The topic of our skin barrier comes up all the time, but what I tend to see is people talking about their already damaged skin barrier.
Here I want to talk about how you strengthen it.
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What is Skin Barrier?
It’s the outermost layer of our skin and it protects us from any environmental damage, it protects us from trans epidermal water loss. It also protects us against potential irritants and allergens. It prevents all of these skin issues you might experience, like acne, rosacea, inflammation.
You have a first line of defense and that’s your skin barrier.
Our skin barrier is comprised of lots of different lipids, so think ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids, which are keywords that you see on lots of your moisturizers.
When we’re talking about what strengthens our skin barrier, I think it’s important to know what also weakens our skin barrier, because that really gives a lot of context to why you should try to strengthen it.
What Weakens Skin Barrier?
The first thing that weakens your skin barrier is genetics.
Genetics play a big part in how you are going to age and what type of skin you’re gonna have and what skin issues you actually will experience in your life.
I think a lot of people think it’s all about genetics, I hear people say that all the time. Genetics does play a big part in it, but it’s not the main part of it though.
The next thing that weakens your skin barrier is your age. As you age everything starts to decline and that includes the lipids in your skin barrier.
That’s why you see more mature people using really thick rich creams. That’s because they don’t produce as many lipids and their skin barrier is breaking down over time.
And then the third part is environmental factors. This plays the biggest part in how your skin ages, how your skin barrier breaks down, all of the skin issues that you might experience.
That’s why sunscreen is one of the most important products you can have in your skincare routine. That’s because most of the damage to your skin comes from UV rays, pollution and weather. You might notice that your skin gets drier during the winter and more sensitive and maybe more oily during the summer.
And then also the products that you use on your skin. Are they too harsh, are they breaking down your barrier, are you using just too much of something.
These are all the biggest factors that go into whether you will have a healthy skin barrier or have a damaged skin barrier.
These are the things that you really want to focus on with your skincare routine.
How to Strengthen Skin Barrier
So the big question is how do you strengthen your skin barrier.
First you want to use ingredients that will help to rebuild your skin barrier, like ceramide. Ceramides tend to be the ingredient that I look for in my moisturizers.
The way I like to think of the skin barrier is very similar to a tiled floor.
You think of the tiles as your skin cells and then the grout in between as your lipids and when you get them together, they create a seal over your skin. It’s that outermost layer and it holds everything together.
The good news with ceramides is that you can actually replace them with your products.
There are some ingredients that you just lose over time. You can’t replace collagen in your skin necessarily by just applying a product. Buy you can actually replace some of the ceramides by applying it topically.
I find that most products that have ceramides in them, list it out pretty clearly because they know that people want this to repair their skin barrier. So you tend to see ceramides and then sometimes letters next to it, such as AP, EOP, NG, NP. NS.
Ceramides tend to be a really easy ingredient that you can find in your skincare routine.
Next you want to use ingredients that will stimulate lipid production.
Those are ingredients like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid.
Niacinamide is one of my favorite ingredients in skincare and that’s because niacinamide really helps to strengthen your skin barrier.
A lot of people think that it’s good for people with oily skin and people that have acne prone skin because it actually controls
But what it really does is it helps to even everything out. It’s helping to really stimulate that lipid production and so your skin doesn’t have to overcompensate and over produce oil.
Another thing that people don’t associate with niacinamide is that it’s actually an antioxidant. It really helps to prevent sun damage and it protects our skin against environmental damage.
Hyaluronic acid is always associated with hydrating our skin, but what it’s really doing is helping to soothe and smooth the skin barrier. You really want that hydration, because you need it to be very smooth.
If you think about a sponge when it’s dried out, it’s really hard and rough and you can probably chip away at it and damage it a little bit more. But if it’s hydrated, it’s nice and plump. That’s the way to think about what hyaluronic acid does for your skin.
It is one of those ingredients that we actually naturally produce in our skin, but you can’t replace it. You can apply it topically and get the hydration factor.
Another ingredient that really strengthens your skin barrier are probiotics.
I wasn’t really on board with probiotics. I wasn’t really sure what probiotics do in skin care and if they have a place. And then I start going through some of the products that I really love and they all have probiotics or they have ingredients that probiotics are derived from, like lactic acid.
What it is that probiotics do for your skin?
If you don’t know, probiotics are micro organisms and microorganisms live on our skin and inside of our body. There are good ones and there are bad ones and probiotics happen to be the good ones. The ones that you want to flourish.
Probiotics on your skin can have a really good effect because it strengthens your skin barrier and it helps to really improve immunity of your skin.
What probiotics do for your skin is they help with water retention. We were talking about trans epidermal water loss. You want to actually have water retention. It helps to restore your moisture barrier and because we know lactic acid and the probiotics that come from it’s bacteria really help to exfoliate the skin very gently and also hydrate it. You can improve texture of your skin, you get improved elasticity and even things like your pores end up looking better.
So those are tips and ingredients on how to strengthen your skin barrier.