! Do you think of it that way — like the stomach or the heart? It is in fact our LARGEST organ. With its layers and multiple functions, the skin is just as much a vital organ as any other. It is host — as we are host — to a microbial Universe. There may be as many as 1000 species of bacteria living on and with our skin and thousands more living inside. One human body is approximately 10 trillion human cells, 100 trillion bacteria, yeasts and single cell protozoa. Plus 1000 trillion viruses.
Skin is cool and dry and acidic. Although the target pH INSIDE the body is 7.40, the SKIN’s optimal pH is in the 4–4.5 range and up to 5.5. The measure varies with location and exposure. Between the toes and on the forearm there is a pH difference. We humans are a little acidic on the the outside and a little alkaline on the inside. At the correct acidic pH level, our skin looks radiant, its proper resident bacterial flora stay attached, and harmful bacteria are protected from penetrating its mantle.
Think of the skin as major protection: protection which happens because of: 1) sweat (we excrete lactic acid along w/ small amounts of other amino acids) 2) sebum (the oil produced by sebaceous glands for waterproofing the skin that, when broken down by enzymes on the skin surface, forms free fatty acids) 3) dead skin cells (which release amino acids including one called pyrrolidone carboxylic acid that plays a big part in our skin’s natural ability to moisturize).
Now we often hear the moniker ‘acid mantle’ when referencing skin, especially when talking about the face. What a perfect description! The ‘acid mantle’ protects and shields us from the elements (it’s waterproof!). We become rather impenetrable to various and dangerous bacteria, fungi and viruses because it holds our skin cells flat on its surface (like shingles on a roof). And, because it is acidic, the ‘acid mantle’ is able to neutralize and release any alkaline contaminants or chemicals that may be harmful to us.
Without the acid mantle — if it washes away, if it is neutralized — we are prone to infection. The once formidable skin cells, should they separate and break away, let moisture out and tiny cracks form where bacteria can enter.
What depletes and destroys our mantle? The environment: exposure to sun and to water. Malnourishment. Skin conditions — eczema, for example, will bring the surface pH to 7.5 — way above proper. Chemical cleansing agents. Topical product usage when the products themselves are not properly pH balanced.
So how do we — from the outside — protect it AND keep it clean and properly ‘pH’d’? More thoughts to come.