Skin Barrier 101: Everything You Need to Know
What is the skin barrier?
Simply put, the skin barrier is the armour that covers the skin to protect it from the outside world. Like other organs in the body, your skin has its own defence mechanisms too. The skin barrier is your body’s first line of resistance against external aggressors. Here, the skin cells teamed with the lipids that are naturally produced by the body, join and create the protective layer. This cellular matrix acts as the body’s outer wall, warding off any unwanted intruders.
What is the role of the skin barrier?
The skin barrier performs several jobs which are rounded up into three crucial tasks:
- Protecting the skin from environmental stressors such as pollution and UV radiation.
- Absorbing water to keep your skin and body hydrated.
- Transporting key nutrients to your skin.
How does a healthy skin barrier become damaged?
If your skin barrier has become vulnerable, you’ll be more susceptible to dehydration, which will lead to a dull complexion and dryness. Your skin may appear discoloured and have more wrinkles, and other conditions that will be triggered by the lack of skin barrier protection.
So, what has a negative effect on the skin barrier? Everything from modern life to stress, blue light exposure from devices, pollution, and UV rays can all damage the skin barrier.
Another hazard to the skin barrier comes from poor skincare products, and this starts with cleansers. Most over-the-counter cleansers are filled with preservatives and other ingredients that make the skin dry, sensitive, and prone to redness. It’s crucial that you choose a gentle cleanser that suits your skin.
Add to this the need to moisturise well and drink plenty of water, and your skin barrier can work effectively. Skipping moisturisation and not drinking enough fluids means that your skin’s natural microbiome will have a harder time restoring itself.
It may be difficult to reverse damage to the skin barrier, but there are plenty of steps that you can take to improve it. In addition, skin cells are constantly renewing themselves so anyway in which you can help to improve the skin barrier, will avert future damage.
What are some of the signs of a compromised skin barrier?
A compromised skin barrier will let you know that it’s tainted through several signals. This includes skin concerns such as:
… any of which can appear in small or large areas on the body or face.
If you find that you’re experiencing any of the above, the best way forward is to find the right treatment. When the skin barrier is compromised, the skin’s dermal layers become dehydrated. These layers will then send a message to the sebaceous glands to produce more oil.
Excess oil will cause the pores to swell up and trap bacteria, sebum, and dead skin cells. When they try to push their way out, you’ll experience inflammation, and your skin barrier will be severely affected. So, finding the right treatment and giving your skin the time to heal will let you get back in good stead with your skin barrier.
What are the best ways to repair and protect the skin barrier?
Now that you know what the skin barrier is and how it works, let’s get to the important part. Skincare teamed with other good habits can have a dramatic impact on your skin’s tone, texture, appearance, and all-around resilience. Here are six tips to set you on the path to a stronger and healthier skin barrier…
1. Cleanse, but carefully
Cleansing is key and we cannot emphasise enough how important it is to wash your face with a good cleanser to remove excess oil and dirt that has accumulated throughout the day on your face. Choose a cleanser that won’t strip away any essential moisture, and only use a penny-sized amount, massaging it over your face in a circular motion. Wash away with lukewarm water – not hot water as this can contribute to skin dryness and dehydration.
2. Keep it toned
The jury is still out on toners but if you do implement this stage in your skincare routine, opt for an alcohol-free toner that will wipe away surplus dirt and residue without drying your skin out. Soothing ingredients like calendula or rose water will leave your skin feeling refreshed. To apply, soak a cotton pad in the toner and gently glide it over your face, avoiding the delicate eye area. Allow a couple of minutes before moving onto the next stage of your skincare.
3. Strength is key
Use a strengthening serum with super-ingredients such as hyaluronic acid to help penetrate deeper layers. Serums will help with several skin concerns over time and work to boost the skin barrier alongside helping you maintain a more radiant complexion.
4. Nourishment is essential
It goes without saying that your fluid intake should be good to upkeep a healthy skin barrier. But it’s not only liquids that you drink which can help. Try topical oils with antioxidant-rich ingredients such as ginger root, marula, rosehip, evening primrose, and others for extra skin barrier defence against environmental damage. Face oils can also help with firmness, acne, dark spots and more.
5. Lock in the hydration
Always, always, remember to moisturise. Moisturisers act as a seal for all the products that come before it. There are plenty of options out there and it’s important to identify the correct one for your skin type and needs. Have you got dry skin and want to add more of a natural glow? Or do you suffer from oiliness and want a moisturiser that isn’t greasy and leaves you with smooth skin? Whichever it is, choose wisely.
6. Always protect with SPF
Skin specialists will drill this into you at every chance they can get. Sunscreen is the real saviour when it comes to skin protection. SPF is super effective against anti-ageing and helps to reduce your risk of skin cancer in the long-term. Even in winter, when you might not think the sun is out, SPF should be applied to dispel all those UV rays that are invisible to the eye. If you’ve got a good SPF in your arsenal of skincare, you’re good to go.