Redness on face, tight or flaky skin, increased oiliness and acne are signs that your skin barrier may be damaged. Strengthen your skin barrier with these three steps.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Components of a healthy skin barrier
- What can damage your skin barrier
- How to repair your skin fast
Your skin barrier has an incredibly important function - to keep water in and bad microbes out. The outermost layer of your skin protects you from infection and from premature aging as a result of dehydrated skin.
A healthy skin barrier is more resilient to change, whether that be hormonal, environmental or a change in the topical products you use daily.
It’s critical to treat a damaged skin barrier before any other skin concern like acne, rosacea and eczema.
Components of a healthy skin barrier
Your skin has three main layers. The outermost layer of your skin is called the epidermis.
This top layer of skin is composed of rows of cells that develop from stem cells in the basal (bottom) layer of the epidermis.
Over approximately 30 days (depending on your age), these baby cells multiply, move upward and flatten until they eventually slough off the surface of your skin.
NATURAL MOISTURIZING FACTOR
Between each cell is a substance called your Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) that is made up of fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid and other water-based ingredients that naturally hydrate your skin.
Hydration provides skin elasticity and suppleness.
Problem is, below 80% humidity, NMF begins to evaporate. The fancy term is called TransEpidermal Water Loss (TEWL), whereby your skin becomes dehydrated.
Dehydrated skin is the first sign that your skin is aging prematurely. Without water, your skin will start to feel tight, may appear flaky and over time will compensate by producing more oil or by becoming red in appearance. Fine lines and wrinkles become apparent and more acne can develop.
Thankfully, your skin has a natural mechanism to prevent this!
Your skin has a thin film of oil on the surface called your Acid Mantle that is made up of lipids secreted from your oil glands mixed with amino acids from sweat.
Your Acid Mantle is acidic ranging from 4.5-5.5 on the pH scale. The acidity is what prevents pathogens from entering your skin.
It’s your Acid Mantle, a thin layer of oil on the surface, that acts as a “top coat” to seal in critical hydration and prevent it from evaporating.
If your skin is oily you will have plenty of this important substance. If your skin is combination you may have more in certain areas than others. If your skin is dry, your skin likely doesn’t have a strong acid mantle.
Did you know that you have a population of over 2,000 microbes living on your skin right now? Your skin flora lives on the surface of your skin and communicates with your brain and your gut.
Skin microbiome is a fascinating topic, one that I’m constantly learning more about as new research is published.
We know that these microorganisms have important roles in regulating the skin’s immune system. We also know that skin diseases like acne and eczema are associated with an altered microbial state and maintaining a balance of healthy microbes can prevent and treat the skin.
What damages a healthy skin barrier
Whether you’re going from dry heat indoors to winter cold outdoors or splashing your face with cold then hot water, extreme temperatures promote dehydrated skin.
Again, this is the process where water evaporates from your skin - a critical component of the skin barrier necessary for strong immunity.
HARSH OR AGGRESSIVE PRESSURE
Cleansing aggressively, scrubbing with firm pressure and drying your face with a rough towel can disrupt your skin’s microbiome.
Always use gentle pressure when caring for your skin to protect healthy microbes that keep your skin barrier healthy.
STRESS AND INFLAMMATION
Inflammation is at the root of every skin disease. Internal stress due to an unmanaged mindset, poor body image and lack of a mindfulness practice can be an underlying cause of a damaged skin barrier.
Further, inflammation from overconsumption of certain foods may be to blame. This is often the case with chronic dieting where emotional eating and binge eating can take a toll on your skin.
LOW QUALITY OR IRRITATING PRODUCTS
Cleansing with products containing harsh surfactants like sodium laureth or lauryl sulfate (SLS) will strip your skin’s NMF and Acid Mantle. Too many fragrance ingredients or essential oils can also irritate and sensitize your skin barrier over time.
Where it’s best to avoid SLS altogether, don’t be scared to use natural fragrances in your personal care products; just make sure they don’t contain multiple fragrance ingredients high up on the ingredient list. Minimize the risk of irritation by not layering multiple products high in fragrance in the same skin care routine.
Remember that your skin barrier thrives in an acidic environment and prefers to maintain a 4.5-5.5 on the pH scale.
Low quality formulations and natural handmade products are often not pH balanced. For example, traditional soap is naturally alkaline at a 9 on the pH scale and will absolutely disrupt your skin barrier. Tap water is between 6.5-8.5 pH so even splashing your face with water without rebalancing your skin’s pH can damage your skin barrier over time.
OVER CLEANSING OR EXFOLIATING
Removing your acid mantle, stripping your NMF and or removing too many cells on the surface of your skin will disrupt your skin barrier.
Even gentle cleansing, cotton rounds and face towels contribute to cleansing and exfoliating cells from your skin so be mindful of not overdoing it!
UV EXPOSURE, BLUE LIGHT + POLLUTION
The sun is the number one cause of premature skin aging for many reasons. UV rays attack your collagen and elastin, deplete your skin’s NMF and acid mantle and cause a surge of melanin production that can lead to pigment irregularities such as post acne hyperpigmentation.
Wear sunscreen 365 days a year, rain or shine as your daily moisturizer and first defense against premature skin aging.
Blue light is also a factor. Being on our devices more than ever before, consider a sunscreen with blue light protection such as Impeccable Skin SPF 30.
Pollution is an environmental stressor on the skin that creates damaging free radicals. This stressor often contributes to a dull complexion. Consider layering an antioxidant serum under your sunscreen for further protection.
How to strengthen your skin barrier fast
IDENTIFY WHAT MAY BE WEAKENING YOUR SKIN BARRIER
Review the list above and adjust based on what you suspect might be damaging your skin barrier. Perhaps you need to decrease the amount of times you’re exfoliating per week or cleansing per day. It could be as simple as being more gentle with your skin.
BALANCE YOUR SKIN'S WATER AND OIL LEVELS
It’s a popular myth that you can hydrate your skin by simply drinking more water. Since your skin is on the outermost layer of your body, it is the last organ to get hydrated by drinking water.
Along with applying a broad spectrum sunscreen, make sure you’re applying a hydrating toner and serum morning and night. In the evening, consider applying an oil serum on top of your moisturizer to support your Acid Mantle if your skin is on the dry side.
APPLY A TOPICAL SILVER TREATMENT
Micronized silver is a proven topical treatment to repair skin flora dysbiosis and promote a balanced microbiome.
The Clarifying Cream works by releasing silver ions that cleanses the skin of unwanted microbes to promote a healthy skin barrier.
Consider booking a Discovery Package to ensure you’re using the right products, in the right way, for your specific skin type and condition.
Discover so much more than a skin care routine. Over three one-on-one virtual appointments with a certified Skin Therapist, you'll uncover what topical products work best for you, how to use them most effectively and how to tap into your intuition to...Read more