We’ve all heard of the saying “prevention is better than cure”. When it comes to your skin’s barrier health there couldn’t be truer words. A healthy, fully functioning skin barrier is essential for your skin’s overall well-being. It keeps moisture in and provides a barrier for environmental stressors that may cause damage to your skin such as pollution, UV rays and even bacterial or fungal infections! Put simply, it keeps good things in, bad things out and is essential for a balanced, healthy complexion.
WHAT IS A SKIN BARRIER?
Our skin is roughly divided into 3 layers:
- The Epidermis (outer top layer)
- The Dermis (deeper layer)
- They Hypodermis (subcutaneous tissues)
Our skin’s barrier is the Epidermis and contains important outer skin cells called ‘squames’ which are made almost entirely of a hard protein called keratin. These skin cells form a protective shield for the living cells beneath them which house important functions such as vessels, nerve endings, sweat and sebaceous glands.
WHY IS OUR SKIN BARRIER SO IMPORTANT?
Your skin is the human body’s biggest organ, and performs so many important functions such as regulating body temperature, sweating out waste products, and producing sebum to naturally moisturise and ‘waterproof’ your skin. Our deeper cells are made up of around 80% water and our skin’s barrier provides environmental protection to prevent our bodies from drying out. If our skin’s barrier is compromised it can lead to a long list of problems including:
- Dry/dehydrated skin
- Sensitive skin
Strengthening and protecting your skin’s barrier will assist with maintaining hydration, and age-defence and contribute to the overall health and appearance of your skin.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY SKIN BARRIER IS DAMAGED?
When your skin’s barrier is compromised it can show in a variety of ways. It’s important to recognise when these issues begin to arise so that you can start the healing and protecting process ASAP. Some warning signs that your barrier is damaged may include:
- Dry, rough or flaky skin
- Itchy skin
- Skin sensitivity to products that you would usually have no reaction to
- A change in oiliness
- Bacterial and fungal skin infections
HOW DO YOU REPAIR A DAMAGED SKIN BARRIER?
As we age our skin is exposed to increased environmental factors, making it almost inevitable that our barrier will become weaker and more easily compromised over time. Throw in some overuse of harsh skincare products or the wrong products for your skin type and you’ve most likely got yourself a barrier problem. So, how do we prevent and repair our skin’s barrier?
Ditch the harsh skincare products
If you’ve had a sudden skincare flare-up and think your barrier may be damaged this first step is particularly important to prevent any further damage and irritation. Removing products designed for deep cleansing, exfoliation or accelerating skin turnover need to take a back seat for the foreseeable future until you start to see some serious improvement. This means removing items such as:
- Cleansers designed for acne prone/oily skin. These cleansers generally contain ingredients designed to remove excess oil build-up and some may also contain chemical exfoliants. If your barrier is damaged it’s likely that it’s also dehydrated, so stripping it of any further moisture including natural oils could elevate irritation.
- Exfoliants. Just ditch them (for now). Exfoliants generally come in the form of chemical or physical and neither will assist with repairing or protecting your skin if it’s showing signs of damage.
- Retinol or Vitamin A. Generally speaking, most people can gain some impressive benefits from Retinol and natural Vitamin A treatments including reduced acne, fine lines and ageing skin if used correctly. However, these products are designed to increase cell production and deeply exfoliate the skin so can cause a lot of irritation. Some people experience redness, dryness, flaking and irritation when introducing these treatments so it’s best to stay away from these products if your skin is already compromised.
Go back to basics
Now is the time for TLC in its simplest form. Ensuring skin is clean and hydrated is your number one priority. A minimal routine to ease irritation should include a gentle cleanser, nourishing moisturiser, barrier loving oils and SPF during the day.
Invest in gentle products
Once you’ve removed harsh cleansers and exfoliants it’s time to implement a gentle skincare routine. Using products that are gentle on the skin’s barrier and suitable for your skin type can help with preventing any further damage to your skin. Think of it as a well-being vacation for your skin. Everything should be calm, relaxed and nourishing.
Focus on fats (both inside & out)
The outermost layer of our skin consists of layers of dead skin cells and our skin’s natural fats (lipids), so it makes sense to introduce lipid supporting products that mimic our skin’s own barrier.
Fatty acids make up a large portion of the skin’s barrier to protect from dehydration, irritants and infection. Fatty acids also affect the microbiome of the skin which when out of balance can lead to problems such as acne and eczema.
Looking for Fatty Acids in your skincare is a great place to start and can be found in ingredients such as:
- Chia Seed Oil
- Macadamia Oil
- Raspberry Seed Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Shea Butter
- Sandalwood Seed Oil
You can also support your skin’s barrier health by eating a diet full of “healthy fat” foods such as salmon, avocado, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds and keeping skin hydrated with plenty of water intake.
Hyaluronic Acid has become a very popular ingredient over the past couple of years, and for good reason! It has the ability to hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, helping to boost hydration and replenish moisture in the skin. It can have amazing benefits for your skin’s barrier and overall health.
SKIN BARRIER REPAIR ESSENTIALS
Looking to repair and protect? Here are our top 5 skincare essentials to repair and protect your skin’s barrier.
With Aloe Vera Juice, Vitamin E and Essential Fatty Acids & Oils, this gentle cleanser will reduce irritation, replenish essential cellular lipids and prevent moisture loss.
If your skin is in serious need of repair, this heavy-duty night cream will deeply nourish by refilling cellular lipids overnight and rejuvenate and repair your skin’s barrier while you get your beauty sleep. It contains all the barrier-loving bio-actives you’ll need for serious skin repair.
Your skin will thank you for wearing this everyday. Containing Sandalwood Seed Oil and Phytosterols to promote barrier repair and protection and Hyaluronic Acid to boost hydration, this is an ideal daily moisturiser for anyone wanting to repair and protect their skin.
Omega 3, 6, 7 & 9 Antioxidant Oil
Packed full of barrier loving ingredients, our Omega Antioxidant Oil will repair your lipid barrier for increased dermal strength, ensuring long-lasting hydration. Incorporate this into your nightly self-care ritual with a facial massage to repair, protect and restore your skin’s healthy glow.
Repair, restore and rebuild your skin’s architecture overnight in one easy step. The addition of Kangaroo Paw assists with regulating the stability of collagen and elastin fibres to rebuild your skin’s architecture! Simply apply following your nightly skincare ritual, sleep and wake up with plump, calm and hydrated skin.
* This article was originally published here
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