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 Skin Barrier

Your skin is more than just a physical layer. Rather, your skin’s health is sustained by the balance between 3 main components: 1) the physical barrier, 2) the acid mantle, and 3) the skin microbiome
  • The physical barrier forms the physical wall we usually think of as the skin barrier

  • The acid mantle maintains your skin surface pH 

  • The skin microbiome is the ecosystem of bacteria on your skin's surface that helps guard against pathogens


healthy skin pillars: skin barrier, acid mantle, and microbiome
Healthy, balanced skin requires all three pillars.


All of these components are interrelated, and an imbalance in any one of them can disrupt the other two.  When the skin barrier isn’t functioning properly, allergens, chemical irritants, and pathogenic microbes can penetrate, resulting in irritation, infection, and inflammation. Consequently, this can lead to skin dryness, flakiness, eczema, acne, and other skin conditions.3,4


Skin surface pH and skincare


Your skin microbiome and the key enzymatic reactions that are involved in synthesizing healthy skin depend on maintaining an acidic skin surface pH. Changes in this skin surface pH can result in disruption of the skin barrier and the growth of pathogenic microbes.1,3,4

Even products that claim to be “pH-balanced” might not be ideal for your skin. While they might temporarily correct skin surface pH, they lack pH buffering capacity; that is, the ability to “lock in” skin pH at the optimal level. This is because skin surface pH is a moving target. There are infinite ways that our skin pH can be compromised through the day. Every time we hop in the shower, apply cosmetics, wash our hands, or walk outside, we challenge our skin and temporarily disrupt its pH balance.

Click here to learn more about skin pH


To further complicate things, many skincare products make claims of supporting the physical barrier but often neglect or even weaken, the microbiome and the acid mantle by causing pH imbalances! In fact, in a recent study, researchers assessed 58 mainstream products that made claims of skin barrier protection; they found that most of those products were too high in pH and were more likely to negatively impact acid mantle and microbiota systems, rather than provide the intended positive benefits.5  

skin health requires balance of 3 of the main components of skin health

Many skincare products make claims of supporting the physical barrier but neglect, or even weaken, the microbiome and the acid mantle! Skin health is unbalanced when any of the three pillars is neglected. 


Eczema and skin pH 


Eczema is a general term used to describe an itchy rash or skin inflammation, often triggered by allergens penetrating the skin. Eczema is associated with a disrupted skin barrier, elevated skin surface pH, and a disrupted skin microbiome.1,6 Elevated pH and barrier disruption make it easier for allergens and pathogens to penetrate the skin, trigger inflammation, and cause flare-ups. Thus, a healthy barrier and acid mantle are critical to preventing flare-ups and keeping your eczema in check. Moreover, recent studies show that maintaining an acidic skin pH may have therapeutic effects on eczema and prevent atopic march to asthma.1,7-9


Lock in pH with pH/LOCK™


So what can we do if pH is a moving target? That’s where Soteri’s technology comes in. pH/LOCK™ sets and maintains the optimal skin surface pH of ~4.710 and builds skin pH buffer capacity upon application. Having a strong pH buffer capacity means that skin is less susceptible to pH fluctuations, and can effectively “lock in” the optimal pH on your skin for hours. This long-lasting pH control provides direct protection against environmental stressors while stimulating skin barrier repair and renewal. 


Soteri Products


We believe that healthy skin is beautiful skin and that maintaining a healthy and balanced skin barrier, acid mantle, and microbiome are the key to gorgeous, glowing skin. Our products are carefully optimized to stimulate and support all 3 pillars of healthy skin.


  • pH/LOCK™, locks your skin pH in at its sweet spot, and keeps it balanced throughout the day. This strengthens the acid mantle and creates the optimal environment for physical skin barrier renewal and microbiome balance. 

  • Our skin-mimicking ceramide complex and ingredients such as niacinamide and phytosphingosine further support the physical skin barrier.

  • Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and amino acids provide instant hydration.


Our eczema line also contains colloidal oatmeal, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and shea butter. These provide anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial benefits to soothe irritated skin. 


Soteri supports 3 pillars of healthy skin: 1) skin barrier, 2) acid mantle, 3) microbiome


We believe that this holistic approach (supporting the physical barrier, acid mantle, and the microbiome) is critical for skin health. Our products have been tested on those with the most delicate skin (eczema, lesions, psoriasis, extreme dryness), and the results speak for themselves. Through the comprehensive care provided by Soteri products, we believe anyone can achieve healthy, glowing, and resilient skin!


Let's illustrate how pH/LOCK™ works:


1. Healthy Skin

Simple activities such as showering or washing your face can increase skin surface pH for hours. During this time, skin’s defenses are weakened, necessary enzymatic reactions are slowed, and the skin microbiome is disturbed. Healthy skin can regulate its surface pH and will return to optimal pH levels over time. This is demonstrated in the figure below, which shows skin surface pH increasing to an unhealthy pH above 6 (pink) after a shower, and slowly returning to a healthy pH below 5 (green) over the next few hours.

skin pH after shower
2. Skin with Eczema (Atopic Skin)
Eczema sufferers already tend to have higher skin surface pH levels. Further compounding this imbalance is the fact that atopic skin has a limited ability to regulate its own pH levels, so environmental stressors can have lasting, negative impacts on skin health. The figure below shows how elevated skin pH and compromised skin buffer capacity affect skin pH recovery after a shower. In this case, the initial pH is already elevated (yellow), and further increases after a shower (pink). Consequently, skin's surface pH doesn’t recover to a healthy level (green) even 3 hours after the shower, as skin with eczema is less efficient at regulating surface pH levels.

skin pH in eczema
3. Skin pH correction with Soteri 

Soteri products rebalance your skin surface pH and maintain it at the optimal level. The figure below shows how applying Soteri products right after the pH-altering event immediately corrects skin surface pH in healthy skin and skin with eczema. From there, pH/LOCK™ locks skin at the optimal pH, so that skin can heal, and the skin barrier can function at its best.

skin pH after Soteri application
Other Key Ingredients in our Products

While pH/LOCK™ supports your skin’s acid mantle, the following active ingredients boost the resilience of your skin’s physical barrier.

Skin-mimicking Ceramide Complex: Ceramides, along with cholesterol and free fatty acids, are the main components of the skin barrier and thus, are critical for skin health. In fact, skin barrier disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and acne have been shown to coincide with imbalances in the ratio between these three skin barrier components.11
Ceramides can have a great effect on skin barrier healing. However, ceramide formulations need to resemble the composition of your skin barrier.1 Products with the wrong ratios or that only supply ceramides (without cholesterol and fatty acids) may have negative effects on your skin health, as they can cause imbalances in the composition of your skin barrier.12
Soteri products have been carefully formulated with this in mind; our skin-mimicking ceramide, cholesterol, and free fatty acid mixture has been shown to have positive effects on skin barrier renewal. 
Citric acid: This powerful ingredient provides multiple benefits. First, it is an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid), so it provides all the benefits of AHAs, i.e. lowers skin surface pH and stimulates barrier renewal. What makes it unique, however, is that it contains multiple carboxyl and hydroxyl groups that attract water molecules and provide moisturizing benefits. Lastly, and most importantly, citric acid has been shown to have a therapeutic effect on eczema and skin barrier functioning because it can inhibit the bacterial enzymes that break down ceramides and weaken the skin barrier.13
Citric acid is also a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to brighten skin and alleviate the appearance of age spots and discoloration. This, along with its antimicrobial properties, make it a great ingredient for acne-prone skin. 
Niacinamide: Also known as vitamin B3 or nicotinamide, niacinamide has gained greater recognition for being a powerhouse ingredient over the past few years.13 It has been shown to stimulate skin cell turnover and is also a powerful antioxidant that can provide protection against UV damage and pollutants.14
Phytosphingosine: Phytosphingosine is a precursor to ceramides. This means that your body can use phytosphingosine to replenish depleted ceramides in the skin barrier. It also has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which make it useful for treating inflammatory skin conditions.15


Soteri products support all 3 pillars of healthy skin, namely physical barrier, acid mantle, and microbiome. Ingredients such as our skin-mimicking ceramide complex, niacinamide, and phytosphingosine support skin’s physical barrier while pH/LOCK™ bolsters the resiliency of the acid mantle and provide optimal environment for skin microbiome. Through its strong pH buffer capacity, pH/LOCK™ locks skin in at the optimal pH for long-lasting pH control, providing protection against environmental stressors and stimulating skin barrier repair and renewal.
Unlike many other skincare products that only temporarily relieve the symptoms of an unhealthy skin barrier by providing moisture or soothing effects, Soteri products support your skin’s microbiome, physical and chemical barriers, so that skin can heal and resume long-term, optimal functioning.




  1. Elias PM. Skin barrier function. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2008;8(4):299-305. doi:10.1007/s11882-008-0048-0

  2. Smith AR, Knaysi G, Wilson JM, Wisniewski JA. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2017; 17(1): 6. doi:10.1007/s11882-017-0674-5. 

  3. Elias PM. Stratum corneum acidification: how and why? Exp Dermatol. 2015;24(3):179-180. doi:10.1111/exd.12596

  4. Surber C, Humbert P, Abels C, Maibach H. The Acid Mantle: A Myth or an Essential Part of Skin Health? Curr Probl Dermatol. 2018;54:1-10. doi:10.1159/000489512

  5. Wohlrab J, Gebert A. PH and Buffer Capacity of Topical Formulations. Curr Probl Dermatology. 2018;54:123-131. doi:10.1159/000489526

  6. Danby SG, Cork MJ. pH in Atopic Dermatitis. Curr Probl Dermatol. 2018;54:95-107. doi:10.1159/000489523

  7. Hatano Y, Man M-Q, Uchida Y, et al. Maintenance of an acidic stratum corneum prevents emergence of murine atopic dermatitis. J Invest Dermatol. 2009;129(7):1824-1835. doi:10.1038/jid.2008.444

  8. Lee H-J, Yoon NY, Lee NR, Jung M, Kim DH, Choi EH. Topical acidic cream prevents the development of atopic dermatitis- and asthma-like lesions in murine model. Exp Dermatol. 2014;23(10):736-741. doi:10.1111/exd.12525

  9. Lee NR, Lee H-J, Yoon NY, Kim D, Jung M, Choi EH. Application of Topical Acids Improves Atopic Dermatitis in Murine Model by Enhancement of Skin Barrier Functions Regardless of the Origin of Acids. Ann Dermatol. 2016;28(6):690-696. doi:10.5021/ad.2016.28.6.690

  10. Lambers H, Piessens S, Bloem A, Pronk H, Finkel P. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2006;28(5):359-370. doi:10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00344.x

  11. Imokawa G, Abe A, Jin K, Higaki Y, Kawashima M, Hidano A. Decreased level of ceramides in stratum corneum of atopic dermatitis: an etiologic factor in atopic dry skin? J Invest Dermatol. 1991;96(4):523-526. doi:10.1111/1523-1747.ep12470233

  12. Mao-qiang M, Feingold K, Wang F, Thornfeldt C, Elias P. A natural lipid mixture improves barrier function and hydration in human and murine skin. J Soc Cosmet Chem. 1996;47:157-166.

  13. Inoue H, Someno T, Kawada M, Ikeda D. Citric acid inhibits a bacterial ceramidase and alleviates atopic dermatitis in an animal model. J Antibiot (Tokyo). 2010;63(10):611-613. doi:10.1038/ja.2010.91

  14. Wohlrab J, Kreft D. Niacinamide - mechanisms of action and its topical use in dermatology. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(6):311-315. doi:10.1159/000359974

  15. Choi HK, Cho YH, Lee EO, Kim JW, Park CS. Phytosphingosine enhances moisture level in human skin barrier through stimulation of the filaggrin biosynthesis and degradation leading to NMF formation. Arch Dermatol Res. 2017;309(10):795-803. doi:10.1007/s00403-017-1782-8


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