by Madeleine Arena, B.S., M.B.A.*
WHY IS YOUR SKIN’S BARRIER SUCH A BIG DEAL?
If you’ve read through a beauty magazine or visited any skincare websites, you’ve undoubtedly seen more than a few references to your skin’s barrier. There’s been a lot of talk about it lately, as well as an array of new products claiming to repair it. Why has it become such a big deal? Because it is a big deal. Your skin’s health depends on how your skin barrier functions.
What is the skin’s barrier?
Your skin barrier includes the outermost layers of skin – the surface, which when healthy looks and feels smooth, soft and plump – like a baby’s skin. On the other hand, the surface of damaged skin looks dry, rough, dull, and dehydrated.
How your barrier functions is essential. Why? Because if it’s damaged, repairing issues like wrinkles, post-acne red marks, dry skin, extra-sensitive skin, and breakouts will be virtually impossible.
Research reported by the National Rosacea Society suggests that an impaired barrier function could contribute to the acute sensitivity rosacea suffers experience when they’re exposed to irritants. Therefore, demonstrating how important it is to have a barrier that’s healthy and functioning at its best.
What damages the skin’s barrier?
It’s always better to be pro-active rather than to be reactive. Being pro-active will help you maintain your skin’s barrier function. Preventing damage can go a long way to ensuring your barrier remains healthy. Here are some ways to do that:
• Use warm water rather than water that is too hot or too cold since both are irritating to the skin.
• While many of us love to soak in a luxurious bath, avoid soaking in water until skin “prunes” (pruning is a sign of barrier damage).
• Stop using harsh scrubs or over-scrubbing, which can tear the skin’s surface.
• Don’t use drying cleansers, including soap, which remove essential moisturizing substances from the skin.
• Avoid skincare products that contain irritating ingredients.
• Use products containing high amounts of bio-active ingredients like AHA, BHA, retinol, or anti-acne medications cautiously – even if this means you don’t use the product daily.
• Always use sun protection – SPF 30 or greater. Unprotected sun exposure can cause a variety of skin damage, as well as immune system impairment.
How to repair a damaged barrier?
To fix a skin barrier that is already damaged – or to prevent it from becoming that way – it’s critical to use skincare products that will give your skin the nutrients it needs to heal. To ensure that you’re using effective products read the labels and pay close attention to the ingredients in each product in your skincare routine. Healthy skin contains a variety of skin-identical or skin-repairing ingredients. A few ingredients to look for are essential fatty acids, cholesterol, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. Choose products that are pH-balanced – a pH that is too high (anything above 7) can dry out the skin. Do not use fragranced skincare, since fragrance is a problem for everyone’s skin.
Remember unprotected exposure to the sun is one of the leading causes of impaired barrier function. So, be safe – wear an anti-oxidant rich sunscreen rated at least SPF 30 or greater every day.
There’s no need to despair if dry skin is a problem. Adding these steps to your skin care routine will help you can achieve smoother, softer, and even younger-looking skin.
* Madeleine Arena is a cosmetic chemist who develops private label skin and hair care products for the trade. Madeleine can be reached through her website – www.tscsource.com
Use the form below to send questions to Madeleine.