Why is a Strong Skin Barrier Important?
You may have heard the term skin barrier and that we need to protect it?
With the amount of environmental stress our skin is exposed to day in, day out with the modern world, that statement couldn’t be more true. Our skin is the biggest organ our body has and just like all our other organs we need to be doing everything we can to help keep it healthy and long lasting.
Understanding what exactly the skin barrier is, how it works and what it needs is the best way to ensure its strength and protect it from visible ageing.
Our skin has many layers to it and is most outer layer called the stratum corneum. This layer is responsible for keeping out 'bad things' like pollution and toxins and keeping in 'good things' such as hydration. A lot of dermatologists explain this layer by saying your skin cells here are like a brick wall to a house and holding those bricks together are lipids and proteins like keratin, fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol, such creating your skin barrier. Together they keep irritants out and lock moisture in, without this barrier the water inside your body would completely evaporate which would mean our bodies would be completely dehydrated and no longer be able to function. Seeing how your skin barrier number one job is to keep water in, let's look at factors that contribute to damaging this barrier causing it to not work properly.
Due to the skin barrier being on the outside of your skin it is the most vulnerable layer. It is very easy for this layer to become damaged and cause those 'bricks' to loosen. There external and internal factors that can lead to water loss and damage to the skin barrier. External factors consist of environment – humidity, dry air, too much sun exposure and polluants all contribute. Exposure to harsh chemicals, detergents, soaps and steroids can take a major toll on the skin barrier. A major one that people may not realise is over exfoliation and washing your face too much, if you do this too often this could be stripping away the moisture from your skin, especially if you are scrubbing roughly or too hard and using strong or harmful ingredients like alcohol or fragrances. Internal factors that harm the skin barrier are stress, hormones and genetics.
If our skin barrier gets damaged it can cause a number of different problems. Dehydration and irritations being the biggest ones but it can also develop skin conditions like acne, atopic dermatitis and eczema. Also our skin needs hydration to keep our youthful looking glow, if our moisture is being stripped away it is going to cause our skin to age quicker, as well as look dry, scaley, inflamed and rough. It will also make our skin become very sensitive, not just to touch but to be able to handle skin care products.
Luckily your skin is very resilient and they are ways to renew the moisture in your skin barrier and help keep it strong. Your skin ph level should sit around 5.7 making it slightly acidic. This acid mantle your skin has created is a buffer against any harmful bacteria that want to form and damage your skin or potentially create other skin conditions. The acid mantle also plays a large role in wound healing, which is why it is important to protect it along with the rest of our skin barrier. Having a strong and protected skin barrier means it will be less susceptible to future damage.
The first thing we need to do to protect our skin is to understand our skin type and skin conditions. Stop trying every trend you see come up and stop making DIY lemon and baking soda cleansers because these could be harming you if your skin is not the right type for them. Take the time to learn about your skin by seeing a professional aesthetician or dermatologist before you try just anything, they will be able to advise you toward what your skin actually needs.
To start taking the steps to a healthier skin:
Cut back your exfoliation to 1 - 2 times a week.
(unless you have extremely acne prone skin)
This is plenty, you do not want to be stripping away the oils our skin need to stay strong. Use a gentle non soap cleanser every day. You want to look for ingredients that help strengthen the barrier such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, centella, niacinamide and ceramides. Ceramides are essential for a healthy skin barrier because they are high concentrations of waxy lipids that help hold those bricks together. You can find this hero ingredient in moisturisers for dry skin.
Even if you have acne prone skin, ceramides can help with the after care of strong products that can sometimes leave the skin dry and red.
Drop some natural plant oils into your creams and lotions to give your skin that extra boost of hydration.
Effective oils to help strengthen the skin barrier are jojoba, coconut, almond, rosehip and argan. We need to protect as well as strengthen.
Make sure you are wearing an SPF daily moisturiser every day of the year during daylight hours.
The sun is the one of the most damaging factors to our skin and it can penetrate through windows. Antioxidants are another huge way we can help protect our skin barrier.
Have a healthy diet
Full of antioxidants such as oranges, mango, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, potatoes, peppers, and broccoli.
If you feel you do have a damaged or compromised skin barrier then there are a couple steps you can take to try and relieve any irritation straight away.
First thing is to stop wearing makeup when it's not necessary. We no longer live in a world where we need to cover up any imperfections, it is okay to show them because it will make a difference in the long run.
Also taking two or three weeks off from products with active ingredients will help. Simplify your skin care routine and give your skin a small break. Take a step back from exfoliants, retinols and strong vitamin c and use those healing oils and ingredients mentioned earlier.
It is clear how important our skin barrier is, as it is in a constant battle trying to defend off damage and protect our water balance at the same time. It is our frontline defense, therefore we need to help take care of it so it can do its job properly to keep up hydrated and give us that youthful glow.
If you would like any advice on maintaining your skin barrier, do not hesitate and get your free consultation with one of our expert aestheticians
Love Beautology xx