If you’ve got yourself a decent ‘morning and night’ skincare regime and aren’t a stranger to a chemical peel once in a while, you’ve probably heard the term ‘Skin Barrier’ and may have even bought a product or two to help you keep it healthy. But the thing is, you may not know exactly what the skin barrier is or why it’s so important. That’s where we come in…
The importance of a healthy skin barrier is nothing new, but if you take a scroll through your social media feeds, you may well come across one of your favourite ‘skinfluencers’ talking about ‘barrier repair’. That’s because a healthy skin barrier is literally trending as one of the hottest skincare topics of 2023. And, while it’s having a moment right now, it’s a trend worth following long after #skinbarrier stops being a ‘thing’.
More Than A Buzzword
The fact is, the skin barrier isn’t just a beauty industry buzzword or term used to sell skincare products and get you to book another treatment, it’s a crucial part of your skin’s structure and (at the risk of getting a bit ‘heavy’ while you do some light reading) it’s critically important to human life.
You see, physically, the skin barrier is your body’s first line of defence, protecting your inner workings from external threats such as infectious agents, chemicals, systemic toxicity and allergens. Internally, the skin helps to maintain homeostasis, preventing your body from losing precious water (moisture and hydration) where it needs it most.
It’s important to know how a compromised skin barrier affects the skin so that you can start to re-establish those healthy boundaries. If your skin is dry, inflamed or irritated, it’s safe to say that your skin barrier is operating at half-mast – it’s battling to keep the water you work so hard to get into the body from getting out. This could be caused by a number of factors, with the most likely culprits being the overuse of harsh products (like soaps and alkaline chemical exfoliants) or excessive exposure to environmental factors (think irritants, allergens, sunlight etc.) You may also have a compromised skin barrier as the result of inflammatory skin conditions such as contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, eczema, rosacea and acne.
Let's Establish Some Boundaries
If you suspect that the cause of your current skincare woes could be a damaged skin barrier, schedule an appointment with a trusted doctor or dermatologist to make sure you have all the facts from someone who really knows their stuff. Once you know that you’re dealing with a compromised skin barrier, here’s what will more than likely be popped on your skincare ‘to-do’ list:
- Switching to gentle, non-irritating products, including a cleanser, moisturisers, and products which include ‘barrier repair’ on the label.
- Look for moisturisers that contain moisture-locking ingredients (such as lanolin and petrolatum) and humectants (such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid) to reduce water loss and increase hydration of the stratum corneum.
- Read up on the importance of ingredients naturally found in the skin barrier, such as ceramides, essential fatty acids, ceramide precursors and multi-tasking niacinamide, and incorporate products into your skincare routine that put these barrier-building powerhouses back into your skin.
Gently Does It
Prevention is always better than cure, which is why – whether your skin barrier is living its best life or actively working on doing so – you must adhere to one rule: Be gentle to your skin. Gentle skincare goes a long way in ensuring your skin barrier has what it takes to go the distance, whatever life throws at it.
- However underwhelmed you are by your skin’s current appearance, don’t over-exfoliate. If the product’s instructions say’ 2 – 3 times a week’, don’t decide to try it every day for a week.
- Avoid being like a kid in a candy store when it comes to your skincare shopping list. At first, stick to the basics – cleanser, serum, moisturiser, SPF – and then slowly add as and when your skin needs a little extra TLC. What you need season-by-season may differ, and if the must-have serum of the moment is making your pores throw a tantrum, stop using it.
- We know it can be tough with the demands of modern life, but sleep deprivation has been proven to affect your skin barrier negatively. Add ‘6 to 8 hours’ of shut-eye to your nighttime skincare regime, and you’ll soon realise why it’s called beauty sleep.