Understanding Your Skin Barrier: What It Is + Why It’s Important
We all want our skin to look great, but more importantly, as the largest organ of the body, the skin plays an important role in our overall health and metabolism function. Making up almost one seventh of your total body weight, it’s a complex system of cells, nerve endings, blood vessels, proteins, ceramides and lipids designed to support our body in many ways, including protecting it from pathogens, UV light, mechanical injury and other elements that can harm us. And one of the most important components of this complicated organ is the skin barrier. Let’s take a look at what the skin barrier is and why it’s important.
What is the Skin Barrier + Why It’s Important?
Simply put, your skin barrier is the outermost layer of your epidermis, also known as the stratum corneum. The skin barrier contains essential nutrients such as fatty acids and ceramides that work together to naturally moisturize your skin by regulating water loss from the inside out, retains moisture and keeps you hydrated. Your skin barrier is also the primary determinant of how healthy your skin looks and feels. If it’s working properly, your skin barrier will retain water to keep your skin hydrated, smooth, and elastic. A healthy skin barrier helps keep irritants out, while locking natural moisture and oils in, while an unhealthy one allows those same irritants to penetrate your skin and prevent it from functioning properly. When the barrier is damaged you might experience dryness, acne, inflammation, enlarged pores, premature aging and oily skin.
What Damages the Skin Barrier
While naturally pretty tough, there are some things that can damage your skin barrier. They include:
- Environmental: UV Rays, humid or dry air, allergens, irritants, pollutants, and more
- Products: It’s possible to damage your skin barrier if you are using too many products, using them in the wrong order, over exfoliating, or using those with harsh ingredients.
- Medications: Some medications such as steroids can damage the skin barrier.
- Stress: Studies show that acute psychological stress can have negative effects on the skin barrier.
- Genetics: Certain genetic factors may make you more prone to skin conditions such as psoriasis or acne.
How to Keep It Healthy
Keeping your skin barrier healthy is easier than it seems. While skincare alone won’t prevent barrier damage, simple changes from the products you use to applying sun protection every day can make a huge difference in your skin’s tone, texture and overall appearance. And be sure to not over exfoliate, which along with harsh climates and stress can have a negative impact on your skin barrier.
When it comes to skincare, always start by understanding your skin type and then try this morning and nighttime skincare routine. Look for products that provide your skin with high concentrations of powerful plant extracts—active botanicals and minerals that feature certain humectants, ceramides, oils, and butters that help promote overall skin health.