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The shelves of beauty boutiques and drugstores are packed with products that aim to protect and rejuvenate your skin. Some of them exfoliate, some plump, and others moisturize. What these products have in common is the fact that they all act on your body’s outermost layer, called the skin barrier.
But what exactly is your skin barrier, what’s its purpose, and what can cause damage?
In this article, we’ll help answer those questions and also explore the steps you can take to protect and restore this vital defensive layer.
Your skin is made up of layers, each of which performs important functions in protecting your body.
The outermost layer, called the stratum corneum is often described as a
Inside the skin cells, or “bricks,” you’ll find keratin and natural moisturizers. The lipid layer contains cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides.
This fantastically thin brick wall is literally keeping you
Additionally, without your skin barrier, the water inside your body would escape and evaporate, leaving you completely dehydrated.
Your skin barrier is essential for good health and needs to be protected in order to function properly.
Every day, your skin confronts a barrage of threats, many of which come from outside your body and a few that come from within.
Some of the external and internal conditions that can affect your skin barrier include:
- an environment that’s either too humid or too dry
- allergens, irritants, and pollutants
- too much sun exposure
- alkaline detergents and soaps
- exposure to harsh chemicals
- over-exfoliation or over-washing
- genetic factors that may make you more prone to certain skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis
The role of the acid mantle
Your skin barrier is slightly acidic. This acidity (the acid mantle) helps to create a kind of buffer against the growth of harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi that could damage your skin and lead to infections and other skin conditions.
It’s especially important to protect the acid mantle around wounds, since the skin’s acidity is necessary for many of the biological interactions in the healing process.
Sometimes, a health condition such as diabetes or incontinence can change the acidity of your skin, weakening this buffer. For people with these conditions, experts
When your skin barrier isn’t functioning properly, you may be more prone to developing the following skin symptoms and conditions:
- dry, scaly skin
- rough or discolored patches
- sensitive or inflamed areas
- bacterial, viral, or fungal skin infections
Given the importance of maintaining your skin barrier and acid mantle, what can you do to keep them both healthy and functional? Let’s look at five strategies that can help.
Simplify your skin care routine
If you’re performing a complicated daily skin regimen involving a basketful of products, you may be inadvertently weakening your skin barrier. Consider talking to a dermatologist or skin care expert about which products are essential and most effective.
If you’re exfoliating, notice how your skin reacts to the method you use. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, those with sensitive skin and darker skin tones may want to use a soft cloth and a mild chemical exfoliant.
Some types of scrubs and brushes may temporarily damage your skin barrier.
Pay attention to pH
Your skin’s delicate acid mantle hovers around a pH of 5.7. But the pH of some skin products can range from 3.7, all the way up to 8.2.
Researchers recommend cleansing with a product that’s close to your skin’s natural pH.
Keeping your skin’s pH at a healthy level may help protect you from skin conditions such as dermatitis, ichthyosis, acne, and Candida albicans infections. Although not all products list their pH, some do.
Try a plant oil to replenish your skin barrier
Some of the most effective plant oils to use on your skin include:
There are many ways you can use plant oils on your skin. You can apply creams and lotions that contain one or more of these oils as an ingredient. Or, you can pour a small amount of the oil into the palm of your hand and then massage it gently into your skin until it’s absorbed.
Look for formulations that include ceramides
Ceramides are waxy lipids found in especially high concentrations in the stratum corneum. They are crucial for the healthy functioning of your skin barrier.
Ceramide moisturizers may be especially helpful if you have acne. In acne-prone skin, the barrier is often impaired, and acne treatments can leave skin dry and reddened. Products containing ceramides may also help protect darker skin, which a
Here are few highly rated ceramide moisturizers, all of which you can find online:
- Aveeno Skin Relief Intense Moisture Repair Cream: Formulated with protective ceramides, oat flour, and oat oil extracts, this moisturizer can be used on your entire body to hydrate and protect your skin barrier.
- CeraVe Moisturizing Cream: Also ideal for your entire body, this fragrance-free moisturizer helps restore your skin barrier with three essential ceramides.
- Majestic Pure Tea Tree Oil Face Cream: Containing 5 percent tea tree oil and infused with ceramides, this cream is a good option for acne-prone skin.
Try moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid, petrolatum, or glycerin
Dry skin is a common problem, and moisturizers are the often-recommended solution.
An occlusive moisturizer aids the skin barrier by reducing the amount of water loss from your skin. These products leave a thin film on your skin that helps to hold in moisture. One of the most frequently recommended occlusive moisturizers is petrolatum, which
Like occlusive moisturizers, humectants can also improve barrier function. Humectants work by drawing water — either from the environment or from inside your body — and binding it in the skin barrier.
Here are two top-rated hyaluronic moisturizers that you may want to try, both of which you can find online:
- CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid: Formulated with hyaluronic acid, this lightweight moisturizing body lotion is especially beneficial for dry skin on your body, face, and hands.
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Body Gel Cream: Powered by hyaluronic acid, this affordable, ultra-light gel formula is a great option for moisturizing your entire body.
How to use
Gently apply moisturizer to your skin immediately after you get out of the shower, when your skin is moist.
Not all skin care ingredients work for everyone. That’s why you may want to try a few different products to determine which one works best for keeping your skin healthy and well moisturized.
The outermost layer of your skin, known as your skin barrier, defends your body against a constant onslaught of environmental threats while simultaneously protecting your body’s critical water balance.
Symptoms such as dryness, itching, and inflammation can alert you to a disturbance in this important barrier.
You can help repair your skin’s barrier by simplifying your skin care regime, using products with a suitable pH, and using a moisturizer that contains ceramides or a humectant like hyaluronic acid. Moisturizers with petrolatum can also help your skin barrier seal in moisture.
Your skin barrier is your body’s frontline defense against everything the world throws at you. Keeping it healthy is much more than a cosmetic concern.