Your skin barrier. It’s basically your skin’s bodyguard – keeping moisture in and protecting it from external irritants, bacteria, allergens and damage. Yep – it’s pretty important.
So, when your skin barrier becomes damaged (see: using too many actives!) you’ll notice a change in your skin. It’ll feel tight. Itchy. Stinging. Not… healthy.
Below, we’ve pulled together the top tips on everything you need to know about how to fix a compromised skin barrier, including the top ingredients to look out for.
How to repair a damaged skin barrier.
Before we get into it, it’s worth noting that repairing a skin barrier takes time – results won’t happen overnight. Usually it can take anywhere from one to four weeks to see a visible improvement in your skin – so be patient.
Here, we look at the five things that will help support the skin barrier function and help reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
1. Focus on your skin’s pH.
Studies such as those found in Towards Optimal pH of the Skin and Topical Formulations: From the Current State of the Art to Tailored Products show one of the most important ways to repair an impaired skin barrier is to focus on the pH of your skin.
Heard of the skin’s pH before? Let us explain.
The stratum corneum (the outermost layer of your skin) has what’s called an ‘acid mantle’, which has an optimum pH of 5.6. It has been proven that pH values play an important role in the regulation of enzyme activity, especially in the regeneration of the skin’s barrier.
However, when the pH level diverges from the ideal conditions, the activity of the enzyme slows down and then stops, causing havoc with the health of your skin barrier.
Eek! Not good.
With this in mind, it has been suggested that using topical products that support the skin’s pH may contribute to the maintenance of the normal barrier function of the skin. The pH of some skin care products can range from 3.7, all the way up to 8.2. That’s why experts recommend cleansing with a product that’s close to your skin’s natural pH.
2. Re-introduce natural elements.
Secondly, you’re going to want to reintroduce elements to the skin that are naturally present in balanced skin – that is, things like fatty acids, cholesterol, tri- glycerides, hydrocarbons, and ceramides.
As outlined in various studies, the barrier function of the skin depends on the presence of a specific mixture of lipids within the stratum corneum. The Handbook of Science and Technology says a lack of fatty acids such as linolenic and linoleic acid can result in an impaired skin barrier.
Meaning? Keep an eye out for these ingredients and re-introduce them into your skincare routine – your skin will thank you for it!
3. Look out for humectants, emollients and occlusives.
Other ingredients you should incorporate into your skincare routine if you have a damaged skin barrier include occlusives, humectants and emollients.
Occlusives work to form a thin layer over the surface of the skin, trapping moisture and preventing water from evaporating from the skin.
Humectants are moisturizing agents that draw water into the upper layer of the skin to give the skin optimal level of hydration. Humectants draw from moisture around them - whether it may be through the environment or from deep within the skin.
With that in mind, humectants are best paired with other moisturizing ingredients in order to ensure they don’t have the opposite effect on the skin (read: taking moisture from the deeper levels of your skin), causing it to become dry.
One such ingredient? Emollients.
Another do-good ingredient when it comes to moisturizing the skin, emollients work to soften the skin and replenish it with lipids, helping to plump and protect the skin. (You can think of them like grout in between bathroom tiles!).
They also smooth and soften dry, flaky and rough skin, making them an essential ingredient for repairing the skin.
4. Incorporate ingredients that boost ceramide production in the skin.
Ceramides are fatty acids that play an important role in skin barrier support, helping to protect the skin and prevent it from irritation and dryness. They hold the ability to attract and re-distribute water in the skin, making them one of the best supporting ingredients.
Think of ceramides like the mortar in the brick and mortar structure of the skin, - they help seal in moisture and protect the top layers of the skin. Found naturally in the skin, our skin’s ceramide content decreases over time. This makes it crucial to supplement essential ceramides into your routine in order to maintain and strengthen your natural skin barrier.
That’s why it’s important to incorporate ingredients that boost ceramide production in the skin such as niacinamide, jojoba and foods like lean protein, dairy, leafy greens, soy, eggs and healthy oils.
Liposomes are made up of phospholipids - physiological compounds of membranes in all living cells. This means they are non-toxic and are extremely well tolerated on the skin.
Some phospholipids contain unsaturated, essential fatty acids (e.g. linolenic acid and linoleic acid), with studies showing this leads to higher efficacy when it comes to delivering essential compounds to the skin (van Hoogevest et al., 2013). The result? This helps the skin return to a normal state and function properly.
If you’re looking for where to start when it comes to skincare, we recommend trying our skincare routine finder.
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