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Why it's so important to choose the right cleansers for the sake of your skin barrier?

Why it's so important to choose the right cleansers for the sake of your skin barrier?

We're obsessed by your skin barrier.

Skin is your body's largest organ. It keeps bad stuff from getting into your system among many other amazing - and more technical - traits. And so, keeping it healthy is critical to your overall health. As long as your skin's healthy, there's also a good chance it's looking its best too. That's why we're laser-focused on skin 'protection' not skin 'care'. Protecting your skin means keeping it (and you) healthy for as long as possible.

Anything that comes into contact with your skin can obviously disturb the skin barrier. From household cleaning products to pollution, exhaust fumes and even the skincare or cosmetic products you use daily. They can all impact this barrier that LifeJacket is so intent on protecting.

In this post, we're focused on soaps and skin cleansers in particular but first, it's helpful to understand the skin barrier in a little detail.

The skin barrier

Two elements of your skin barrier that don't often get much air time are the acid mantle and microbiome. Together, they form a finely-balanced matrix that work hard to protect your skin barrier.

Acid mantle

This is a thin film on the skin’s surface made up of lipids from oil glands mixed with amino acids from sweat. It’s part of a delicate system that creates a healthy skin barrier. The main role of the acid mantle is to keep moisture in (good) and stop things like bacteria and pollution getting in (bad). It's like an invisible shield you didn't know you had.


You might not know it but microbes, fungi and bacteria live on the surface of your skin creating a physical layer that also protects you from the outside world. They send signals to your body to repair damaged skin, act like a natural antibiotic by fighting infections and help to keep your skin slightly acidic, which many germs don't like.

Did you say the skin is acidic?

Dust down your school chemistry book for this bit...

The pH scale is used to test the acidity and alkalinity of a liquid, solid or surface. Remember the old litmus test? The pH scale ranges from 1 to 14 — most acidic being 1 and most alkali being 14, with 7 as neutral pH.

Naturally, your skin is slightly acidic because of the acid mantle and microbiome. The exact level varies depending on factors like age, gender, ethnicity, climate, and where on the body. But speaking generally, your skin's pH is between 4.5 and 6.2. The body fights to maintain the skin's pH to ensure the finely-balanced matrix of the acid mantle and microbiome are functioning optimally and protecting your body from anything harmful getting inside.

Do soaps disrupt this balance?

It's true that many soaps are either alkaline or contain substances that can strip the skin barrier of its natural oils. In some circumstances for some people, this might lead to dryness, irritation and a compromised skin barrier because the microbiome or acid mantle become disrupted somehow.

But bear in mind that brief exposure to slightly acidic or slightly alkaline products doesn't immediately harm the acid mantle and microbiome, especially for the short amount of time we all use soap for when washing. Changes might be temporary and your skin is very good at rebalancing itself. For example, in a study of infants, water-only washing showed a pH increase of 1.1 while use of an alkaline soap saw an increase of 1.2 points.

There are plenty of soaps out there that may work perfectly with your skin even though they aren't pH neutral or pH balanced, to use common marketing speak.

What about the LifeJacket wash bars then?

When we formulate products from scratch as we do, we start by write on a wall how we want any new product to protect the skin and which ingredients we want to try and use. We spend more time than you might expect selecting high quality ingredients that deliver genuine benefits.

Once we then step into the lab, skin safety is our number 1 priority of course.

With our bars in particular, one of the many technical merits we came up with was making sure the pH of our Face Cleansing Bar and Body Wash Bar match the pH of your skin. Not only do we use great ingredients like Olus Oil, Seabuckthorn and Salicylic Acid but we chose to make the product with a very specific pH. The point of this was to remove any potential for irritation associated with skin imbalances, of any kind. Guaranteeing skin compatibility is important to us so more people can carry out a daily skin protection routine. We call this a formulation-balanced approach not just a pH balanced one.

This might seem niche but skin pH is just one of the aspects of overall skin health. A pH imbalance might not be the first thing you think of when you start to have skin complaints but it really can be a cause. Building a daily routine around a good cleanser and an SPF moisturiser can certainly help you maintain a healthy and happy skin barrier, which will benefit you in so many other ways.