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Q&A | The Skin Barrier

Q&A | The Skin Barrier - Sabbia Co

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

Damage to the skin barrier can be caused by a lot of different things:
  • 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.

  • Ceramides
  • Ceramides are a crucial factor in maintaining the healthy balance of your lipid matrix. Without these guys, you are very likely to be suffering from a damaged skin barrier. Moisturisers rich in ceramide can strengthen the entire structure of your skin barrier, and are especially helpful if you suffer from acne. The strong solutions used in anti-acne products can irritate and redden your skin, which is rapidly repaired and nourished with a ceramide solution. Our Mineral BB Cream is loaded with ceramides, as well as:
    These little molecules help to prevent dehydration, acting like magnets to minimise the water lost from a cracked or damaged barrier. They bind to water and are found in substances like hyaluronic acid, natural sugars, and glycerin. They are a key ingredient in our Multi-Vitamin Moisturiser, as well as:
    Combined with humectants, emollients make a powerful duo to further enhance your skin’s hydration. Emollients are occlusive, which means they create a seal that prevents water from escaping, while the humectants draw moisture into the skin. Additionally, emollients are often found within natural oils such as jojoba, olive, and rosehip seed. These oils work to soothe and soften the skin, and as they are absorbed by the lipid matrix they heal gaps in the skin barrier. You can find these in our Antioxidant Repair Oil, as well as:  
    Antioxidants are skincare superheroes - they do so many good things for you! Some of the benefits include brightening, smoothing, and strengthening the skin. They are strong enough to guard against UV damage and gentle enough to accelerate the repair process of the skin. Antioxidants occur naturally in many plant-derived skincare ingredients, which is great news for anyone exploring natural and sustainable options. Our Revive Face Mist is packed with antioxidant extracts, as well as:  


    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:

    Less is more. Are you overdoing it? If your skin is constantly dry or breaking out, it may be due to an excessive amount of cleanser, lack of moisturiser, or a formula that contains something irritating to your particular complexion.
    Cleanse gently. Your face is some of the most sensitive skin on your body - treat it carefully. Unless you are prescribed something stronger by your dermatologist or GP, a mild cleanser that doesn’t strip out natural oils and moisturisers is all you will need.
    Exfoliation in moderation. Like everything, if you get carried away here, you can do more damage than good. Exfoliating can brighten and even out your skin tone, but in excess this process can leave it red and uncomfortable.
    Moisturise. This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Everyone should have a trusted moisturising product in their daily routine. Oil-free formulas are available if you have more oily skin, but your skin barrier will always benefit from moisturising so don’t skip this step!
    Prevention is better than a cure. In the long run, skin that is regularly cared for with soothing, strengthening and repairing products will be happier and healthier. It’s a very forgiving part of your body, but it won’t last forever! The sooner you start to give it some TLC, the less you will have to worry about it later in life. Basic skincare like cleansing and moisturising is also a great way to avoid bigger issues like acne and psoriasis, which often stem from ‘little things’ that are overlooked.


    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