The unsung hero of energised, healthy-looking skin, our skin barrier is what helps to keep the right things in and the wrong things out. Made from a blend of lipids or fats including ceramides, the skin barrier is also home to an ecosystem of microorganisms or bacteria that help to keep skin balanced and healthy. If our barrier becomes compromised then skin can become red, shiny, sore, constantly dry, uncomfortable or itchy. In contrast a healthy skin barrier means resilient, happy, clear and healthy-looking skin. Discover how to look after yours . . .
Skin Barrier Function
The skin barrier is another term for the outermost layer of our skin, also known as the stratum corneum or the lipid barrier. This is the front line of your skin, defending against damaging pollution, UV light, infection and irritants and locking in essential, plumping hydration. 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, leading to flaky patches, itchiness, inflammation and if left untreated can lead to sensitive skin, acne and premature ageing. If your skin suddenly appears sensitive or you get breakouts in new areas, it could be your skin barrier crying out for help.
Skin Barrier Compromise
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 ceramides. It’s the same with acids, they give fantastic results in moderation but it’s easy to get addicted to the glow and using strong concoctions too often 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 too 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 regime is key.
Skin Barrier Repair
If you are suffering, we recommend sending your skin barrier to rehab and the first thing to ditch is manual exfoliation. While brushes and physical scrubs do help skin feel clean and smooth, they can be too aggressive on skin that’s already vulnerable. Over-cleansing is the next thing to pare back, look at your cleansing products and swap any drying facial washes for creamier products that keep moisture in; we recommend Caudalie Gentle Cleansing Milk which is formulated for sensitive skin, working to soothe and hydrate. For dryer skin types use a rich balm formula like Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm and gently massage into skin before carefully removing with warm, not hot, water.
Skin Barrier Balance
The skin barrier works hand in hand with the naturally occurring bacteria present on our skin and it’s important not to strip it away with harsh cleansers and treatments. Instead focus on balancing skin with probiotics which actually help to support the skin barrier and build its strength.
Start inside-out with a daily dose of RMS Within Probiotic + Prebiotic as an unbalanced gut will often disrupt the harmony of bacteria throughout the body, including the skin – even leading to chronic conditions like eczema and psoriasis. To bolster good skin bacteria, treat with a dose of Aurelia The Probiotic Concentrate which activates the skin’s natural ability to repair itself and boosts resilience thanks to a unique blend of powerful anti-inflammatory probiotics.
Skin Barrier Nourish
To keep the skin barrier healthy, it’s essential to support and comfort the skin with nourishing skincare both morning and evening. Look for products that will hydrate and support with ingredients such as niacinamide – which works to boost healthy ceramide production. We like Verso Hydration Serum with Niacinamide which has a lightweight texture yet works to lock in moisture and strengthen skin. Layer a comforting moisturising cream rich in omega fatty acids on top, such as DCL Ultra Comfort Cream to soothe and cushion.
Antioxidants such as vitamins B5, C and E help support the skin barrier by working to prevent environmental damage. Vitamin E also doubles as a skin healing hydrator so try Malin + Goetz Vitamin E Face Moisturizer – and the smaller size can be kept in your handbag for dry skin emergencies throughout the day. 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 a sunscreen, we like the silky, light cream – Eve Lom Daily Protection SPF 50.