· By Suramya Jain
All You Need to Know About Skin Barrier
Here’s a fun fact: Your skin is your largest organ, making up around one-seventh—or nearly 15%—of your total body weight. It’s what separates your delicate insides from the harsh outside world, making it one of the most important organs in your body.
The skin barrier, also sometimes referred to as the “moisture barrier” or “acid mantle,” is a term used to describe the top layer of your skin.
The skin barrier protects the internal body from physical toxins (such as pollution and harmful chemicals) and ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure. The skin barrier also helps the body to hold onto natural moisture by preventing transepidermal water loss.
Your skin barrier is slightly acidic. This acidity (the “acid mantle”) helps create a kind of buffer against the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that could damage your skin and lead to infections and other skin conditions.
What Can Cause a Weak Skin Barrier?
Everything from your genetic makeup to your lifestyle can affect skin barrier health. The most significant factors that can impair barrier function include UV radiation, smoking, and chronic exposure to pollution. Physical damage—like that incurred from over-exfoliating—can also affect your skin barrier’s health, as can lifestyle factors, like your stress levels and how much sleep you get. Avoiding these stressors can protect your skin barrier, and in turn, help promote a healthy appearance.
How to Find Out if Your Skin Barrier is Damaged?
When your skin barrier is not functioning properly, you may be more prone to developing the following skin symptoms and conditions:
- dry, scaly skin
- rough or discolored patches
- sensitive or inflamed areas
- bacterial, viral, or fungal skin infections
How to protect and restore your skin barrier
Given the importance of maintaining your skin barrier and acid mantle, what can you do to keep them both healthy and functional?
- Simplify your skin care routine
If you’re performing a complicated daily skin regimen involving a basketful of products, you may be inadvertently weakening your skin barrier. Consider talking with a dermatologist or another skin care professional about which products are essential and most effective.
Use a gentle face cleanser that cleans dirt without stripping this skin. You can still use your acids and/or retinol, but balance these ingredients with products that are designed to support the skin barrier. You can either layer these ingredients with your actives or use them on days that you skip your actives. Ingredients to look for include ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and petrolatum.
- Pay attention to pH
Your skin’s delicate acid mantle hovers around a pH of 4.7. But the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7 to 8.2. Keeping your skin’s pH at a healthy level may help protect you from skin conditions like dermatitis, acne, and other infections.
- Treat Inflammation
Once the skin is irritated, often anything and everything will worsen that irritation. Check in with your skin each day. Skip exfoliating actives when the skin is feeling a little sensitive and instead reach for your soothing serum or moisturizer. Remember - less will likely always be best for sensitive skin.
- Don’t Forget to Take Care of Your Body
We often spend money and time on the face but neglect the body. The body can be prone to dryness, itching, dullness, and hyperpigmentation in the same way the face is. Focus on using gentle cleansers on the body and the hands with protective and nourishing ingredients.
Your skin barrier is your body’s frontline defense against everything the environment can throw at you. Keeping it healthy is much more than a cosmetic concern.