As a dermatologist, I’m here to share expert insights to help you understand, improve, and maintain your skin’s protective barrier. In this post, we’ll share why your skin barrier matters and provide practical tips to help you achieve hydrated, healthy and glowing skin.
Why Your Skin Barrier Matters
Your skin barrier is like a shield that protects your body from environmental aggressors, such as pollution, UV rays, and harmful microorganisms. When this barrier is compromised, it can lead to various skin issues ranging from dryness and sensitivity to infection and chronic inflammation. Made up of skin cells and a blend of fats and proteins secreted by skin cells deeper in the dermis, the skin barrier essentially guards your body against the outside world while preserving moisture and key lipids that keep the skin hydrated and healthy. Maintaining a strong skin barrier is essential for skin that looks and feels its best.
Factors That Influence Your Skin Barrier:
Several factors can contribute to a compromised skin barrier. Let's explore some common culprits:
Overcleansing and Harsh Cleansers: While cleansing is crucial to remove pore-clogging impurities and residue on the skin’s surface, overcleaning or using harsh detergents can disrupt your skin’s pH balance and strip its natural, protective oils. Opt for gentle cleansers that are specifically formulated to maintain your skin’s equilibrium.
Environmental Stressors: Exposure to harsh weather conditions, such as extreme cold or humidity, can impact your skin barrier. Protective measures like using suitable moisturizers and SPF can help shield your skin from these external elements.
pH Imbalance: The pH level of your skincare products matters. Most active ingredients work best within a slightly acidic to neutral pH range (around 4 to 7). Using products with the right pH can enhance their effectiveness and promote a healthy skin barrier.
Hard Water: Hard water contains minerals like calcium and magnesium. As these minerals react with the natural oils on the skin, they can hinder effective cleansing, disrupt your skin's pH balance, and impair the skin's lipid barrier. For individuals with eczema or dermatitis, hard water can be particularly problematic and can further irritate already sensitive and inflamed skin. Using a water softener can be helpful if you're in an area with hard water.
Clothing Choices: Certain fabrics, like wool, can irritate sensitive skin. Be mindful of your clothing choices, especially if you have a sensitized skin barrier.
Underlying Conditions and Medications: Conditions like eczema and medications such as isotretinoin can impair your skin barrier's function. Addressing these underlying issues is crucial for long-term skin health.
Signs of a Compromised Skin Barrier:
Not all compromised skin barriers manifest with redness and inflammation. Look out for these signs:
Dryness: Persistent dryness, especially in areas like elbows and knees, can indicate a compromised skin barrier.
Sensitivity: A damaged barrier can heighten skin sensitivity and increase reactions to irritants. When you have a compromised skin barrier, things that normally wouldn’t sting or cause irritation will.
Stinging Sensation: Water stinging or burning on the skin's surface is a sign of barrier disruption.
Itchiness: An itchy sensation, even without visible redness, can indicate an impaired skin barrier.
How To Improve Your Skin Barrier:
Here's a step-by-step approach to restoring and maintaining your skin barrier:
Gentle Cleansing: Use a mild, pH-balanced cleanser to cleanse your skin and opt for formulas that contain glycerin, such as Prequel's Gleanser Glycerin Cleanser, which can help buffer skin cells from the harsh effects of surfactants (surface-active agents) while drawing moisture to the skin. Be sure to massage in your cleanser of choice for at least 60 seconds to effectively remove impurities.
Moisturize: Moisturizers help replenish and retain moisture, creating a protective barrier on the skin's surface and preventing the skin barrier from becoming dry and compromised. Apply a hydrating moisturizer, like Barrier Therapy Skin Protectant Cream, immediately after cleansing to lock in moisture and support your skin's protective barrier. Formulated with a therapeutic blend of colloidal oatmeal, ceramides, and skin-soothing allantoin and adenosine, this skin protectant cream soothes dry, irritated skin and provides the hydrating properties essential for fortifying your skin’s outermost layer.
Skin Barrier-Restoring Skincare Ingredients: Look for skincare products with ceramides, fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide. As we age, our natural production of lipids that support the skin's barrier diminishes, and incorporating topical ceramides can bolster this protective layer as ceramide production declines. This is precisely why we've developed Barrier Therapy, a formulation enriched with a blend of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol. Proven through clinical testing to deliver 24-hour hydration, Barrier Therapy not only offers relief to compromised skin but also ensures the vitality of a healthy skin barrier.
Also, consider the use of occlusives and humectants. Occlusive ingredients like petrolatum and squalane create a physical barrier on the skin’s surface to keep skin hydrated, while humectants like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and urea draw moisture into the skin to repair and strengthen the skin barrier.
Sun Protection: Shield your skin from UV rays with broad-spectrum sunscreen to prevent further damage.
Avoid Over-Exfoliation: Exfoliants are touted for their ability to smooth, brighten, and encourage skin cell turnover. While exfoliation is beneficial, if not essential, overdoing it can compromise your skin barrier. Exfoliating the right way and the right amount is essential to protecting your skin barrier, so limit exfoliation to 1-2 times a week to maintain healthy skin and eliminate exfoliation entirely if you suspect you’re dealing with a compromised skin barrier.
Consult a Dermatologist: If your skin barrier issues persist or worsen, seek guidance from a dermatologist. They can offer personalized advice and treatment options tailored to your skin's unique needs.
Your skin barrier is your skin's first line of defense against external stressors. By understanding the factors that impact it and following these dermatologist-approved tips, you can restore, support, and maintain a strong skin barrier for hydrated, healthy, and radiant skin. Remember, each individual's skin is unique, so consulting a dermatologist is always a smart move for personalized skincare advice.
DISCLAIMER: All skin care articles are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skin care topics. Our articles are written to be informative and informational. Any reference to a specific patient experience is not a medical suggestion for treatment. Please note that any Prequel products with referenced ingredients are formulated for Cosmetic Use Only and NOT intended as replacements for physician advice and/or pharmaceutical product recommendations.