Keeping your skin healthy is an important part of keeping your body healthy. A healthy skin barrier isn’t just about how good it looks—as the largest and only external organ in our body, it helps protect you from outside invaders and keeps the moisture in your body where it belongs. But what exactly is the skin barrier? And how can you tell if it's compromised? Here are some of the most common signs of a compromised skin barrier, why it occurs, and what you can do about it.
What is the skin barrier?
The skin barrier is a complex structure that protects the body from infection and dehydration. It prevents transepidermal water loss (moisture lost through the skin to the environment), regulates body temperature, and protects against harmful substances.
The skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis (outermost layer), the dermis (middle layer) and subcutaneous tissue (innermost layer). The epidermis is what is referred to as the skin barrier, topped with the stratum corneum which is like a brick wall comprised of skin cells called corneocytes (the bricks) that contain keratin and natural moisturisers. These are bound together by a combination of cholesterol, ceramides and fatty acids.
What are the signs of a comprised skin barrier?
A compromised skin barrier can be caused by a range of factors that upset the healthy balance of the skin. These can include environmental factors like humidity, dryness and sun exposure or self-inflicted damage from over-washing, over-exfoliating and using alkaline products. Sometimes genetics or medication can compromise your skin barrier too. The signs of this are:
- Itchiness or tightness
- Dry, scaly skin
- Inflammation (acne, rosacea, eczema)
- Blemishes and breakouts
Does taking care of my skin help with immunity?
The skin is your first line of defence against the outside world and so its health needs to be maintained to protect against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that could penetrate the skin, causing inflammation and irritation. When your skin has strong immunity, it should be smooth and soft, hydrated and radiant.
The best ingredients to boost the health of your skin barrier
- Antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E help to defend your skin against external aggressors known as free radicals
- Ceramides can be used to boost your skin’s natural supply, helping to maintain moisture and keep skin from drying out
- Peptides can also be used to replenish your skin’s natural supply. They’re small amino acids that help strengthen collagen production which creates elasticity
- Hyaluronic acid is your skin’s natural moisturiser, helping to keep it hydrated and bouncy
Top tips for a healthy skin barrier
- Keep skin hydrated from the inside by drinking plenty of water every day
- Avoid overly hot showers and baths which can dry out your skin
- Throw away any old products, especially if they’ve already been opened as they can be causing more harm than good. They can harbour bacteria or contain oxidised ingredients (meaning they’re no longer active)
- Throw away any products that leave your skin feeling tight or sensitive—they will be too harsh for your skin type. Sk:n Vitamin Rich Cleanser is a creamy yet effective option to remove make-up and excess oils without drying, leaving skin comfortable and fresh
- Look for prebiotic ingredients which help to boost your skin’s natural defences. Medik8 Daily Refresh Balancing Toner is alcohol-free, pH balancing, hydrating, anti-bacterial anti-inflammatory and prebiotic to work in harmony with your skin
- Restore the building blocks of your skin with Medik8 Copper PCA Peptides, a mineral antioxidant that helps to neutralise environmental damage. Repair and restore with Medik8 Ultimate Recovery which works with the body’s natural repair process to speed up healing
- Maintain a healthy skin barrier with Epionce Renewal Calming Cream, formulated with ceramides to strengthen the skin barrier and reduce inflammation—it’s particularly soothing for eczema.
- For everyday protection and to help prevent free radicals from penetrating the skin, wear SPF like Avène Antirougeurs Day Emulsion SPF30 Moisturiser which helps to soothe and soften sensitive skin
Now you know how important the function of your skin is, you might look at your skincare differently. It’s not just an opportunity to improve the appearance of skin, but it’s also an opportunity to restore and maintain a healthy skin barrier, making your skin more resilient to dehydration, fine lines and inflammation.