What Exactly Protects us Everyday from Environmental Influences?
The skin's pH value.
The term “pH value” has been widely talked about for years now. There is hardly anyone who hasn’t heard it or read it on shampoo bottles or tubs of cream. But how many people are actually aware of what this abbreviation stands for and what it means?
“pH” is short for the Latin term “potentia hydrogenii” and translates as “hydrogen ion concentration”.
pH values allow us to differentiate acids and bases from each other and label them according to strength. Anything that contains water also has a pH value, which can be determined using an electronic pH meter or an indicator such as litmus.
Our skin can be assigned a pH value too, because the hydrolipid film on the skin’s surface contains water. It was discovered about a hundred years ago that the skin is slightly acidic. Modern measuring techniques produced an average pH value of 5.5, which is due to natural acidic substances in sweat, sebum, and horny cells. The significance of the acidic nature of the skin’s surface is demonstrated in the “acid mantle”.
Its job: to repel harmful microorganisms and negative environmental influences and, in doing so, protect the skin from infections, irritation, allergies, and drying out. An intact acid mantle also functions as a natural deodorant, because it minimises the bacterial breakdown of sweat which causes body odour.
It is therefore vital that you don’t do anything that could damage your acid mantle. You should for example avoid cleansing your body with “normal” soap, because the soapy water will have a pH value of 8 to 12 and will destroy the acid mantle. Washing with “pH neutral” products, whose pH values of 7 differ considerably from the skin’s of 5.5, can harm the acid mantle as well though. And finally, you should steer clear of any contact with basic solutions while working.