Considered by many to be the very cornerstone of healthy and beautiful skin, the skin barrier is becoming more and more relevant and talked about, especially in the wintertime, when variations in temperature and humidity, along with exposure to wind and rain, can place additional stress on your skin.
What is the skin barrier?
Your skin has three main layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the subcutaneous fat that forms a barrier between skin and muscle. The skin barrier – sometimes referred to as the “moisture barrier” or “acid mantle” – is a term used to describe the outermost layer of your skin, also called the stratum corneum.
This protective layer contains three types of cells:
- Keratinocytes – they form what you think of as your “skin”, and are sometimes referred to as the “bricks”. They contain natural oils, ceramides, and cholesterols, providing the glue that bonds them together into a mostly impermeable wall.
- Melanocytes – they produce melanin that gives your skin its natural skin tone, but it also absorbs ultraviolet radiation and protects underlying structures from UV damage.
- Langerhan cells – these cells help the skin create an immune response to bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
In other words, this thin “brick wall” is literally keeping you alive: without it, various harmful environmental elements could penetrate your skin and cause damage inside your body. Not only that: without your skin barrier, the water inside your body would escape and evaporate, leaving you completely dehydrated. Your skin barrier, therefore, is essential for your overall health and needs to be protected to help your body function properly.
Skin barrier under threat
When the skin barrier is exposed to stress, such as winter temperature variations and various environmental elements, your skin might get tight, irritated, itchy, dull and dehydrated. Other things that affect your skin barrier include smoking, lack of sleep, nutrient-light diet, pollution, wind, overuse of exfoliating acids and/or harsh physical exfoliants, as well as use of cleansers that strip the skin barrier of its natural oils. So what can you do to repair it?
It’s always best to ask an expert for advice – such as an aesthetician or a certified dermatologist – but smart research and being open to new skincare ideas can do a lot as well. The key is to understand what your skincare goals are and what a specific product is doing for your specific skin needs before you start using it. Here are some simple ideas and tips.
Simplify your skincare routine
First of all, try to simplify your skincare routine. During the colder, winter months your skin is more sensitive, and it would be best to be cautious about using products or ingredients that may exacerbate irritation or inflammation – such as alcohol, various acids and retinoids, and other harsh exfoliants. In other words, bring the exfoliation down to once or twice a week, and – keep it gentle, gentle, gentle.
Use gentle skin cleansers
Environmental elements can damage your skin, and it’s important to remove all remnants of pollution from it, as well as your makeup and dirt, without stripping this skin. In order to protect those natural ceramides and oils that form the glue to your skin’s barrier, go for gentle facial cleansers and do a double cleanse if needed to remove all the unwanted pollutants.
Ceramides are your friend
Speaking of ceramides: these waxy lipids are found in especially high concentrations in the aforementioned stratum corneum. They are crucial for making sure your skin barrier functions properly. The products containing pseudo-ceramides may help fight the dryness, itchiness, and scaling caused by a poorly functioning barrier.
Ceramide-rich moisturizers may also strengthen the structural integrity of your skin barrier and may be especially helpful if you have acne. In acne-prone skin, the barrier is often impaired, and acne treatments can leave skin dry and reddened. Products containing ceramides may also help protect darker skin, since they contain lower ceramide levels.
Don’t forget niacinamide: it helps with creating ceramides. Niacinamide or vitamin B3 is a water-soluble vitamin with antioxidant effects and helps repair damaged skin barriers and combat reactive oxygen species. So, instead of just applying more ceramides, you’re using a vitamin that teaches your skin how to make more of it.
And don’t forget: BOOST can help you do more, since it ensures better absorption and deeper penetration of active ingredients in all your skincare products, for way better results. Ceramides and niacinamide included! BOOST can increase the amount of hydrating agents that actually get into your skin by 5.6 times & total niacinamide delivered into skin by 2.0 times vs traditional finger application! Try The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% Serum; BOOST users approve!
Slugging when appropriate
While slugging is all the (TikTok) rage nowadays, Vaseline and Aquaphor will not add hydration to your skin, but will prevent moisture leakage by occluding the pores. Vaseline fills in the cracks in your skin’s “mortar” so that your barrier starts to act in a healthy way again. It won’t cause irritation, but it doesn’t contain any lipids of its own either – it cannot replenish your skin’s lipids. If you’re acne prone at all, slugging is probably not for you, and if you have normal skin, you simply don’t need it. But if you have dry, damaged skin, you’ll probably see the results you’re looking for: smoother, softer, more moist skin.
Try a plant oil
Consider using a plant oil. Certain plant oils may help repair the skin barrier and also prevent your skin barrier from losing moisture. Many of these oils have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects as well. Some of the most effective plant oils to consider using on your skin include: jojoba oil, coconut oil, almond oil, argan oil, borage oil, rosehip oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, primrose oil, and black currant oil. Look for creams and lotions that contain one or more of these oils as an ingredient, or simply pour a small amount of one of these oils into the palm of your hand and then massage it gently into your skin until absorbed.
Your skin barrier is precious, and both strong and sensitive: it protects you from pollutants while also holding in the vital ingredient, water. However, the outside environment and skincare routines are taking a toll on our skin barrier. Fortunately, the new wave of skin-barrier-friendly skincare products is here and these products offer an opportunity for a skincare reset! Give your skin barrier the care it deserves, and will keep protecting you.