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Skin Barrier 101: What It Is and How To Protect It

Posted by Nikki Wisher on Feb 21st 2023

Skin Barrier 101: What It Is and How To Protect It

Your skin doesn’t just sit there and make you look pretty (it is lovely, of course, but that isn’t its only job). It’s a vital tool for allowing your body to function safely and smoothly, and one particular part of your skin is especially important: your skin barrier.

Are you giving your skin barrier what it needs to keep your body safe so you can keep being your fabulous self? Find out everything you need to know with this handy guide.

What Is the Skin Barrier?

You might already know that skin has numerous layers. Your skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin. Its clinical name is the stratum corneum, but we’ll stick to “skin barrier” today.

You can think of your skin barrier as a brick wall. It’s a layer of strong skin cells (the bricks) that are supported and held together by certain lipids (the mortar). This forms an outstanding protective wall that, more or less, holds the line between what is internal and external.

Why Is Your Skin Barrier So Important?

I’m not exaggerating when I say that your skin barrier is a life-saver. It serves the vital purpose of keeping pathogens (AKA germs), environmental toxins, solar radiation, and other threats out of your body. We all try to protect our mouths and noses from pathogens during flu season, and if your skin barrier weren’t in place, those same pathogens could get into your body anywhere.

Along with keeping troublemakers out, your skin barrier also has the critical job of keeping hydration inside your body. If your skin barrier is weakened, it can lead to dry skin, but if you didn’t have one at all, your body would become dehydrated very quickly.

How to Strengthen and Protect Your Skin Barrier

As important as your skin barrier is, it’s like any other organ in your body…it needs the right care, nourishment, and support to be able to do its job properly. Your skin barrier is somewhat fragile, so many changes and issues can disrupt it and make it less effective. A weakened skin barrier leaves your skin dried out and flaky while also putting you at a higher risk for sun damage, infections, and other issues. These top tips will help you strengthen your skin barrier.

Manage Your Environment’s Humidity

Both humid air and air that’s too dry will have a negative impact on your skin barrier. Nature doesn’t do us any favors in that department, with many climates having seasons of dry air and seasons of humid air. You can help your skin barrier by finding the happy medium, using a humidifier when the air is dry and a dehumidifier when it’s not dry enough.

Protect Your Skin from the Sun

Your skin barrier is a key way to protect your body from the sun’s radiation, but that radiation also damages your skin barrier. Take steps to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen on a daily basis (not just days when you plan to spend a lot of time outside), staying in the shade when possible, and wearing clothing with a tight weave.

Look for and Cut Out Irritants

Any type of inflammation can put a damper on your skin barrier, so you want to avoid irritants when you can. Keep an eye out for inflammation and irritation and think about what has come into contact with your skin. From skin care products to other environmental items, look for materials that could be upsetting your skin and stop using them. It’s also a good idea to avoid common irritants like dyes, fragrances, and harsh chemicals.

Try Skin Care Products with Ceramides

Some of the most effective skin care ingredients for bolstering your skin barrier are ceramides. Ceramides are a particular type of lipids that are prominent in your skin barrier. Using skin care products with ceramides can help your skin restock on the ceramides it needs so it can firm up that skin barrier.

Be Careful Not to Overdo Your Skin Care

You can have the best of intentions but when it comes to skin care, too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. In particular, be careful not to over-wash or over-exfoliate if you want to keep your skin barrier strong.

This can take several forms:

  • Washing your skin too often (more than twice per day)
  • Exfoliating too often (more than twice per week)
  • Using overly harsh products instead of a gentle cleanser and exfoliant
  • Scrubbing rather than massaging your skin while washing and exfoliating

Make Time for TLC

Your skin barrier is affected by more than what happens on the surface of your skin. Excessive or ongoing stress can weaken the skin barrier too. It’s just one more reason why it’s important to make time for relaxation and for something that helps you feel at ease. Try meditation, daily exercise, or just taking some time to indulge in your favorite TV show.

Consider Using a Facial Oil

There are certain plant oils that have been found to help repair and strengthen the skin barrier. You’ll find many of these oils in face oils that can cleanse and hydrate your skin. Try incorporating a facial oil into your skin care routine, and look for one that contains jojoba oil, coconut oil, almond oil, argan oil, borage oil, rosehip oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, primrose oil, or black currant oil.

Eat Your Veggies (and Fish)

Your body uses nutrients to build, repair, and fortify your skin barrier, but it can only do that if you supply it with those nutrients through your diet. Aim for a balanced, nutrient-rich diet of whole foods, and especially make sure to get plenty of fish oil and antioxidants.

Building a Barrier for Better Health

Most of my skin care tips are focused on giving you healthier, more beautiful skin. These tips for strengthening your skin barrier will do that too, but they’re also beneficial for your overall health. Work them into your daily routine and start reaping the rewards.