Dry skin, sensitivity, irritation, breakouts…they might all sound like unrelated skin woes, but they all have more in common than you might think and can all be clear signs of a damaged skin barrier.
So what exactly is the skin barrier and why is everyone always talking about strengthening it?
Our skin is made up of layers, each responsible for protecting your body. The skin barrier / moisture barrier (aka the stratum corneum), is the outermost layer of skin. Pretty much it safe guards your skin, working to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out — like a brick wall.
This barrier is composed of three main lipids: ceramides, cholesterol and essential fatty acids. These lipids work together to prevent moisture/water loss and protect the skin from the environment and harsh elements. A damaged barrier happens when stripping your skin of its natural oils, causing mini ‘cracks’ in which moisture can easily escape and irritants can easily enter.
When your skin barrier is healthy, your skin generally feels smooth and plump. Here is how you know your skin barrier might be damaged or compromised:
- Irritation and inflammation
- Dryness and flakiness
- Redness, rosacea, eczema
- Tightness and itchiness
- Acne or increased breakouts
- Increased sensitivity
What compromises your skin barrier?
- Over cleansing
- Hot showers
- Over exfoliation
- Using products with harsh chemicals / using too many actives
- Not using an oil or moisturizer
- Not using SPF
- Misusing products
How can I repair my skin barrier?
Luckily, your skin is able to repair itself as long as you take proper care of it. Although, the longer your skin barrier has been damaged, the longer it can take to heal. Typically, you should be able to repair and strengthen your moisture barrier within a few weeks (but be patient with you skin and don't rush the process)!
When it comes to reversing and repairing damage — less is more. If your skin is increasingly sensitive, keep your products simple and gentle; avoiding any irritating active ingredients.
Cut back on exfoliating. One of the most common contributors to a damaged moisture barrier is over exfoliation. When working to repair your skin barrier, cut back on exfoliation, this includes acids, creams peels and enzyme based masks. Slowly work them back into your routine once your skin is feeling better, and make sure that when you do reintroduce them, not to use them every day. Aim for once a week.
Use a cleansing oil or balm. Foaming cleansers are a big no-no when fixing a damaged moisture barrier, even if they're gentle. Using a cleansing oil or balm will be much more gentle on your skin and won't leave your skin feel dry or tight, as they generally add moisture back into your skin as well.
Use an essence or facial mist. Using a mist or essence before applying your facial oils can help your skincare products to more deeply penetrate your skins barrier and further infuse your skin with hydration.
Incorporate a facial oil into your routine. Choose products that are formulated with natural skin-mimicking oils such as jojoba and squalane. Both of which are used in our Hydrate Facial Oil. Vitamin E also helps to support and strengthen a damaged skin barrier, which can be found in Hemp Seed oil, the main ingredient in our Restore Facial Oil. Rich in omega fatty acids, linolenic acids (providing moisture and plumpness without weighing down skin. Fortifying and protecting the skin barrier, helping to fend off UV rays and air pollutants). Vitamin E to act as a powerful anti-inflammatory, while encouraging new skin growth and cell generation. Non-comedogenic (won't clog pores), hemp seed works to moisture, soothe irritation and redness, including acne.
Another key ingredient when working to repair your skin barrier are ceramides. Naturally found in the outer layer of skin, they are crucial for maintaining the skin barrier and preventing moisture loss. Ceramides make up 50% of the skin barrier and promote cellular function. As we age, our ceramide levels drop. To replenish your skin's natural lipids, ceramides need to be added back into your skincare routine. Our Resurface Retinol Alternative Serum is formulated with Niacinamide, which works to boost the barrier function by increasing the production of ceramides in the skin. In turn, strengthening and protecting the skin barrier.
Other ingredients that are best to incorporate into your routine to continue to strengthen your moisture barrier are: ceramides, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, peptides, niacinamide and SPF.
Avoid washing your face with hot water / hot showers. This is especially important in the colder months when the skin barrier is typically more fragile. Using water that is too hot can dilate capillaries and impair the skin's barrier. The same can happen with water that is too cold. When washing your face, use lukewarm water.
Avoid fragrances. Fragrances generally irritate your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. So it's best to avoid products with perfumes or fragrances in them, especially when working to heal your skin.
Wear SPF. It doesn't matter what products you use on your skin, if you don't use sunscreen! SPF is the best product for defending your skin from UVA and UVB rays that contribute to damaging your moisture barrier. Rain or shine, summer or fall — wear your sunscreen! And make sure to follow the 2-3 finger rule when applying.
A little patience and TLC and your skin will be healthier and hydrated in no time. Skincare is a journey that is so unique to everyone. Hopefully some of these tips can help change your skin for the better!