What is your skin barrier? How do we look after it and why is it so important to have a healthy skin barrier?
The skin barrier is another term for the outermost layer of our skin, also known as the stratum corneum or the lipid barrier. It’s also the only layer of skin that we see, so aesthetically it’s important to keep it in great condition.
Cementing the skin cells together in the skin barrier are ceramides or lipids which work to strengthen skin. Ceramides can quickly deteriorate due to a variety of factors, including age, over-exfoliation and more. This can lead to flaky patches, itchiness, inflammation and if left untreated can lead to sensitive skin, acne and premature ageing.
Your skin's barrier does so much more than you think, it acts as a security guard for your body, protecting everything within. Any weakness in the barrier is what can potentially lead to skin sensitivities. It guards against UVA light, pollution, chemical irritants and skin infections.
Some studies use the bricks and mortar analogy: The combination of cells (bricks) held together by lipids (mortar) form a sort of waxy exterior that's similar to a brick wall, which creates protection for the skin from environmental stressors.
More importantly, the barrier doesn't just protect the skin from harmful substances-including bacteria and chemicals-from entering the body. It also prevents water and other beneficial substances from leaving the skin.
So, if you have started to notice having to be more careful with skincare ingredients and more of them have started to irritate you then it is likely that your skin barrier is in need of some TLC.
While environmental and intrinsic factors do upset the skin barrier. Surprisingly, it’s also the things we do to try and help improve our skin that can tip the balance.
Over-cleansing is the first culprit, and while it’s important to clean skin, over-using a product that strips away moisture can start breaking down those important ceramides.
The second culprit and by far the easiest to do by mistake, is to use a harsh exfoliant. We can't stress this enough, no gritty bits, nothing rough, always be gentle.
It’s the same with acids. While they give fantastic results in moderation, it’s easy to get addicted to the glow and using strong concoctions, which can lead to red, raw and flaking skin. Over-using treatments such as vitamin A or micro-needling can also damage the barrier, as can hot water and lifestyle issues such as stress, a lack of sleep or burning the candle at both ends. Finding the balance between your skin type, sensitivity and a good regime is key.
To keep the skin barrier healthy, it’s essential to support and comfort the skin with nourishing skin care both morning and evening. Look for products that will hydrate and support with ingredients such as niacinamide, which works to boost healthy ceramide production.
Antioxidants such as vitamins B5, C and E help support the skin barrier by working to prevent environmental damage. The skin loving Vitamin E also doubles as a skin healing hydrator.
Finally, UVA and UVB rays breakdown those all-important ceramides which are working to keep the skin barrier intact, so it’s essential to wear that sunscreen,
The same lifestyle factors that can affect your skin overall can damage the moisture barrier: Not drinking enough water or drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. Environmental factors, like too much sun or wind, can also be damaging. You can also damage your moisture barrier by, not surprisingly, not moisturising enough.
So let's reach for creamy moisturisers, face and body oils with soothing ingredients that will help strengthen, heal and maintain your amazing skin.
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