Did you know that chronically dry or inflammation-prone skin can be signs of a compromised skin barrier? Here, we'll explore the skin barrier, its importance, and how to protect your skin barrier.
What is the Skin Barrier and Why Is It Important?
The skin barrier can be defined as the outermost layer of your skin. The skin barrier defends your body against a constant onslaught of environmental threats while simultaneously protecting your body's critical water balance.
Your skin barrier is essential for good health and needs to be protected to function correctly. According to board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., "a healthy barrier is critical to normal skin function." She states, "it protects us from mechanical injury, low humidity, cold, heat, sun, wind, chemical exposure, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens."
If we want to get more technical, the outermost layer of your skin is the stratum corneum, often called a "brick wall." It's made of corneocyte skin cells – this is your barrier, bind together by brick and mortar lipids. Inside these cells, you find keratin and natural moisturizers. The lipid layer of your skin contains ceramides and fatty acids that keep it plump.
If the skin barrier is compromised, it can cause an imbalance in the skin microbiome, which not only leaves you susceptible to potential invasion of harmful organisms but can result in skin conditions such as breakouts, rosacea, or psoriasis.
More importantly, it works as a moisture barrier that prevents water loss, avoiding that you dehydrate.
What Can Damage Your Skin Barrier?
Some of the external and internal conditions that can affect your skin barrier include:
- An environment that's either too humid or too dry
- Allergens, irritants and pollutants
- Too much sun exposure
- Alkaline detergents and soaps
- Exposure to harsh chemicals
- Over-exfoliation or over-washing
- Psychological distress
- Genetic factors
Signs That Your Skin Barrier is Compromised
When your skin barrier isn't functioning correctly, you may be more prone to developing specific skin symptoms and conditions. According to Lavanya Krishnan, a board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical and cosmetic dermatology, excessive dryness or skin that is irritated, dull and inflamed are usually tell-tale signs that your skin barrier has been compromised.
Some other signs to look out for include:
- Scaly skin
- Rough or discolored patches
- Sensitive skin
- Dry skin
- Sensitive or inflamed areas
- Bacterial, viral, or fungal skin infections
Yes, believe it or not, some "skin types" are actually a symptom of a compromised skin barrier.
Ways To Repair Skin Barrier Damage
Given the importance of skin barrier function, it's essential to know the right strategies to maintain optimal skin barrier health. Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics and good-for-skin ingredients like squalane and fatty acids are great options for supporting skin barrier function. You might also want to include hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and other ingredients that promote healthy skin.
Simplifying your skincare routine is another excellent way of maintaining skin barrier health, in addition to avoiding harsh scrubs and brushes or products that contain harmful chemicals and ingredients.
pH level is another crucial factor to consider. Your skin's acid mantle (which is exceptionally delicate) hovers around a pH of 5.7 - but the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7 up to 8.2. Researchers recommend cleansing with a product that's close to your skin's natural pH. According to Healthline, keeping your skin's pH at a healthy level may help protect you from various skin conditions, including dermatitis, ichthyosis, acne, and Candida albicans infections.
One More Thing
The outermost layer of your skin is in charge of defending your body against the environment, but it also keeps your body's water levels in balance.
If you ever experience dryness, inflammation, or itching, these are all warning signs that something is damaging this barrier.
Fortunately, you can help repair the barrier by keeping your skincare routine simple. Use products with a balanced pH and use moisturizers rich in ceramides or other humectants. When your barrier is really compromised, it might be worth using petrolatum or a similar product to help your skin seal in moisture. Certain oils can help you achieve this as well.
Mother Dirt's Active Probiotic System
If you believe that your skin barrier may be compromised, Mother Dirt's restorative skin probiotics line is a great option. Made with plant-based ingredients and a science-first approach, our face, body and hair care products use the power of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics to help maintain the health of your skin microbiome.