What is the skin barrier function? And what can you do to maintain healthy, resilient skin?
The skin barrier, also known as the stratum corneum, is the outermost layer of the epidermis, which is the uppermost layer of your skin. It serves as your body’s primary defence against external factors, such as microorganisms, UV radiation, pollution, and physical injury.
Several factors can disrupt or weaken the skin barrier, including excessive sun exposure, harsh cleansers, over-exfoliation, dry environments, and certain skin conditions, like eczema. When the skin barrier is compromised, it can lead to issues like dryness, sensitivity, inflammation, and increased susceptibility to skin problems.
To maintain or restore a healthy skin barrier, it’s essential to follow a skincare routine that includes gentle cleansing, proper moisturizing, sun protection, and the use of barrier-supporting ingredients, such as fatty acids like Omega 6, Omega 9, or Linoleic Acid.
Here are some 14 tips to help you achieve this:
1. Gentle Cleansing:
Use a mild, pH-balanced cleanser to avoid stripping your skin of its natural oils. Over-cleansing or using harsh soaps can compromise the skin barrier.
2. Avoid Hot Water:
Hot water can be drying to the skin. Use lukewarm water when washing your face or taking showers.
3. Moisturize Regularly:
Use a good-quality moisturizer to lock in hydration. Look for ingredients like ceramides, fatty acids like Omega 6, Omega 9, Linoleic Acid, or hyaluronic acid, which help repair and strengthen the skin barrier.
4. Avoid Harsh Chemicals:
Reduce your exposure to harsh skincare products and chemicals, such as alcohol-based toners and astringents, which can be abrasive to the skin.
5. Sun Protection:
Safeguard your skin from UV damage by applying a broad-spectrum SPF or a natural zinc sunblock. UV rays have the potential to compromise your skin’s barrier, so make sure to reapply your sun protection as necessary, particularly when spending time outdoors.
6. Stay Hydrated:
Drink enough water to maintain skin hydration from the inside out. Hydrated skin is less prone to damage.
7. Balanced Diet:
A diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and a variety of nutrients can support your skin’s health. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and flaxseeds, can be particularly beneficial as well as eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables.
8. Avoid Over-Exfoliation:
Limit the use of harsh exfoliants, such as scrubs or chemical peels. Over-exfoliating can damage the skin barrier.
9. Limit Stress:
High stress levels can negatively impact your skin’s barrier function. Practice stress-reduction techniques like meditation and yoga.
10. Get Adequate Sleep:
Quality sleep is essential for skin repair and renewal. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
11. Avoid Smoking and Excessive Alcohol:
Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can impair skin health. Quitting smoking and moderating alcohol intake can help.
12. Use Barrier Repairing Products:
Look for products that contain barrier-strengthening ingredients, such as glycerine, niacinamide or peptides. These can help repair and fortify the skin barrier.
13. Patch Test New Products:
When trying new skincare products, especially if they contain active ingredients, perform a patch test on a small area of your skin to check for adverse reactions before applying them to your face.
14. Humidify Your Environment:
In dry climates or during the winter, use a humidifier to maintain proper indoor humidity levels, which can prevent your skin from drying out.
Remember that strengthening the skin barrier is an ongoing process that requires patience and consistency. It’s essential to tailor your skincare routine to your skin type and needs, and if you have specific concerns, consider consulting a dermatologist for personalized guidance.