Skin Barrier 101
With the weather feeling like the cold arctic freeze in many places right now, it is time to protect your skin more than ever. One of the most important ways to do this is to maintain a healthy skin barrier which is designed to fight against and protect the skin from destructive elements that come its way. Therefore, keeping your skin and its natural barrier function intact and protected will help maintain a radiant, soft and plump complexion even in the dead of winter.
This amazing feat of skin engineering means we have a strong, resilient ‘wall’ protecting our body from harsh environmental elements, helping to retain moisture and keep toxins, germs and allergens out.
Therefore, you can see how an impaired barrier function could open the flood gates creating a cascade of problems to people’s skin, especially in the winter months.
Skin Barrier busters may be causing you problematic skin.
How does our natural Skin Barrier work?
Just like a physical wall, the barrier function is designed almost identically:
- The bricks: the dead, dry skin cells which are soon to be shed
- The mortar: composed of lipids (ceramides, essential fatty acids and cholesterol)
- But what happens when that ‘brick wall’ is under attack?
Dull, lack-luster and unhappy skin.
Sometimes the structure of this ‘brick wall’ is compromised and gaps can appear due to the lack of epidermal barrier lipids. As a result, our skin is susceptible to dehydration due to moisture escaping (TEWL-Trans Epidermal Water Loss), and increased skin sensitivity as microbes and allergens now have a path of entry into the skin.
Your skin can feel taught and flaky with fine lines are around the eyes, over the forehead and cheeks. When gently pinched between the fingers, it may resist bouncing back to its original appearance after a few seconds. It could even resemble a piece of parchment paper. Definitely not the best for our skin---to say the least!
What can cause this breakdown of our skin’s protective barrier?
- The environment- cold temperature, windy weather, excessive indoor heating, UV exposure, intense snow reflection, air travel and pollution.
- Poor skin care habits- using harsh, stripping products like SD alcohol or foamy soap, excessive or aggressive exfoliation, water that is too hot, or not keeping your skin moisturized.
- Diet- excess alcohol, caffeine and salt consumption, not eating sufficient foods with Essential Fatty Acids, insufficient water intake…We believe sugar and simple carbohydrates too, but that is controversial.
- Stress- can impair blood flow and lymphatic drainage causing your skin to become susceptible to invaders and break down.
- Excessive sweating, especially if not removed soon afterwards.
- Smoking cigarettes or anything that depletes oxygen in your cells or lungs
- Certain medications like nasal decongestant, some cancer therapies and diuretics
How to Reestablish a Healthy Barrier Function
- Gentle Exfoliation. This step is an important way to prevent the skin from feeling dry, rough and flaky. The key is not to use an aggressive exfoliant that causes any skin sensitivity or irritation. We prefer enzymes that are gentle but effective and leave the skin feeling smooth and plump, like our Pomegranate + Apple Enzyme Mask. You can also use a gentle daily exfoliate like out Damage Control Crème Cleanser that has a small amount of alpha hydroxy to lightly slough off the dead skin. The other option is to add a gentle ‘physical exfoliant’ to your cleanser a few nights a week, like the Napa Valley Grapeseed Exfoliating Grains.
- To boost the moisture and regain the plumpness in the skin, apply layers of a hydrating essence and serum, a moisturizer and SPF (the skin responds well to layering). The moisturizer doesn’t need to be heavy or contain a lot of oil (as the skin is lacking moisture, not oil). We recommend a medium weight moisturizer like Goat Milk Hydrator. If the skin is tight and flaky, use an anhydrous (water free) moisturizer made with skin protecting facial oils, like our Rescue Hydrate for sensitive skin or Super Seed Oil for normal to dry skin. This will seal in moisture and prevents the skin from drying out, while also helping to repair the Barrier Function. At night, look at applying an oil based serum or night oil to the areas of dry skin. Don’t be afraid to zone your skin and use a little more oil in the driest areas. (Though some “influencers” recommend using ‘Petroleum Jelly’, we definitely do not. We specifically DO NOT like petroleum based products to sit on our skin.)
- For an added boost, apply a hydrating mask, like our Rose + White Tea Hydrating Mask once a week, ensuring it’s applied around the corners of the nose, mouth and eyes to target these vulnerable areas. (a little secret about our Rose + White Tea Hydrating Mask is that many customers with dry skin like to sleep in it!. We definitely recommend trying it for a few hours before keeping it on for 8).
- Though drinking water is important, it doesn’t immediately correlate to having hydrated skin. It’s better to encompass products that hydrate the skin and protect your natural skin barrier function by preventing moisture loss and an impaired epidermis. (Don't be fooled though- You still need to stay hydrated for your miraculous body to perform at its best on every level!)