How can you tell if your skin barrier is damaged?

When your skin barrier is comprised, you would have some of the following skin symptoms:

– dry, scaly skin

– itchiness

– sensitivity or inflammation

– rough or discoloured patches

– acne

– bacterial, viral, or fungal skin infections

What is your skin barrier?

Your skin is made of layers, each of which has important jobs in protecting your body.

The outermost layer, called the stratum corneum is often described as a brick wall. It consists of tough skin cells called corneocytes that are bound together by mortar-like lips. This is your skin barrier.

Inside the skin cells, or ‘bricks,’ you’ll find keratin and natural moisturisers.  The lipid layer contains cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides. 

This amazing thin brick wall is literally keeping you alive as without it, all sorts of harmful toxins and pathogens could penetrate your skin and wreak havoc in your body.

Another of its jobs it to keep the water inside your body from escaping which would make you completely dehydrated. 

Your skin barrier is essential for good health and therefore needs to be protected in order to function properly.

How can you damage your skin barrier?

Every day, your skin is up against a barrage of threats, many from outside your boy and a few from within.

Some of the external conditions that can damage your skin barrier include:

– too much sun exposure
– an environment that’s either too humid or too dry (like being on a plane for a long-haul journey where the humidity is low)
– allergens such as perfume, preservatives, some essential oils
– pollution
– alkaline detergents and soap
– exposure to harsh chemicals
– over-exfoliation or over-washing

A few of the internal conditions include:

– steroids
– medication
– stress
– genetic dispositions that make you prone to certain skin disorders like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis

A few of the internal conditions include:

– steroids
– medication
– stress
– genetic dispositions that make you prone to certain skin disorders like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis

Skin Barrier = Acid Mantle

Your skin barrier is slightly acidic and is sometimes called the acid mantle. This acidity helps to shield against the growth of harmful bacteria and viruses that could damage your skin and lead to infections and other skin conditions.  Therefore, you must protect the acid mantle around wounds since the skin’s acidity is important for many of the biological interactions in the healing process.

A health condition such as diabetes can sometimes change the acidity of your skin, weakening your protective barrier. For these people, it is a must that no damaging alkaline skin products or soap is used.

Here are 5 strategies to repair your skin barrier

1. Keep your skin care routine simple

If you are using a basketful of products, you may be inadvertently weakening your skin barrier. Maybe now is a good time to speak with an expert skin aesthetician or dermatologist. If you’re exfoliating…notice how your skin reacts to the method you use. Some types of scrubs and brushes may damage your protective layer.

2. Pay attention to pH

Your skin’s acid mantle hovers around a pH of 5.7 but the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7 all the way up to 8. Look for cleansers that say pH balanced. Keeping your skin’s pH at a healthy level will help protect your skin from conditions such as dermatitis.

3. Try a plant oil to replenish your skin barrier

Certain plant oils can help repair the skin barrier and help prevent your skin from losing moisture. Many of these oils also have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antibacterial effects too.

Have a look at:

– jojoba oil

– coconut oil

– almond oil

– rosehip oil

There are a few ways to use plant oils on your skin. You can apply lotions and creams that have one or more of these oils as an ingredient. Or, simply pour a small amount of the oil into the palm of your hand and then massage it gently into your skin until it’s absorbed

4. Look for products that include ceramides

Ceramides are waxy lipids that are found naturally in the outside layer (stratum corneum) of your skin and are crucial for your skin barrier to be healthy and work well. It makes sense to look for products containing ceramides to improve dryness, itchiness, and scaling. Ceramide rich moisturisers will help strengthen the structure of this outside layer of your skin.

In acne-prone skin, the barrier is often impaired and acne treatment can leave skin dry and reddened. Therefore, ceramide rich moisturisers may be helpful if you suffer from this type of acne.

5. Make moisturisers containing hyaluronic acid or glycerin part of your skin regimen

Dry skin is a common problem and getting the right moisturiser is a good solution. An occlusive moisturiser aids the skin barrier by preventing trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) from your skin.  This kind of product leaves a thin film on your skin that helps to hold in moisture.

Humectants work by drawing water – either from the environment or from inside your body – and binding it in the skin barrier.  Looking for products that contain hyaluronic acid, glycerin or honey and you will be using these humectants to deliver healthy barrier function.

The Bottom Line

Your outside layer of your skin, known as your protective barrier, defends your body against a constant onslaught of environmental threats whilst protecting your body’s critical water balance.

Symptoms such as dryness, itching and inflammation are a sign that your barrier is comprised.  

You can repair your skin’s barrier by using products with the right pH, using a moisturiser containing ceramides or a humectant like hyaluronic acid and/or occlusive ingredients like petrolatum or dimethicone to help seal in moisture.

Your skin barrier is your body’s frontline defence against everything the world throws at you and keeping it healthy is one of the most important things you can do for your health.