Your skin barrier is like your personal defense zone. When it’s happy and healthy, it protects your skin from environmental stressors like pollution, UV rays, allergens and more. But when it’s damaged, irritants can seep into your skin while moisture leaks out, leaving it dull, dry and hypersensitive.
Dermatologists describe the skin barrier as a brick and mortar wall, where the skin cells are bricks held together by lipids like fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol. These lipids form structures called lamellar sheets, which hold the cells in place and keep the outermost layer of the skin intact and protected.
A healthy skin barrier is smooth, resilient and flexible. Like the mortar between the bricks, it’s able to flex and bend if it has the proper care and moisturization. However, when your skin barrier is weakened or dry, the mortar cracks, leaving room for hydration to escape and bacteria to get in.
How Does the Skin Barrier Get Weakened?
Over time your skin barrier is naturally depleted, but there are numerous environmental factors that can cause additional harm and even speed up the aging process. Stress, pollutants, sun exposure and more can all damage the skin barrier. The most common causes for skin barrier damage include:
- Extreme temperatures or climates
- UV exposure
- Over exfoliation
- Harsh soaps or cleansers
- Pollution, allergies and irritants
- Dehydration or poor diets
Signs of Skin Barrier Damage
As your body’s largest organ and main form of defense from the outside world, damage to the skin barrier is extremely common. If you’ve ever lived in a dry or elevated climate, you’re well aware of how a damaged skin barrier can cause dry, cracked, flaky skin. The skin barrier regulates water from the inside out. So when it loses its elasticity and cracks, water can escape (trans-epidermal water loss), leaving both your body and your skin even more dehydrated.
Luckily, taking care of your skin barrier is actually pretty simple! Below, we’ve gathered five ways to give your skin the love and nourishment it needs to build a stronger skin barrier.
How to Protect Your Skin Barrier
1. Moisturize. Hydrate. Replenish.
Keeping skin hydrated is critical to maintaining elasticity and resilience. Start from the inside out by drinking plenty of water.
Moisturize daily with ingredients such as ceramides, glycerin and lactic acid, which pull hydration into the skin. Polypeptides are great ingredients too, known for increasing lipid content which helps strengthen the skin barrier.
Humectants lik hyaluronic acid are another good option because they pull moisture from the air and bind it to your skin. However, if you’re already in an extremely dry climate, this can be counterproductive.
One of our favorites for transforming dry, lackluster skin is our Creme ER3. This supercharged formula combines plant-based stem cells and polypeptides to provide a 30-fold increase in lipid content. With ingredients like Non-GMO soy to replenish aging elements, and wild yam to visibly reduce wrinkles by 29% in the first month, this powerful formula is like rehab for your skin.
2. Wear Sunscreen
This one’s kind of a given, but it’s super important to the health of your skin barrier. UV exposure doesn’t seem like a huge deal since you face it everyday, but the sun can do some serious damage to your skin barrier if it’s not protected.
Dermatologists recommend wearing an SPF of 30 or higher every day. Without sunscreen, your skin will be exposed to UV radiation, which leads to photo-aging and cell damage. Even on cloudy or rainy days, those rays can bounce back to get you, so don’t skimp when it comes to sun protection!
3. (pH) Balance is Key
Cleansers and harsh soaps can strip the skin of its natural oils, which throws off the pH balance of your skin, making it work extra hard to get back to normal. This causes the skin to become stressed and dries out and weakens the skin barrier. Oil-based cleansers are gentle and work to hydrate while cleansing. Look for these if your skin is on the dryer side, or clay-based cleansers for troublesome complexions.
For combination skin, look for something like our Geothermal Clay Cleanser. It combines oil and clay to provide a deep clean while keeping skin hydrated and balanced. Lock in that balance with the Dew pH Perfector, which uses lactic acid and botanicals to restore skin’s pH levels while also acting as a primer.
4. Go Organic
A lot of products contain chemicals or sulfates that can irritate, dry or weaken the skin barrier. Sticking to organic skincare products is a great way to ensure that no harsh chemicals are causing damage to your skin. Nature provides everything you need for a healthy, strong skin barrier, so look for organic ingredients with plant oils like jojoba oil, shea butter, aloe, etc.
5. Keep it Light
Your first instinct with troublesome skin may be to add to your skincare routine, but taking a step back might actually be a better place to start. Your skin barrier doesn’t need much to stay healthy and too many products could be causing more harm than good.
Over-cleansing or trying to scrub blemishes away is a common mistake that can end up really damaging your skin barrier. Beware of harsh ingredients, and even more so of over-exfoliating. When your skin is irritated, it’s important to be gentle. As the top layer, your skin barrier is the first thing to get damaged, so stay away from abrasive scrubs and opt for a milky, light cleanser instead (our Mandarin Cleansing Milk is a great option).