In recent years, skincare has garnered a wide cult following all over the world. More and more people are now becoming interested and hyper aware about treating the health and condition of their skin. Natural beautiful skin has become the standard. Consequently, various products and articles have come out telling you how to maintain and achieve that healthy looking skin.
If you have been interested in skincare for a while, or have kept up-to-date with the latest cosmetic trends, you might have heard the term ‘skin barrier’. Several skincare experts have emphasized the importance of the skin barrier and keeping it free of damage.
Even if the name is suggestive of its function, what is the specific role of the skin barrier in having natural beautiful skin? How can you protect the skin barrier from damage?
What is the Skin Barrier?
It is common knowledge that our skin is composed of multiple different layers. The skin barrier is another term to refer to the epidermis, or the outermost layer of the skin. The skin barrier’s function sounds simple. It prevents the loss of moisture in the skin, keeping it hydrated and preventing dryness. Furthermore, the outermost layer keeps UV rays, allergens, irritants, pollutants, and other impurities from seeping into the other layers of the skin. In other words, the skin barrier is your skin’s natural guard against negative elements around your environment.
However, for a holistic approach to achieving a healthy skin barrier, it helps to know more about your skin- no pun intended- on a deeper level. Like the rest of the skin, the skin barrier is composed of several elements, each with a crucial function, making a complex process of protecting your skin surface.
Components of the Skin Barrier
The Lipid Matrix
Lipid matrix is a network of healthy fats that help hold the skin cells in place. It includes lipids such as ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. A healthy skin barrier is composed of layers of skin cells arranged in what dermatologists call a “brick-and-mortar pattern”. The “brick” refers to the skin cells, while the “mortar” is the lipid matrix. As the cells are in place, it keeps the skin hydrated and removes any bacteria, pollutants, and allergens off the surface.
The Acid Mantle
The acid mantle pertains to the protective film of natural oils, amino acids, and sweat that sits on top of the skin cells. It helps as a protective cover that shields the skin from the negative elements. Moreover, it keeps the skin’s pH slightly acidic (around 5.5). pH is a measure for how acidic or basic water is. A slightly acidic pH protects the skin from contaminants like unwanted bacteria or fungus.
The skin microbiome is a term for the collection of microorganisms that inhabit the skin. These microbial living creatures are a natural part of the skin’s health and behaviour. It has vital functions for the skin that our body cannot supply on its own. These functions include impacting our bodies’ production of fats, altering the skin’s pH by secreting acidic molecules, and affecting the immune system by directing it to either accelerate or slow down.
SALT is nowhere similar to the staple condiment on your kitchen counter. SALT pertains to the skin-associated lymphoid tissue, which is considered the skin’s own immune system. A healthy skin barrier is the result of a smart and balanced immune system. It should be strong enough to prevent infection. With that said, if the skin’s immune system becomes over-responsive or hyperactive, it can also cause damage.
Causes of Damage to the Skin Barrier
Our skin is the largest organ in our body. Just like other parts of our body, we need to keep it healthy to maintain its function. If your skin is not in its best condition, it fails to function at its best level, causing damage to your skin. Remember that the more irritated and damaged the skin barrier is, the less effective it is in keeping the moisture in your skin. As a result, it leads to dryness, inflammation, and sensitized skin.
If you notice symptoms like increased redness, flakiness, dryness, and inflammation, it’s a telltale sign that you no longer have a healthy skin barrier. It can then further to more serious conditions such as rosacea, eczema, and acne if not treated immediately. Though, before you can find the right solution to your problem, you need to distinguish what caused it in the first place.
Here are some of the possible causes of disrupting your healthy skin barrier:
Harsh Cleaners and Manual Exfoliation
Remember that your skin barrier is delicate. Manual exfoliating tools like gritty, physical scrubs, and spin brushes can easily damage the outermost layer of your skin. If you prefer using a cleansing tool for exfoliation, use a silicone cleansing brush instead as it has softer bristles. Still, be gentle and do not press too hard. The safest bet in not damaging the skin barrier is using your clean hands. Furthermore, avoid using cleansing products that contain sulfates like SLS and SLES, which takes away the skin’s essential moisture and natural oils.
Layering Multiple Products
People may think that using more products produces more benefits for the skin. With the amount of skincare products out there, it is easy to be tempted to try all of them. Sometimes, we might be even urged to layer them on top of one another. However, it is essential to take note that most of these products have powerful active ingredients. Layering them together may cause more damage to your skin than good.
Even products that have proven for their skin benefits can still, if not used properly, cause irritation, weakening the skin barrier. You can still use products with active ingredients like hydroxy acids, l-ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and retinol, though not layered on top of one another. It also helps to use more powerful products in intervals. Give time for the skin to recover by skipping these products and replacing them with hydrating nourishing alternatives.
Too Much Fragrance
Limit or avoid using products that contain fragrance as much as possible, regardless if you have sensitive skin or not. Leave-on products such as moisturizers and facial oils usually contain fragrance in them, so stay away from those variants. Whether they are natural or synthetic, fragrances are some of the most recognizable allergens and irritants. Oils with notes of cinnamon, ylang-ylang, peppermint, citrus, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, and wild orange should generally be avoided.
Bad Internal Health
Achieving natural beautiful skin should be approached from the inside-out instead of outside-in. Your internal health greatly affects the quality for your skin barrier. It helps to be more mindful and create more conscious decisions regarding your lifestyle, specifically when it comes to food.
Primarily, your diet has a massive impact on the quality of your skin’s condition. You may include foods rich in prebiotics such as asparagus, garlic, and onions to your meals. Also, adding omega-three fatty acids like salmon and extra virgin olive oil can help the maintenance of your skin barrier’s health and integrity. More importantly, cut out sugars and refined carbs, as these cause inflammation and other unwanted skin issues.
Ways to Maintain a Healthy Skin Barrier: To Achieve Natural Beautiful Skin
Now that you are more aware about the causes of damage to your skin barrier, it is easier to find solutions that specifically target these issues. Here are some tips to keep your natural beautiful skin:
Hydrate and Moisturize
Keeping your skin moisturized is a crucial part of maintaining a healthy skin barrier. Products containing ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and petrolatum can help restore moisture back to the skin.
In particular, ceramides improve the dryness, itchiness, and scaling by a poorly functioning skin barrier. It acts like a cement, strengthening the structural integrity of the skin. Ceramide moisturizers are recommended for acne prone skin and darker skin tones, which often contain lower ceramide levels.
Furthermore, moisturizers help reduce the amount of water loss from a damaged skin barrier. These products leave a thin film on your skin, keeping in the moisture. As the skin stays hydrated, it can easily perform its function. Products with hyaluronic acid and glycerin are recommended for this purpose.
Aside from the usual skins, there are alternative options that can bring deeper nourishment to the skin. Recently, more people have become more open about the idea of facial fillers. It used to have a taboo connotation among skincare enthusiasts. However, in the hands of a great doctor and a trusted facial filler product, you can achieve great results.
Facial fillers are becoming popular for its regenerating properties. A unique injectable skincare treatment that stimulates natural collagen regeneration is available for those we are looking for natural results and treating troubled areas. Why is it unique? Because it uses a unique patented formula consisting of six essential Amino Acids (Glycine, Proline, Lysine, Alanine, Valine, Leucine) with Hyaluronic Acid (HA + HY6AA). The combination of these ingredients can help in the natural regeneration of collagen and elastin, especially Type 4 collagen which is known to be the hardest collagen to build, the building block of the skin.
As mentioned earlier, layering tons of skincare products further damages your skin barrier rather than nourishing it. Like how the saying goes, “less is more”.
Limit yourself in using products with active ingredients like exfoliants, retinol, and even vitamin C. Overly exfoliating using products with strong acids strips away your healthy skin barrier or makes its condition worse. Remember that your skin is delicate. Avoid over-washing, over-scrubbing, or using random products that may damage the sensitive acid mantle layer of the skin. Be gentle and give your skin time to heal on its own. Stick to a simple regimen of cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF. With that said, exfoliating is still important to get rid of built up dirt and debris on the surface, just use a gentler method to do so.
Keep pH in Mind
Again, pH refers to how acidic or basic water is. A well-balanced pH level is crucial to a healthy skin barrier. The skin usually maintains its pH level at around 5.5 to 5.7, which is slightly acidic. Any large deviation from the ratio, whether it’s too high or too low, can throw off the function of the skin by causing inflammation and irritation.
Some skincare products’ pH level ranges from 3.7, all the way up to 8.2. To keep your skin’s pH level balance, cleanse using a product that’s close to your skin’s natural pH. Also, stay away from classic soaps as they are too alkaline, which strips your skin of its natural oils.
Those are some information that you need to know about having a healthy skin barrier. Now that you are more conscious about that layer of your skin, it will be easier for you to avoid possible causes of damage. If your skin has already experienced damage, it is not the end of the world. As we have discussed, there are various ways you can restore the health of your skin and avoid any future damage. It may not be the easiest and hassle-free process, but putting in the effort can benefit you in the long term.