Let's talk about the Skin Barrier
The skin is made up of 3 main layers (the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis), each with several sublayers. Each sublayer perform unique, specialised functions.
The outermost part of the epidermis is the stratum corneum, or the skin’s protective barrier. Scientists often liken the stratum corneum’s structure to being like a brick wall. In this analogy, the skin cells are the bricks. Everything else—including the skin barrier — is the mortar that holds it all together. This mortar contains essential nutrients like cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids.
Together, these compounds are referred to as the skin’s "natural moisturising factor" because they help keep the deeper layers of skin hydrated and nourished.
Main skin barrier functions
Protecting your body from external stressors, like pollution and UV radiation, retaining water to keep your body and skin hydrated, and transporting vital nutrients to your skin. I As a whole, these combined factors are responsible for maintaining homeostasis—in other words, keeping your body’s various systems balanced.
The primary determinant of how healthy and even your skin looks. If you have a strong skin barrier, it will be able to retain water efficiently, keeping your skin hydrated, smooth, and elastic. It’ll also help fend off environmental aggressors, like pollution, and be less prone to skin concerns like sensitivity and irritation.
Experts estimate that environmental influences are responsible for up to 97% of visible skin aging. Many of the most common skin concerns can often be connected to a poorly-functioning skin barrier.
Causes of a weak skin barrier?
Everything from your genetic makeup to your lifestyle can affect skin barrier health. The most significant factors that can impair barrier function include UV radiation, smoking, and chronic exposure to pollution. Physical damage—like that incurred from over-exfoliating—can also affect your skin barrier’s health, as can lifestyle factors, like your stress levels and how much sleep you get.
Avoiding these stressors can protect your skin barrier, and in turn, help promote a healthy appearance.
Protect your skin barrier in 4 steps
If you’re performing a complicated daily skin regimen involving a basketful of products, you may be inadvertently weakening your skin barrier. Consider talking with a dermatologist or another skin care professional about which products are essential and most effective.
If you’re exfoliating, notice how your skin reacts to the method you use. If you have a sensitive skin or darker skin tone you may want to use a soft cloth and a mild chemical exfoliant.
Some types of scrubs and brushes may temporarily damage your skin barrier.
Step 1. Pay attention to pH
Your skin’s delicate acid mantle hovers around a pH of 4.7. But the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7 to 8.2.
The recommend cleansing product should have a pH between 4.0 and 5.0
A healthy pH level may help protect you from skin conditions like dermatitis, ichthyosis, acne, and Candida albicans infections
Step 2. Plant oil to replenish your skin barrier
Certain plant oils may help repair the skin barrier and also prevent your skin barrier from losing moisture. Many of these oils have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects, too.
Most effective plant oils to consider:
• jojoba oil • coconut oil • almond oil • argan oil • borage oil • rosehip oil
• sunflower oil • soybean oil • primrose oil • black currant oil
There are many ways you can use plant oils on your skin.
You can apply creams and lotions that contain one or more of these oils as an ingredient. Or you can pour a small amount of the oil into the palm of your hand and then massage it gently into your skin until it’s absorbed.
Step 3. Formulations that include ceramides
Ceramides are waxy lipids found in especially high concentrations in the stratum corneum. They are crucial for making sure your skin barrier functions properly.
Products containing pseudo-ceramides may help improve the dryness, itchiness, and scaling caused by a poorly functioning barrier. Ceramide-rich moisturisers may also strengthen the structural integrity of your skin barrier.
Ceramide moisturisers may be especially helpful if you have acne. In acne-prone skin, the barrier is often impaired, and acne treatments can leave skin dry and reddened. Products containing ceramides may also help protect darker skin.
Step 4. Hyaluronic acid or glycerin
Aids the skin barrier by reducing the amount of water loss from your skin. These products leave a thin film on your skin that helps prevent moisture loss.
Like occlusive moisturisers, humectants can also improve barrier function. Humectants work by drawing water — either from the environment or from inside your body — and binding it into the skin barrier. Researchers recommend products that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin, honey, and urea.