Your skin barrier is a little like your personal zone defense, keeping out things that might cause damage, like bacteria, dirt, pollen, and UV rays. It’s the reason why healthy skin is always smooth and even.
To keep your skin barrier functioning properly, prioritize gentle cleansers and moisturizers. Look for formulas with occlusive ingredients like lanolin and petrolatum to lock in moisture and ingredients that can boost ceramide production, like niacinamide.
It Protects Your Skin
A healthy skin barrier, aka the outermost layer of the epidermis (the second of three layers that make up your skin), keeps irritants and pollutants out of the body and locks in natural oils and moisture. If your barrier is compromised, many issues can occur, including redness, dryness, flakiness, and itching.
This brick wall comprises corneocytes bound together with keratin and natural moisturizers and acts as your first line of defense against harmful chemicals, pathogens, allergens, and infection. It also helps regulate skin temperature and prevents water loss from the skin.
Keeping this all-important layer of skin healthy requires a healthy diet, plenty of sleep, and avoiding harsh products that can cause damage to the epidermis and underlying layers. It’s also important to be careful with routines that over-exfoliate – too many peels, AHAs and BHAs, retinol, or other treatments can lead to long-term skin barrier damage. They should only be used a few times a week.
Daily moisturization with ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, and niacinamide is essential to maintaining strength and repairing your skin barrier. And while a healthy barrier can handle a little sun exposure, use high-strength sunscreen daily.
It Prevents Moisture Loss
The skin barrier acts like a wall that keeps moisture in and irritants out. Your skin appears plump, elastic, and radiant when healthy and intact. But when it’s damaged, your complexion may appear dull and translucent, and it can become more prone to various concerns, including redness, inflammation, and sensitivity.
Your barrier’s job is no small feat: it has to withstand the daily onslaught of environmental factors, bacteria, toxins, and UV rays. And while it’s impossible to keep your barrier undamaged, there are things you can do to strengthen and protect it.
When the barrier is healthy, it’s a tight seal of epidermal cells packed together tightly, with ceramides and fats acting as mortar, filling in the gaps. This prevents moisture loss and keeps irritants and other harmful substances out. But when your skin is irritated, the barrier becomes disorganized and weakened. This creates space for moisture to escape and irritants and bacteria to enter, leading to various skin concerns.
It’s essential to strengthen your barrier when it shows signs of damage, such as dryness, flakiness, and inflammation. A considered skincare routine that focuses on antioxidants, peptides, and ceramides can help. And once you’ve given your barrier a chance to recover, it’s best to avoid products that can cause further or longer-term damage (think harsh chemical exfoliants, abrasive scrubs, and hot water) until the symptoms have subsided.
It Prevents Inflammation
The skin barrier is your zone of defense, and it can only do its job well when it’s healthy; if it’s not, things like irritants and moisture loss can get in, leading to dryness, inflammation, sensitivity, and acne.
A damaged skin barrier can also cause itchiness, redness, and flakes. A common sign of this is a dull, flaky complexion and a red or blotchy spot that won’t go away. The good news is that it’s not just genetics or age that can hurt your barrier; there are other things you can do, too.
Using harsh soaps or exfoliants (including physical scrubs) can strip your skin of natural oils, weakening the barrier. So can living in a dry climate or having a chronic condition that causes skin irritation, such as eczema or psoriasis.
To keep your barrier strong, avoid inflammatory ingredients like sugar and dairy, and use a gentle cleanser and exfoliator that’s not too aggressive. And remember to apply hydrating products containing ceramides, cholesterol, and hyaluronic acid. If your skin is extra dry and irritated, a serum with omega fatty acids can help restore your barrier and boost hydration.
It Prevents Dehydration
Your skin barrier is like your own zone defense, defending against the elements and the enemy gunk (think pollution, dirt, UV rays). It is constantly at work to protect you, but it needs tender care like any MVP.
When the lipid matrix is healthy, it keeps hydration and irritants, bacteria, and allergens out. But if it’s damaged, the walls can crack or become porous, allowing all those outside interlopers in, triggering inflammation.
Luckily, there are many practices and products that can help to strengthen the barrier. It’s essential to start with a good moisturizer that contains both ceramides and hyaluronic acid, which helps your skin cells hold on to water.
Also, limit the amount of exfoliation you do, both chemical and physical. Everyone’s skin is different, but taking a less-is-more approach is best. Try to exfoliate no more than twice a week with gentle chemical exfoliants or a soft physical scrub.
Other skin-health lifestyle choices can also help. Avoid harsh cleansers and irritants, and opt for natural ingredients like olive oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil. The more hydrated your skin is, the stronger your barrier will be.