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Sensitive Skin + Me │ What Does My Skin Barrier Even Do?

 

Have you heard of the skin barrier or acid mantle and do you know what it does or how it affects the condition of your skin? I'm here to explain what exactly the skin barrier is, what it's for and how a damaged skin barrier can show up in multiple ways on your skin.

WHAT IS THE SKIN BARRIER?

There is a lipid layer on the very surface of your skin which is made up of sebum, ceramides and amino acids. The layer plays a very crucial role in the health of our bodies. It is essentially our shield to the outside world and with out it our skin wouldn't be able to retain moisture or protect us from outside aggressors. Imagine our skin is a brick wall and the lipids are the cement that hold the bricks (skin cells) together. If there isn't enough (or there's too much) cement the bricks will not stay together and the barrier is compromised possibly allowing the water that is stored under the surface of the skin to evaporate (also known as trans epidermal water loss) and external factors like bacteria and irritants to enter the body. 

WHAT HAPPENS IF I HAVE A COMPROMISED SKIN BARRIER?

Often a disrupted skin barrier can manifest into a multitude of complaints. These can all be signs that you may need to help repair your outer shield.

  • Dry, itchy or flaky skin
  • Acne
  • Rosacea
  • Sensitivities and reactiveness
  • Redness
  • Oiliness

HOW CAN IT BECOME DAMAGED?

There are various factors that can lead to a damaged skin barrier. Age, sun exposure, heat, blue light (like from our phones!), stress, pollution and a biological predisposition such as eczema and psoriasis. 

However, another common contributor is our skincare routine. If you are using harsh cleansers, very hot water, or are over exfoliating these can seriously compromise the skin barrier.

There can be a cyclical effect where the skin barrier is affected leading to dehydration. When the skin is dehydrated it can trigger a response to produce more sebum to rebuild the skin barrier. This can lead to an overactive sebum gland which can get clogged and cause acne. Then you treat these issues with cleansers, exfoliants and astringent toners which all continue to damage the precious skin barrier.

Overuse of retinols, AHA's and harsh cleansers can disrupt the delicate balance of the skin and strip the oils away. 

HOW TO I REPAIR MY SKIN BARRIER?

To rebuild the skin barrier and rebalance the skin, treat it gently. Pair your skincare routine back to products with simple ingredients and no harsh or strong ingredients such as detergents (think foaming cleansers), exfoliants and retinols. Going waterless with your skin care products can be really helpful, use an oil cleanser with a soft clean flannel and follow up with a face oil. Waterless products don't contain preservatives or emulsifiers so are a very simple formulation. If your skin is very dehydrated it might be worth using a hydrating serum before the face oil to help keep the cells hydrated. Gradually over time you can reintroduce other skincare elements back into your routine as your skin heals and increases it's tolerance.

Thanks for reading, if you have any questions please drop me an email or get in touch on Instagram.

Love, Nicola x

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