Q&A | The Skin Barrier
This blog answers everything you need to know about one of the most frequent questions we get from our community. The skin barrier is the first line of defence you have against irritants, sun damage, harsh chemicals and other pollutants. So it’s kind of a big deal.
What is the skin barrier?
The skin barrier is technically referred to as ‘epidermis’, and it simply refers to the skin cells which make up the first layer of your skin. Underneath the skin barrier sits the dermis, where you will find collagen and elastin (among other things like blood vessels and sweat glands), which are the two proteins keeping your skin firm and plump.
The skin barrier is designed to protect you from anything which can cause damage - this includes UV rays, bacteria, toxic chemicals, fungi, and harsh weather like drying wind or extreme temperatures. To do this, the skin barrier works like a wall - each cell is like a brick, and the binding material between the cells is known as the ‘lipid matrix’. The lipid matrix lets in the good stuff (water, fatty acids, ceramides) and blocks out the bad stuff (irritants, allergens, bacteria).
The reason your skin is able to block out bacteria and irritants is because it’s slightly acidic - this element is called the ‘acid mantle’. It’s basically a buffer against anything that could cause infections or ongoing issues. Any healing processes which take place will involve the acid mantle - so keeping your skin healthy will ensure that this functions properly, and vice versa.
It’s all connected - and when it’s in balance, the skin barrier will prevent breakouts, dryness, and ongoing conditions like acne or psoriasis.
Why does the skin barrier become damaged?
Like most parts of your body, genetics, age and environment are the big 3 factors which influence health. When it comes to your skin barrier, things are no different - but you can control your skincare routine, which plays a massive role in how healthy your skin is.
Remember the wall metaphor from before? Picture that wall becoming cracked and damaged - this is a very simple representation of what can happen to your skin barrier. This happens because the lipid matrix is weakened and is unable to do its job properly, so germs and pollutants are able to sneak in and hurt the deeper layers of skin (dermis). Another key factor here is the amount of water which is retained by your lipid matrix. When the skin becomes dehydrated, dryness contributes to the cracks which begin to form.
Image Source: Skin Library
Using the wrong products for your skin type
Overexposure to weather, like sunburn and windburn
Abrasive exfoliators which can cause microtears in the skin
Highly-concentrated solutions which can hurt healthy skin cells as well as stripping away dead cells
Dust and particles which may contain irritants or allergens
Lack of sleep - which can harm so much more than just your skin!
Formulas which contain alcohol
Unclean air, which can come from AC or heating systems indoors
Leaving makeup on overnight or applying products to unwashed skin
As you age, your skin’s ability to heal itself decreases, and your genetics may also be to blame for an impaired skin barrier. Another common culprit is excessive washing or cleansing, but that’s pretty easily fixed. It’s important to find a regular routine which supports your skin barrier - and that’s where we come in!
How do I heal my skin barrier?
The lipid matrix which holds all your outer skin cells (epidermis) together is made up of ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol. When it’s working properly, your skin will naturally shed layers of these as they continuously renew themselves. Moisture will stay in and nasties will stay out - the ideal situation for glowing and youthful skin.
Generally, we all experience periods of time when our skin just isn’t thriving. It may happen when you’re missing out on your 8 hours of sleep, you’re having a stressful time at work or in your personal life, or simply because you’re overdoing it with the new toner you decided to test out. When this happens, it’s pretty common for your skin barrier to be weakened or damaged. It’s pretty easy to treat, however, if you take the time to find products which are formulated to heal the skin barrier.
There’s four key substances which you should have in your skincare collection - we’ve covered each of them below, accompanied by a list of the products we offer which contain these substances. If you would like to learn more about any of these formulas, click the link to see the full list of ingredients.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all this information - don’t stress! Regardless of which products you end up choosing, there are a few things to keep in mind:
If you’re keen to learn more, follow us on our socials and stay tuned! Helping our customers to feel confident in their skin, and providing sustainable choices for everyone, is at the heart of everything we do. We are dedicated to sharing content that educates and empowers you in your journey with skincare and self love. Thank you for reading and please reach out if you have any queries or feedback for us!
Big love always,
Ella - Content Creator here at Sabbia Co