Skin Moisture Barrier 101
All you need to do is float about the beauty sphere for five minutes to hear the term ‘skin moisture barrier.’ You’ll find everyone from board-certified dermatologists, to skin-fluencers, to armchair beauty experts talking about the importance of protecting the skin’s moisture barrier. It’s hard to filter out what information may be relevant to us because there’s simply too much of it out there. You may be used to hearing people list off generic symptoms of an impaired skin barrier followed by some product placement for the be-all-end-all skincare saviour that will magically repair your skin overnight. We get it – we’re not just a skincare company, but we’re also consumers.
Before we go any further, we want to stress something: all skin is different!
Symptoms of a compromised skin barrier may present differently and to varying degrees in different people. A product that might work for your favourite beauty influencer or for your best friend might not work for you. High-priced and luxury lotions and potions will not necessarily yield better results for your skin either. That isn’t to suggest that the products used in any of these scenarios are bad - far from it! It just means that looking after your skin barrier requires developing an understanding of your skin’s needs, using products that fit those needs, and consistency!
What is the skin’s moisture barrier?
Even the simplest things in life are actually complex and layered at their core. Your skin is no different. The skin (epidermis) is made up of five main layers. The moisture barrier, also known as the stratum corneum or acid mantle, is the outermost layer of the skin. The moisture barrier is your skin’s first line of defence. Think of it as your skin’s in-built security system. This system is designed to keep the nasties out and filter any detrimental stressors that can damage your skin’s health. These nasties include pollution, toxins, and bacteria.
You know, we love a good metaphor here at Huda Organics. In this case, a brick and mortar structure is the best way to describe the skin’s moisture barrier. The skin barrier is composed of cells known as corneocytes, which you can think of as the bricks. The mortar that binds these bricks together is made up of various lipids, including ceramides and cholesterol.
When your skin barrier is working optimally, the bricks are packed tightly together, while the mortar fills in any remaining gaps left between them. When this structure is intact, electrolytes and water are sealed in, which means that any excess transepidermal water loss is prevented.
When your skin barrier is compromised, the room between these bricks grows. In other words, invisible cracks begin to emerge that allow moisture to escape and bacteria to enter. This can result in dry, irritated, and breakout-prone skin. Think about it a little bit like having a leak in your house. When water is going through your floorboards, bacteria and mould can form, which is not only unpleasant, but can also be detrimental to your overall health. If left too late, the site of the leak may need significant structural reconstruction.
Your skin barrier health will ebb and flow over time. As with all skincare, however, prevention is key and there are certain steps you can take to avoid damaging your skin barrier.
Signs of a compromised skin barrier?
- Irritation and inflammation
- Breakouts and rashes
- Increased sensitivity
What factors could compromise your skin barrier?
- Excessive sun exposure
- Cold or harsh weather
- Drinking alcohol
- Fragranced skincare
- Using acidic or non-PH balanced skincare
- Prescription retinoids
- Using drying product (products containing high levels of denatured alcohol)
- Cleansing the skin with hot water
How to look after your skin barrier
It’s been said before, but we’ll say it again: SPF is the most important step in any skincare routine. Sun exposure is one of the leading causes of skin barrier damage and premature ageing. Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above is essential. It will protect your skin from any harmful rays and free radicals, which can accelerate the breakdown of collagen.
We know how easy it is to skip steps when you’re busy or tired, but we hope this is never one of them!
Avoid fragranced skincare
We know how divided the internet is on this one. Some people like the sensorial experience of using scented products. Some people say fragrance is the devil. While it’s true that not everybody is sensitive to fragrance, it is known that essential oils can be extremely irritating. These fragrance components can actually diminish the efficacy of any skin barrier repairing ingredients. Essential oils can also be sensitising, which means that an allergy to fragrance can develop later in life.
Don’t cleanse with super hot water
Cleansing your skin with water that is too hot is not only irritating, but can also strip the skin of its natural oils. When cleansing the skin, it’s always better to use lukewarm water.
Don’t overwash your face
There’s a common misconception that not washing your face multiple times a day with soap and water is dirty. This isn’t true at all.
It’s perfectly fine to do a deep cleanse of your face in the evening to remove any skincare, makeup, and pollution that may have accumulated on your face throughout the day, and simply rinse your skin with some lukewarm water in the morning. This routine can help to prevent your skin from being stripped of its natural oils.
Exfoliating is an important step in any skincare routine. It helps to get rid of any dead skin cells, enhances your overall complexion, and allows products to penetrate the skin more effectively. Just like everything in life, moderation is key!
If your skin is very dry, cut down the number of times you exfoliate in a week. Avoid overusing any high-percentage BHAs or AHAs as this can lead to irritation. The effects of over-exfoliation can add up over time and result in long-term dryness and inflammation, which can lead to redness or rosacea.
Don’t skip the moisturiser
Moisturising your skin is crucial! It will not only help to keep your skin smooth and supple, but it will also help to lock in any serums and create a protective barrier that may reduce transepidermal water loss.
Ceramides, fatty acids, and panthenol are all fantastic ingredients to look for in a moisturiser.
Why not kill two birds with one stone? We’re also big fans of moisturisers that contain humectants. A humectant is a substance that can attract water from the air and draw it deep into the stratum corneum. The result is hydration that’s locked in tight!
Keep your skincare routine simple
We get it. Every month, hundreds of new products are released, and we, like you, want to test them all. However, many of us now have extremely complicated skincare routines. Four hundred products, fifteen tools, and seven hours later, and we’re still only half way through our daily regime! This is not only time-consuming, but it’s also unnecessary. In many cases, it’s even detrimental to the overall health of our skin.
We may wind up using too many products that don’t suit our skin’s needs and cause irritation. Another issue is that it often takes a while for certain products and ingredients to deliver results. If we’re constantly rotating new products, we may not be giving our products enough of a chance to shine.
Once you find something that works, stick with it! Sometimes less is more!