What is the Skin Barrier and Why It Matters?

You may ask yourself, why is everyone talking about the skin barrier lately and what is it? The skin barrier is having a bit of a moment and quite rightly, it should be the top priority in your skincare routine. Unlike ‘clean beauty’, ‘green beauty’ or ‘snail mucus’ trends, the newest beauty trend of nourishing your skin barrier is here to stay. The skin barrier is a crucial part of your skin’s structure and should be something that you understand the importance of, know when it’s in need of some extra TLC or if it’s been compromised and in need of repair.

What is the Skin Barrier?

Sometimes referred to as the ‘moisture barrier’ or ‘stratum corneum’ the skin barrier is the layers of skin that protect you from external factors like pollution and prevents moisture loss. It also helps reduce the effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun and minimises the effects of oxidative stress aka chronic inflammation.  

The skin barrier is comprised of three layers, the outermost layer is the epidermis or stratum corneum. The middle dermis layer contains collagen, elastin, and the skin’s blood supply. The last layer is comprised of fat that forms a barrier between the skin and the muscles.

Even though our skin layers are complex, most references to the skin barrier focus on the outermost layer the epidermis, so we will focus on this layer when referring to the skin barrier.

The epidermis contains three types of cells:

  • Melanocytes: These cells produce melanin which absorbs ultraviolet radiation and gives your skin its natural skin tone.
  • Keratinocytes: These are the bricks of your skin. They combine with natural oils, ceramides and cholesterol to form a glue, together acting like an impermeable wall.
  • Langerhan cells – These cells help your skin put on an immune response to external factors like bacteria and viruses.

Why is the Skin Barrier Important?

In very simple terms, the skin barrier keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. When your skin looks dry, rough, and flaky, your epidermis does not contain enough water. When you skin is poorly hydrated it’s unable to maintain the skin barrier which leaves it more vulnerable to external stressors and damage. When your skin barrier is hydrated and healthy your skin looks even in tone and glowing.

Signs Your Skin Barrier is Damaged?

  • You have rosacea or eczema
  • Chronic skin irritation
  • Itchy skin
  • Dehydrated, dull looking skin
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Chronic skin infections
  • Delayed wound healing

    Itchy and flaky skin are signs of a damaged skin barrier

    How Can You Prevent Skin Barrier Damage?

    Use a Gentle Cleanser: Your skin is bombarded with pollutants and chemicals each day so it’s important to remove them from your skin each night. Use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin of moisture but effectively removes makeup and as well as dirt and grime.

    Use a Repair Serum: Use a serum that has been designed with your skin barrier in mind. Look for ingredients like ceramides as they will help fill in the gaps between your moisture barrier, creating a smoother texture. Also look for hyaluronic acid, this moisture binding molecule gives your skin a hit of hydration that it needs.

    Use a Barrier Cream: Use a moisturiser that has a combination of both humectants and emollients. Humectants attract and bind water, and emollients soften the skin. Ingredients to look for include, hyaluronic acid, urea, propylene glycol, jojoba oil, dimethicone and shea butter.

    EPI-gN repair serum for aged and sun damaged skin

    Looking after your skin barrier really boils down to being gentle and kind on your skin and giving it the products it needs. Remember to always adapt your skincare needs for the season, avoid over exfoliation, use products that don’t strip your skin of its natural oils and avoid using too many products.

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