One of the most common culprits to the age old problem of oily T-zones and dry patches is a relatively unknown one: unbalanced skin pH.
Acidic > Alkaline?
To understand this issue, we must first realise that our skin is actually naturally more acidic than alkaline, with a pH of around 4.2-5.6.
In fact, we have a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of our skin which acts like a natural barrier against bacteria and other contaminants. It is formed by sebum and sweat - which sounds like a very nasty mixture, but it is actually incredibly important to our skin health and its natural defences.
Photo: Matthew Tkocz
The Acid Mantle acts like the skin’s nature defense system, so when we overuse certain products for that "squeaky clean" feeling, we’re actually eroding it.
Erosion of the acid mantle can lead to increased sensitivity, redness, inflammation and irritations, which then causes the skin to start overproducing sebum in order to defend itself. At the same time, areas that do not have enough pores for sebum secretion can dry out.
Interestingly, our hands are the most prone to acid mantle disruption due to constant washing and contact to strong detergents or sanitisers.
Combination Skin Types
Using over-acidic or over-alkaline products for prolonged periods of time can effect our skin’s natural pH and the acid mantle, throwing our skin’s normalised sebum production and regulation off balance.
Areas with less pores, like the side of our chins, are often dry patches, while pore-dense areas such as the T-zone and chin can feel very oily at the same time. This is known as Combination Skin types and is typically harder to manage than other skin types as it involves targeting opposite problems on the same facial area.
How do you know you have a weakened acid mantle and unbalanced skin pH?The symptoms are:
- Sudden increase in skin sensitivity
- Oily T-zone but dry patches
- Visible tears in skin (looks chapped and dry)
- Chronic inflammation or redness
- No matter what products you use, the above issues do not improve
What factors can cause disruptions in the acid mantle and offset healthy skin pH?
- Prolonged exfoliation
- Consistent use of acids, alcohol based products, harsher oil control products like drying lotions
- Daily heavy make up use with comedogenic chemicals that clog skin
- Prolonged exposure to UV radiation, Heat, Cold Air or Strong winds
- Prolonged use of chemical peels and microdermabrasion
How can we fix this?
The good news is that the Acid Mantle can be recovered, and skin pH can be normalised again. It usually takes around four weeks to 2 months for the skin to rebuild its acid mantle.
The first step is to identify the causes in your skin care routine and remove them. For example, for those using lots of acids, scrubs or peel off masks, these can all be taken out to give the skin a break.
For others who use only alkaline products (anything above pH 7), can reintroduce products that measure between 4.5-5.5, like our Cucumber Recovery Tonic, to help re-aciditize pH without being too harsh.
This is the reason why our Cucumber Recovery Tonic is formulated exactly to be a pH of 5.5 in each bottle. A natural rose water base helps hydrate and rebalance sebum production without drying out damaged skin, while the Cucumber Recovery Serum is packed with moisturising and soothing ingredients such as Cucumber Extract, Hyaluronic acid and Passionflower extract, which promotes repair by nourishing the skin with a rich antioxidant profile.
By consistently applying to tonic each day, the formula helps to rebalance the skin’s natural PH levels.
Oils are also incredibly important for rebuilding the acid mantle as it mimics a natural skin barrier. Our Herbal Youth Oil contains jojoba, blueberry seed and safflower oils, which are lightweight and very close to our natural skin oil structure. Of all of these, jojoba is the most similar to natural skin sebum, and can act as barrier support while the skin works to repair itself.Oil cleansing is a popular natural remedy to rebuild one’s acid mantle, however one must choose a suitable oil for their skin type to ensure that they don’t cause break outs. Olive oil and jojoba oil are popular pure oils for cleansing purposes.