What is the skin barrier?
Understanding skin barrier functionality and the reasons the skin barrier requires protection is vital. As the largest organ, the skin exists for the justest cause ever – protecting our more delicate insides.The skin has three main layers namely the epidermis (topmost layer), dermis (middle layer), and hypodermis (bottom layer) with the outermost part of the epidermis being the skin barrier.
The skin barrier is responsible for our skin feeling and looking healthy and is structured similarly to a brick wall. The barrier contributes to the mortar that holds skin cells (the bricks) underneath together. Meanwhile, the mortar contains the skin’s natural moisturizing factor which comprises key nutrients such as fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides that hydrate and nourish the deep layers of the skin.
Breaking down skin barrier functionality
The skin barrier is responsible for maintaining homeostasis – the body’s self-regulating process that helps us adjust to conditions that help us survive. For instance, maintaining optimum body temperature.
Skin barrier functionalities include:
- Protecting the body from external stressors
The barrier protects skin from environmental aggressors such as pollution and UV radiation which is damaging to the skin when exposed to over a long period of time, resulting in 90% of visible skin ageing (Silviera and Pedroso, 2014).
2. Retaining water to keep our skin and body hydrated
The skin barrier also retains moisture, regulates water loss from the inside out, and keeps the skin hydrated. Without it, water would evaporate from our bodies leaving us dehydrated.
Skin barrier dysfunction
In addition to the external stressors earlier mentioned, more potential sources of skin barrier dysfunction include genetic factors, over-exfoliating, harsh chemicals, detergents, irritants, psychological disorders, dry or humid environments, steroids and lifestyle factors such as stress levels, and unhealthy eating habits. These factors could result in the skin becoming more vulnerable. What this does is make the skin prone to dehydration causing a dull appearance. Premature ageing and discoloration are yet other issues that could crop up.
Most skincare concerns you’re dealing with or have dealt with in the past are partly due to poor skin barrier health. Typical signs of skin barrier damage include itchiness, sensitivity, dryness, acne, discolouration, and bacterial, viral, or fungal infections.
Tips for maintaining skin barrier health
Skin health is primarily determined by skin barrier functionality. A healthy skin barrier will be less prone to irritation and sensitivity, and will keep skin hydrated and elastic.
So, what does maintaining skin barrier functionality entail exactly? Now that we understand better, let’s take a deep dive into how we can enhance skin barrier protection and keep it nourished so it can serve us well 🙂
- Build a skincare routine
Having a skincare routine can dramatically improve the health and appearance of your skin. How you build your routine solely depends on your skin type and goals or concerns. A basic 3-step routine consisting of a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen works perfectly well for normal skin.
If you’re just starting or need help building a routine take our skin quiz or check out our beginner’s guide here. Alternatively, you can shop our hydrating Neulii Squalane Desertica Moisture Cream, suitable for all skin types here or experience our curated by Uncover Beausta Cica Recipe Cleansing Foam to refresh and cleanse your skin, shop here.
- Use serums that revitalize skin barrier functionality
Serums are the HOLY GRAIL of stubborn skincare concerns so you know they’re a worthy addition to your collection when it comes to skin barrier health! They moisturize and relieve the skin of irritation and stress by regulating skin barrier functionality and inhibiting inflammatory reactions.
- Pay attention to skin pH levels
The skin barrier is slightly acidic and has a pH of about 5.7 preventing the growth of harmful fungi, bacteria, and viruses. Skincare products especially cleansers have different pH levels, some lower and others higher so it’s important to ensure that the cleanser you’re using has a pH level close to that of the skin.
However, this can be a bit tricky as not all products list their pH. Guilty of not checking your labels? You now have a reason to! Our skin deserves all the love it can get.
Uncover skincare products are gentle and help balance the pH on the skin. Shop all Uncover here.
- Get expert help
If you need help, say no more! To find out which products are both effective and essential for your skin barrier protection, book a session with our in-house certified skincare therapist, Joyce Waiharo here.
Do you have any concerns about your skin barrier? Let us know in the comments.