A strong, well-functioning skin barrier is the foundation of healthy, glowing skin. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin that acts as a protective shield against environmental aggressors and seals in hydration. If this bond between cells is weak or impaired, environmental toxins and stressors can get in such as pollutants and unwanted bacteria. Thus, an impaired barrier can result in inflammation, dryness, increased sensitivity, slow wound healing…the list goes on. On the contrary, when the skin barrier is strong, your skin is able to self-regenerate.
Everyone’s skin is different, therefore the root cause of your own individual skin issues will be different then the person next to you. Common external factors include excess sun exposure, environmental toxins, over exfoliation, lack of cleansing, extended wear of makeup, and using skincare products that contain toxic or low quality ingredients. Some internal factors include gut inflammation, imbalanced hormones, immune dysfunction, stress (chronic or acute) and inadequate sleep.
It is best to address an impaired skin barrier both internally and externally. See below for a list of my suggestions.
Hyaluronic Acid: Supports the skin barrier by enhancing moisture retention levels.
SPF: This helps to prevent further damage to the skin barrier and will also speed up the recovery process as most clean SPFs contain zinc and antioxidants that improve wound healing.
Jojoba Oil: Jojoba is anti-inflammatory, mimics our own natural sebum production, and has a high concentration of wax esters.
Squalene: This skin-identical ingredient acts as an antioxidant and seals in moisture while remaining incredibly lightweight.
Antioxidants: These promote skin renewal and reduce skin damage from oxidative stress. I particularly love Kakadu Plum due to its high concentration of vitamin C and Sea buckthorn because of its linoleic acid content.
Ceramides: Ceramides are waxy lipids found inside the skin. They strengthen the skin barrier by locking in hydration and restoring the “mortar” between the skin cells to maintain cell-to-cell adhesion.
Fatty Acids: These are also found inside the skin and they help to produce the skin’s natural oil barrier.
Vitamin C: An antioxidant that improves collagen production and enhances the production of barrier lipids required for a strong skin barrier.
To repair and maintain a healthy skin barrier, avoid over exfoliating, using poor quality ingredients on the skin, and harsh/stripping ingredients such as parabens, artificial fragrances, SLS, SLES, phthalates, formaldehyde, and oxybenzone. If possible, avoid extreme temperatures and very dry or hot air. Although it may be tempting to try out the newest promising skincare ingredient on the market, using too many actives can compromise the skin barrier. Less is more!
Vitamin C: Supports collagen production and therefore, improves wound healing and elasticity. Because it is a potent antioxidant, it also helps to prevent skin damage from free radicals.
Omega’s: These play many roles in protecting and improving the skin barrier such as enhancing moisture and hydration, reducing inflammation, and supporting regular oil production.
Water: Internal hydration is essential for every bodily function in our body but most notably, for our skin cell structure as dehydration can lead to inflammation, speed up the ageing process, and inhibit proper healing.
Collagen: Collagen is in charge of forming fibroblasts which support new cell growth. It also plays a role in replacing and restoring new skin cells and therefore, improves skin elasticity. Studies have found three months of consistent collagen intake can strengthen the skin barrier.
Address Diet: Make sure your diet is rich in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich foods, and free from processed foods.
Alongside taking these powerful ingredients for your internal health, it is also important to consider what the root cause might be. This may involve addressing any dysfunction in your gut, hormonal, immune or mental health. If you are using skin-nourishing ingredients on the skin and consuming skin-supportive actives like the ones above but the issue still persists, speak with a qualified practitioner to identify the underlying root cause.