If you tend to consume a lot of content about skincare, you may have come across the term ‘skin barrier’ before. Or perhaps you have been recommended a product to help repair your damaged skin barrier? If you’re a little confused about what this is, how to repair it, why you need to repair it, and the best ways to do it, this guide will help.
At Face Dr, our Skin Experts will assess the condition of your skin and take a detailed history to determine whether or not you have a damaged skin barrier. If you do, we have a number of products containing effective active ingredients that can help get it back to full health.
From all things skin barrier (including the ceramide secret weapon you need), keep reading…
Want to learn more about your skin barrier from one of our Skin Experts? Book your appointment here:
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
- What is the skin barrier and what does it do?
- Why is it so important in skincare?
- What are ceramides?
- How do I know if I have a damaged skin barrier?
- What can I do at home to repair my skin barrier?
- What products could help me repair my skin barrier?
- Summary: Do I need to invest in repairing my skin barrier?
What is the skin barrier, and what does it do?
The skin barrier is essentially the outermost layer of your skin (otherwise known as the stratum corneum) that is made up of skin cells and lipids, much like a wall is made up of bricks and mortar.
This acts as a ‘barrier’ to keep free radicals and environmental toxins out of the body, and hydration in. This is true of the skin all over your body, including the face. The skin barrier is made up of skin cells containing keratin and other natural moisturisers, and lipids containing cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides.
Why is it so important in skincare?
When we discuss skin barriers in terms of skincare, we are often referring to a healthy facial skin barrier, which results in skin that looks and feels good.
Living in a harsh environment or being exposed to excess environmental toxins on a regular basis can lead to a damaged skin barrier, and there are certain things we should all do to protect it over the long term.
What are ceramides?
Ceramides are part of the lipids that make up the skin barrier, and their job is essentially to help with the structure and barrier function of the skin in order to avoid loss of moisture, and protect against damage from environmental toxins.
Our bodies start with plenty of ceramides in the skin, but as we age, the level of ceramides tends to decline over time, which can cause the skin to become more dry and sensitive and cause various other issues depending on your skin type.
Research has suggested that it is possible to introduce ceramides back into the skin in order to improve its appearance and achieve the goal of repairing a damaged skin barrier.
You can read more here: What are ceramides and what can they do for your skin?
What can damage the skin barrier?
There are a number of factors, both environmental and internal, that can have a negative impact on your skin barrier. Some examples include:
- Skin damage from excess sun exposure
- Living in an environment that is either too humid or too dry
- Being exposed to environmental pollutants and irritants
- Over-exfoliating the skin, or excessive cleansing
- Irritation from harsh skincare ingredients
- Steroidal creams
There are also studies that suggest genetic factors could make some people more susceptible to conditions like psoriasis, in which the skin barrier is affected. Surprisingly, stress is also thought to affect skin barrier function, which could be why many of us notice our skin becoming dull or breaking out when we feel burnt out.
How do I know if I have a damaged skin barrier?
The reality is that as we age, the structure of our skin changes, and the epidermis and dermis begin to thin. We also lose hydration from the skin, as well as collagen, elastin, and skin barrier immunity. If you are noticing signs of skin ageing, the chances are your skin barrier is weakening, and it wouldn’t hurt to take some steps to improve it.
That said, our skin barrier can become damaged at any age. Other signs you may have a damaged skin barrier include:
- Skin that looks and feels dry or scaly
- Itchy skin
- Patches of rough or discoloured skin
- Patches of sensitive or inflamed skin
Skin conditions or infections such as atopic dermatitis can affect the stratum corneum lipid barrier, so if you are being treated for something like this, you may notice some of the aforementioned symptoms of a compromised skin barrier.
What can I do at home to repair my skin barrier?
A few simple changes to your daily routine could start the process of repairing your skin barrier, such as:
- Use warm water instead of hot water: You don’t want to scald your skin, so stick to water that is warm enough to open your pores and clear skin but not hot enough that it feels uncomfortable to splash on skin.
- Avoid picking at skin or popping spots: It’s tempting to pop unwanted spots, but for the sake of your skin barrier, it is best to let them run their course without introducing bacteria. Also, try to avoid using excess products on acne that will further irritate it. It’s often best to reduce the number of products to let inflamed skin calm down.
- Make sure you are drinking enough water: Drinking excess water won’t give you clear skin (this is just a myth!) but if your body is dehydrated, this certainly won't help your skin barrier, so make sure you are drinking enough.
What products could help me repair my skin barrier?
The application of certain products can help speed up the repair of your skin barrier:
Cleanser: Use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its natural oils. Your Skin Expert can recommend the frequency with which to use a product so you are not over-cleansing. An example of a great cleanser to protect the skin barrier is ZO’s Gentle Cleanser, which helps remove impurities and unclog pores while protecting the skin barrier for all skin types, even sensitive skin.
Exfoliator: Exfoliation is great for the skin, and while physical exfoliators are fantastic, if you have an impaired skin barrier you may need to reduce your exfoliation temporarily or switch to a chemical exfoliator instead, like ZO’s Exfoliation Accelerator. This contains a glycolic and lactic acid complex to gently remove dead skin cells while calming and soothing skin with a blend of aloe, green tea and chamomile.
Hydrators: Keeping skin hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your skin barrier, and supporting it with functional hydrators which contain lipids and ceramides is often more effective than traditional moisturisers, as these may contain high water or alcohol content, or have the wrong pH balance. A good option for this is ZO Daily Power Defense, which helps protect the skin barrier from environmental pollution throughout the day. This lightweight serum will support your skin's health while boosting collagen and cell renewal.
Ceramides: The importance of ceramides can’t be understated when it comes to repairing the skin barrier, so a ceramide-boosting product won’t go amiss. ZO’s Recovery Crème is great for this as it contains ceramides which support hydration, reinforce the skin’s protective barrier, and create a smoother skin surface.
Skin Soothers: For those with a severely impaired skin barrier and skin barrier sensitivity, a product such as ZO’s Hydrating Crème can help to control symptoms during the early repair phase before moving on to something that more actively protects and repairs. It helps to reduce itching, and replenishes the skin's natural moisture to aid in recovery.
Sunscreen: Make sunscreen a daily habit, no matter the weather. Sun damage can affect the skin barrier, so a regular sunscreen application is recommended to keep your skin barrier protected. A highly effective sunscreen that’s perfect for daily use is ZO’s Smart Tone Broad-Spectrum SPF 50, which offers a non-greasy, quick-drying formulation with a 12-hour, time-release ZOX12® complex for protection against UVA/UVB rays, high energy visible (HEV) light and infrared (IR-A) rays. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to opt for Obagi Nu-Derm® Physical UV Block SPF 32, which is formulated with zinc oxide and protects against UVA and UVB radiation while addressing the appearance of skin ageing.
Summary: Do I need to invest in repairing my skin barrier?
Doing nothing to support your skin barrier function is unlikely to cause you major damage. However, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above then it’s important to consider that your skin barrier might not be functioning at its best. Speak to a Skin Expert for advice on what the main problem might be (this could be a product you’re using, environmental factors, lifestyle factors, or something else) and take steps to repair your skin barrier if needed.
While repairing a damaged skin barrier is not essential, doing so will not only help restore the glowing skin you know and love, but it will also create a healthy foundation for any products you wish to use to improve your skin further.
If you would like to book a free video call with one of our Skin Experts to discuss your skin history, goals, and any other skin issues you may be experiencing, we’re always on hand to help.
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