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How Do I Protect and Fix My Skin Barrier?

Persistent redness, dry spots, texture, and sensitivity regardless of how thorough your skincare routine is are tell-tale signs your skin barrier is having some performance issues. If your skin barrier is not strong enough, it becomes susceptible to angst.

So, what even is your skin barrier? Your skin is made up of many layers, the outermost being our skin barrier (or epidermis), which consists of tough skin cells bound by lipids. Although extremely thin, this powerful layer of skin helps keep you safe and healthy by blocking environmental toxins and disease-causing organisms from penetrating your skin and body. The skin barrier also helps keep water inside your body, which would otherwise evaporate and leave you dehydrated. If you’ve noticed dry, scaly patches, itchiness, or irritation that feels sensitive, persistent breakouts, or even been diagnosed with bacterial, viral, or fungal infections, it is likely your skin barrier is damaged or compromised.

Your skin barrier is essential for your overall health and needs to be protected to help your body function properly.

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What can damage your skin barrier?

On the daily, your skin defends against a barrage of different threats from either outside your body or even from within. Some of these factors that can affect your skin barrier include:

  • An environment that is either too humid or too dry

  • Allergens, irritants, and pollutants

  • Too much sun exposure

  • Alkaline detergents and soaps

  • Exposure to harsh chemicals

  • Over-exfoliation or over-washing

  • Steroids

  • Psychological distress

  • Genetic factors that may make you more prone to certain skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis

 

Protecting Your Skin Barrier

Given the importance of maintaining your skin barrier there are certain things you can do that can protect your skin barrier before it becomes compromised.

  1. Simplify your Skin Care Routine. If you perform complicated daily regimes involving a basketful of products, you could be inadvertently weakening your skin barrier. Try simplifying your routine with hydrating, nourishing, and strengthening formulas; ones that consider your skin microbiome too! =
  2. Pay Attention to pH. Your skin’s delicate acid mantle hovers around a pH of 4.7. However, the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7 to 8.2. Some researchers recommend cleansing with products that have a pH between 4.0 and 5.0. Keeping your skin’s pH at a healthy level help protect your skin barrier while also protecting again skin conditions dermatitis, ichthyosis, and acne.
  3. Hydration! Keeping your skin hydrated and moisturised is essential for happy skin and key to maintaining your barrier. Products containing ceramides, glycerin and other lipophilic agents should be included in your moisturiser.
  4. Stay Sun Protected. While seemingly obvious, you need to ensure you wear sunscreen. Your skin’s barrier can become really damaged if you don’t use sunscreen regularly. AN SPF product greater than 30 should be worn everyday as part of your skin care routine to protect your skin.

 

Healing a Compromised Skin Barrier

A damaged skin barrier can usually heal itself within a couple of weeks, depending on the damage however if you keep the same routine that led to a damaged barrier you won’t see results. While you may be tempted to exfoliate the dryness away, it will do more harm than good. Instead follow these easy steps to help heal a compromised skin barrier:

  1. Gentle Cleanse. Splash with water only in the mornings and use a nourishing oil or balm cleanser at night
  2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. With a damaged barrier often resulting in dehydration from the skin’s deeper layers, your first step to recovery should be replenishing that hydration with lightweight essences, serums, and gels containing humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerine.
  3. Strengthen with Ceramides. Waxy lipids are crucial for healthy barrier function and ceramides will help to strengthen the structural integrity of your skin.
  4. Lock in Moisture. Assist your skin in retaining the moisture you’ve added back by created a nourishing, lipid-like seal with an oil or moisturiser. Plant based oils and moisturisers are particularly useful in aiding the skin barrier heal.