By Shilpa Bhim
Your skin is the body’s largest organ and it works hard to keep all the good stuff in, and the bad (environmental stuff) out. It’s basically a barrier for your body!
But did you know that your skin has its own barrier? Called the skin barrier - it’s the key to happy healthy skin.
But don’t let the tough sounding name fool you. Your skin barrier needs regular TLC to stay fighting fit. We’ve broken down exactly how to maintain your skin barrier so your skin can live its best life!
WHAT IS A SKIN BARRIER?
Your skin barrier keeps the bad stuff out and the good stuff in.
It’s made up of lipids (fats, oils, waxes, vitamins A, D, E and K and hormones) and cells.
Think of it like a protective wall that keeps your skin safe from pollution, dust, dirt and environmental toxins in general while also keeping fluids (aka water, aka hydration) sealed in.
CAN MY SKIN BARRIER GET DAMAGED?
It can. Just because your skin barrier is a wall (metaphorically speaking), doesn’t mean it can’t be broken.
A number of internal and external factors can impact your skin barrier. This includes:
Genetics that can make you more prone to skin conditions like psoriasis
High levels of sun exposure
An overly humid or overly dry environment
Use of alkaline detergents and soaps
When your skin barrier isn’t functioning at its best, it can't do its job well. This means your skin can get damaged.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SKIN BARRIER IS DAMAGED?
Oh, you’ll know.
The signs of a compromised or damaged skin barrier include: redness, flakiness, tightness, itchiness, rough to the touch, fine lines, increased breakouts and rashes.
These can appear in large or small areas on the face or body.
SO HOW DO I ACTUALLY PROTECT AND MAINTAIN MY SKIN BARRIER
Don’t Go Overboard With Your Skincare Products
We all love to play around with different serums, lotions, acids, exfoliants and other skincare products because a) it’s fun and b) they all nourish your skin in different ways!
The only problem is that you may be inadvertently damaging your skin barrier by using too many products, or overdoing it with harsh products (like strong acids) at once.
Overdoing your skincare by using products with strong acids, actives or harsh ingredients can strip the skin barrier and make your skin worse.
Likewise, overexfoliating can lead to skin issues as it strips the necessary oils and fat from the skin.
So, it’s important to treat your skin like the delicate being it is. Use acids and exfoliants sparingly (and gently in the case of a scrub or glove!).
If you're not sure what products will be the most effective and essential for your skin, definitely talk to a skincare expert.
Keep Your Skin Protected From The Sun
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can severely damage your skin barrier. This can lead to skin cancer, photo ageing and a collagen break down.
A reminder to slather on your SPF daily (rain or shine)!
Balance Out Your Skin’s pH
The secret’s out, having a well-balanced pH level is key to a healthy skin barrier.
The optimal pH level for a healthy skin barrier is a 5.5 - which is slightly acidic.
Anything below this level is considered too acidic and can make your skin itchy, irritated and red. Acidic skin tends to be affected by acne or eczema.
Skin with a pH level of 7 or above (alkaline skin) is usually sensitive and dry.
To keep your skin's pH level in check, steer clear of classic soaps and cleansers that contain sulphates. They’re far too alkaline!
Where possible, use cleansers that are marked as ‘pH balanced’. If that’s not an option, opt for a cream cleanser as they tend to be mild, or use one that’s suitable for sensitive skin (as it’s likely to be less alkaline).
Hydration Is Key
Hydrated skin = happy and healthy skin barrier!
You want to opt for moisturisers that contain ceramides, peptides, glycerin and/or hyaluronic acid.
Ceramides are waxy lipids that are found in high concentrations in the outer layer of the skin (stratum corneum). They support a healthy skin barrier.
Peptides are short chains of amino acids that make up larger proteins which are the building blocks of our skin. They help increase collagen and elastin production and can help maintain a healthy skin barrier - aka, a super ingredient!
Meanwhile, glycerin and hyaluronic acid are known as humectants. They work by drawing water (either from the environment or from inside your body) and binding it in the skin barrier.
Certain plant oils are also attributed to a hydrated and healthy skin barrier. These include jojoba oil, rosehip oil, argan oil and almond oil.
So slow and steady with the skincare, daily SPF (obvs), a balanced pH and hydration are all key to maintaining your skin barrier. Your skin will no doubt thank you for taking the time to follow these steps!