Skin Barrier Protection: What Is It?
Protecting our skin barrier is vital in ensuring that our skin is kept happy and healthy but finding a balance can sometimes be tough. As the seasons change, so do the aggressors that can compromise our skin barrier, leading to irritated, uncomfortable skin.
In today’s post, we’ll be taking look into what skin barrier protection is, why it’s important, and how you can strengthen it for healthy skin no matter the season.
What Is Your Skin Barrier?
Your skin’s barrier is the protective part of your skin that sits on the outermost layer – it’s the layer of your skin that you can see with your naked eye. Structurally, it would look like a brick-and-mortar type pattern, with the bricks representing your skin cells, and the cement representing the lipids.
Your skin barrier has an important job to do: to protect your inner layers of skin and hold onto hydration, and keep any external aggressors, like free radicals and irritants out. If your skin has a healthy skin barrier, your complexion will naturally look supple and plumped, and feel soft and smooth.
Your skin’s barrier is made up of natural moisturising factor (NMF), your microbiome, and your acid mantel.
Natural Moisturising Factor
Containing an expansive group of substances and chemicals, NMF includes amino acids, lactates, sugars, salts, PCA, urea, and peptides that work together to keep the surface of your skin intact and hydrated.
Naturally, NMF weakens as you age, so it’s more vulnerable to external factors like pollutants and environmental stressors, which can cause damage. Once the damage occurs, your skin is left with damage, dryness, and sensitivity.
Your acid mantle is a fine layer on the outer surface of your epidermis. Also referred to as the hydro-lipid film, your acid mantle is made up of sebum, amino acids, sweat, skin cells, and other skin secretions. Keeping your skin at an optimal, slightly acidic pH between 4.5 – 6.2, your acid mantle works as a protective barrier, and is your body’s first defence against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. Also acting as the main protector against Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL), your acid mantle health is vital for the wellbeing of your skin.
Lastly, your microbiome is the ecosystem of the millions of micro-organisms that live on the surface of your skin. A vital part of your immune system, the microbiome includes bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi.
How Can The Skin Barrier Be Damaged?
Our skin barrier can be damaged by so many different causes, from environmental to lifestyle aggressors.
Environmental factors that can damage your skin barrier include pollution, harsh weather conditions, blue light, and UV rays. Lifestyle factors include smoking, stress, and a lack of sleep.
Sometimes, you can unintentionally damage your skin barrier by using products like acids, acne treatments, actives, or even by over-exfoliating.
How Do We Lose Water Through Our Skin's Barrier?
The process of losing water through your skin is called Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) – it’s the process of water evaporating through your skin and into the air and is a completely normal process.
Daily, the average person loses around 300-400ml of water through their skin, with the process accelerating whilst you sleep, which happens due to your body’s natural circadian rhythm. During sleep, your body temperature decreases, and your skin temperature rises, which leads to your skin pH becoming more acidic, in turn, promoting TEWL. This process leaves your skin feeling dehydrated and dry, with roughness and visible fine lines.
How To Take Care Of Your Skin Barrier
Taking care of your skin barrier means being gentle to your skin. It’s important to take a break from any acids and actives you’re using and leave exfoliating for a little while until your skin is restored.
The key to helping to restore your skin barrier is by replenishing moisture – even if your skin is oily, its still important to moisturise it daily to keep your skin barrier function at its healthiest.
When thinking about the ingredients to use to hydrate your skin, hyaluronic acids and ceramides are some of the best to use as they attract moisture to your skin. Antioxidant ingredients are also super important as they help to keep your skin protected from free radical damage.
If you’re not sure what to try, we’ve got some recommendations on some of our customer (and FTF team favourites!) that we know you’ll love.
Top 5 Skin Barrier Protecting Products
Hydrate, moisturise and protect your skin harnessing the power of natural ceramides sustainably sourced from pineapples.
This supportive cream defends your skin from environmental stressors and stops it from losing water. The fast-absorbing formulation is made from 97.9% natural ingredients and will leave your skin feeling hydrated and brightened.
This unique waterless moisturiser helps to fortify your sensitive skin. With Dermalogica’s exclusive UltraCalming Complex that contains oat and botanical actives, your skin will feel more comfortable whilst being shielded again skin stress triggers.
This barrier recovery balm is for pre and post-procedure skin, as well as compromised skin.
Reviving the skin barrier and ensuring it’s strong and supported, the balm is formulated with MossCellTec – an active ingredient that helps to soothe and repair a compromised skin barrier.
Often referred to as ‘The Bandage Balm’ for rapid skin barrier repair, the balm speeds up your compromised skin’s ability to repair and renew with panthenol and palmitoyl tripeptide-8 hydrate.
This soothing cream is formulated to hydrate dry, very sensitive skin and works to calm your skin in just 30 seconds.*
With D-Sensinose™, a new patented** post-biotic active ingredient, the cream works to relieve the sensations of heating, tingling, discomfort, and tightness. Leaving your skin intensely hydrated with its barrier restored in 48 hours***, the high-tolerance formula is formulated with 98% natural origin ingredients.
Relieve the symptoms of irritation with this soothing and nourishing cream.
Infused with La Roche-Posay’s signature Thermal Spring Water and strict formula charter, your skin will be softened and soothed.
The 100% hypoallergenic formula includes active ingredients like shea butter, to nourish and protect your skin, whilst the addition of squalene helps to slow excessive dehydration.
Looking for a range of skincare for sensitive skin? Discover Bioderma: Sensitive Skincare Built On Ecobiology for sustainably healthy skin here.