What is the Skin Barrier?

Last year we talked about how to layer face and body hydrators, the role AHAs and BHAs play in a balanced routine and how to use phyto-retinols without causing skin to become disrupted and inflamed. Throughout 2024 we plan to dive further into topics that relate to the science of skin and wanted to kick off this series with a discussion about the importance of our skin barrier.

The skin barrier, also known as the stratum corneum, is the outermost layer of the skin. It plays a crucial role in protecting our body from external aggressors such as bacteria, viruses, and environmental pollutants. This thin layer acts as a shield, preventing harmful substances from penetrating into the deeper layers of the skin.

Composed of dead skin cells and lipids, the skin barrier acts as a waterproof barrier, preventing excessive water loss and maintaining optimal hydration levels. It also helps to regulate temperature and protect against UV radiation.

Protecting this ultra thin and shielding layer is such an important aspect for building healthy and balanced skin. When the skin barrier is compromised it becomes more susceptible to damage and irritation with common signs including topical dryness, redness, itching, increased sensitivity and parched skin or dermal dehydration. Without proper protection, the skin barrier may struggle to repair itself, leading to a cycle of inflammation and further damage.

While this is a very common issue, it can resolve quickly but only when a shift to your routine and skincare products is made and maintained over time. Providing protection to help the skin barrier return to its happy state is the reason we formulate our entire product line using organic lipids, ceramides, probiotics and varying barriers that are easy to layer without feeling heavy on skin.

If you would like to address imbalances with your skin barrier, these are our recommend steps to repair and replenish.

1. Gentle Cleansing

It is vital to avoid harsh soaps, detergents, "aging" or acne-focused cleansers that strip away natural oil or sebum. Harsh soaps and detergents are typically too alkali for skin while "aging" or acne-focused cleansers are too acid for skin when used daily. The natural production of sebum is an essential component in maintaining a healthy acid mantle or skin barrier but these type of products strip skin, contributing to an increase in oil production which then leads to breakouts and accelerated aging. To avoid daily use of disrupting products, it is important to really look at the full ingredient panel of each product you use to know exactly what they are made of. We have a rule that if you cannot pronounce it or do not know what it is derived from, it is worth doing the research to see if it is something you actually want to use. We recommend checking your ingredient panels using EWG's Skin Deep Database and making a swap to a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser as the first step to prevent a compromised skin barrier.

2. Moisturize Regularly

Lipid-based hydration is an essential component for a healthy skin barrier. It is important to look for serums, moisturizers, and creams that contain ingredients like organic ceramides, lipids and glycerin, all of which help to reinforce the skin barrier and lock in moisture. When looking for a new product in this category, it is common to pick up a lotion and think that it is the same as a moisturizer but they are actually two different types of hydrators. While they both put a barrier on skin to help prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL), only moisturizers are formulated with lipids to truly hydrate the dermis. If you'd like to adjust this part of your routine, we recommend either our Lavender & Primrose Moisturizer or Chamomile Infused Moisturizer for face and body as a great starting point.

3. Avoid Over-Exfoliating

As we have mentioned in many of our blogs, exfoliation is a beneficial step for a balanced routine but overdoing it can damage the skin barrier and cause a domino effect of skin issues. We encourage you to limit the use of your exfoliant to once a week and to choose a non-granular product as "scrub-based" exfoliants tend to disrupt the acid mantle due to their texture and grit being too much for skin. If you are needing to make a switch here, we recommend our Chamomile & Oats Clay Facial Mask as it is effective at encouraging a healthy cellular turnover but is gentle enough to prevent skin damage or dermal dehydration.

4. Protect from the Sun

UV radiation is disruptive on so many levels and can weaken the skin barrier leading to dryness and premature aging. We recommend always applying broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days, as daily non-negotiable. We love this specific product as it layers easily and evenly over our any of our facial hydrators, including our Lavender Cold Cream, leaving skin hydrated but not feeling heavy or tacky.

5. Stay Hydrated

Just like incorporating lipid-based products is essential for external skin health, drinking an adequate amount of water helps to maintain skin hydration from within, supporting the overall health of the skin barrier. When we talk about hydration it is important to mention incorporating vitamins, minerals and electrolytes as they are and important part of total body wellness. A plant-based multi-vitamin or gummy along omegas and Vitamin D goes far to help cover any deficits in your overall total wellness.