This past week I saw a few new patients coming in with a variety of skincare concerns ranging from sensitivity and reactivity to acne. The common denominator among these concerns is that all are manifestations of a weakened and dysfunctional skin barrier.
What is the skin/dermal barrier?
The skin barrier is located within the top layer of the epidermis – the stratum corneum. It consists of flattened skin cells (corneocytes), waxy fats (ceramides), cholesterol and fatty acids. The skin barrier lies beneath the acid mantle (a combination of fats and water), which maintains the skin’s mildly acidic pH and healthy microbiome.
What does the skin barrier do?
Your skin barrier is responsible for your skin’s health and appearance. The lipids (fats) in the epidermis provide softness and prevent dehydration by binding skin cells together and keeping water molecules and natural moisturizing factors within the stratum corneum. This also maintains the youthful plumpness of the skin. This barrier also prevents bacteria, allergens, and pollutants from penetrating the skin. If you want calm, glowing skin you need to nourish the skin barrier and treat it gently.
How does the skin barrier get damaged?
Unfortunately, the skin barrier is very fragile and vulnerable to damage. As we age, the lipids within our skin decrease (especially after the age of 40). This causes the skin to become prone to dryness, flakiness, wrinkling and sagging. These lipids can also be depleted by any of the following:
- Sun exposure
- Environmental pollution
- Harsh skin cleansers containing sulfates
- Alkaline skincare products
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Excessive cleansing of the skin
- Artificial fragrances, colours and preservatives
- Excessive consumption of caffeine and/or alcohol
How to repair your skin barrier:
- Inspect your skincare products for irritating ingredients and eliminate from your beauty routine.
- Incorporate products containing ceramides and/or glycerin into your routine. Both have been studied and linked to an improved skin barrier function.
- Reduce how often you exfoliate. Avoid exfoliating more than once or twice a week.
- Avoid cleansing your skin or showering with hot water.
- Wear sunscreen daily.
- Avoid the use of cigarettes as well as alcohol consumption.
- Reduce your coffee intake to one cup per day and make sure you are drinking at least 2 L of water per day.
- Incorporate foods known to help increase moisture in skin, such as celery, cucumbers, salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts.
If your skin is sensitive; reactive; dry; or prone to acne, rashes or redness I would recommend that you book a visit with me to discuss how we can work together to rebuild your dermal barrier and restore it to optimal function. You will be amazed to see how much easier it is to have beautiful, glowing skin when you ensure your skin barrier is strong and nurtured.
Have a beautiful day!