What is a Skin Barrier and what is its importance?
Our skin is made up of multiple tissues and is the largest organ of the body guarding our internal system. Its main function is to protect, regulate and provide sensation. The outermost layer of our skin, also known as Stratum Corneum along with fatty Lipids form a part of our skin barrier. This acts as our body’s natural defence against the outside world while retaining the good things inside. It acts like a wall as a first line of defence, fencing us against environmental stressors and keeping our internal immunity healthy. Here are the few reasons why maintaining our skin barrier is so important:
1. Protects us against External Factors
Our environment consists of various elements such as climate, pollution, UV rays, humidity level and many other factors . Our skin’s barrier makes it more resilient to these stressors by preventing development of bacteria, infection or sun damage. A strong barrier is a sign of healthy skin as it can fight against these harmful components that are trying to break down the wall.
2. Prevents Moisture Loss
Dry skin is more prone to damage as the skin cells become tighter and more fragile making it easier to crack. Skin can act as a protector only when it is well hydrated as the moisture can help to speed up the repairing process along with making it less susceptible to breakage. At the same time the barrier can lock in moisture and prevent further water loss keeping all the good stuff in and avoiding passive evaporation that may lead to dehydration.
3. Fights Ageing
As we age our skin becomes thinner and weaker losing its fatty layer that acts as a buffer. In order to prevent loss of this support structure it is important to maintain a healthy barrier that will protect the skin from harmful UV rays that break down the collagen and elastin fibers. A sting barrier will prevent bruising, maintain a high recovery rate, reduce sagging and prolong the overall ageing process.
4. Regulates body temperature through Sweating
Even though it might not be visible through the naked eye, most of our body is covered with hair follicles. These act as a vehicle to bring water and oil produced internally to the surface of the skin. Sweating flushes out all the harmful toxins in our body and cools it down to maintain a proper body temperature and water balance.
What are the Signs of a Damaged Skin Barrier?
So, what happens when you are faced with a damaged skin barrier? To put it simply, the wall that once stood tall is now broken down with cracks and gaps that allow irritants to creep in and make the skin vulnerable. The best to address the issue is to look out for these signs to understand if you need to strengthen your defence:
Any burning sensation accompanied by redness is a clear sign of something wrong. Scientifically speaking inflammation is the body’s sign of responding to an irritant and trying to fight against it. Broken barriers allow these irritants to seep in through the broken cracks which in turn leads to more inflammation.
2. Dark spots and Hyperpigmentation
Discolouration in skin tone is caused when excess melanin is deposited in certain areas. Melanin protects the skin from the UV rays of the sun however greater exposure can damage the cells in the hair follicle increasing the risk of pigmentation.
Check out our article on Hyperpigmentation Unravelled: What causes it and how you should treat it to know more.
3. Rough, Uneven Texture
Transepidermal Water Loss is a condition where an impared skin barrier does not have the ability to lock in moisture. This allows the water from the skin to escape and evaporate at a rapid rate leaving our skin dehydrated, rough and flaky.
4. Fine Lines and Wrinkles
Vulnerability to harsh UV rays, dehydration and over-exfoliation are major contributors to weaken the skin’s defence system. This affects the elasticity of the skin, increasing tightness and making it more susceptible to break. This broken barrier is unable to protect the skin against the sun's ultraviolet damage leading to premature ageing, wrinkles and fine lines.
5. Sensitivity/Allergic Reactions
When your skin barriers are damaged, it is unable to keep external aggressors at bay allowing them to seep in through the creeks and cracks. This vulnerability makes the skin sensitive and more prone to experience allergic reactions.
6. Dull and Dehydrated
Just as rough skin is caused due to water loss, the inability to hold moisture in allows the water to escape at a rapid rate. This makes the skin look dull and dehydrated.
Those experiencing acne, pimples and breakouts can easily overlook the root of its cause. These concerns are often associated with hormonal changes, genetics, oil production, dead cell buildup and other factors, however a major contributor is a damaged skin barrier that is unable to fight the bacteria and irritants that penetrate into the skin with its weak defence system. Check out our article on the 11 best ingredients for managing acne and find out which one works for you to know more.
8. Tightness and Flaking/Peeling
Excessive mixture loss from the skin through the tiny cracks caused by the skin barrier can make the skin dry. With its lower protective thresholds the dry skin can experience tightness and sensitivity. External irritants may also enter the skin and the gaps allowing water loss and making the skin flaky.
9. Rashes like Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
With sensitivity and dryness comes inflammatory reactions. Eczema is when the skin feels itchy. Scratching can cause further damage and a compromised defense can act as a vehicle to transport allergens causing inflammation and reactions such as atopic dermatitis.
How can you Repair and prevent a damaged skin barrier?
Tips to repair damaged skin:
1. Use a Gentle Cream
Your skin is extremely sensitive when it faces a damaged barrier. It is best to Cream with hydrating and restoration properties to overcome the damage and inflammation. The Coccoon Repairing Night Cream With Vitamin C Kakadu Plum and Shea Butter will help to repair your skin while you sleep and the Coccoon Restoring Day Cream with Vitamin C, Kakadu Plum and Witch Hazel, SPF 15 will protect your skin and restore radiance with Aloe Extract for hydration, Shea Butter for deep moisture, Vitamin C and E and Witch Hazel to keep your skin fresh.
2. Use Cooling Products such as Aloe Vera gel to soothe the Skin
The best way to address sensitivity and inflammation caused by damaged skin is to calm it down by using a product infused with Aloe Vera. This contains antiinflammatory antioxidants that help treat burns, redness and dryness. We recommend Thyme Organic 99% Organic Aloe Vera Gel is a deep hydrating gel with organic Aloe Vera and Chamomile along with Vitamin E and Acai berry extracts.
3. Try to Reduce Sun Exposure
Prolonged exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays can break down the skin barrier causing dark spots, dryness, premature ageing and even more serious problems like cancer. It takes approximately 4 weeks to repair the barrier during which you must try to minimise sun exposure. This can be done by working out at home or in the evening, carrying a hat or suncap, wearing sunglasses to safeguard skin under eye area and avoiding shorts. Do not forget to apply SPF.
4. Use a Face Mask
Face Masks are a great way to drive potent ingredients to your skin for an intensive burst of nourishment. Leaving the mask on for 10 to 15 mins can allow the ingredients to penetrate and fix the damaged barrier. Swisse Hyaluro Natural Intensive Hydrating Mask is a replenishing facial treatment enriched with natural botanicals to revitalise dry, stressed out skin. It contains Senna Seeds, Fruit Oils and Sunflower seed and other ingredients used to provide hydration and deeply nourish the skin.
5. Use Ceramides
Ceramides are fatty lipids found in the outer layer of our skin that create a barrier to lock in moisture and avoid irritants from the environment. They help to maintain hydration levels and replenish the skin. Dr. Sheth’s Cica & Ceramide Overnight Repair Serum reverses damage, repairs the skin barrier and accelerates the healing process of the skin.
6. Incorporate Emollients
These are moisturising elements that are used to soothe and hydrate the skin by forming a protective film to prevent moisture loss. It is best to use in your night routine due to its thick greasy nature. Plant Oils such as Coconut Oil, Jojoba Oil or Almond Oil, Butters like Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Waxes such as Beeswax and Lanolin are all different types of Emollients.
7. Apply Humectants
Humectants attract water molecules and help hydrate the skin by drawing water in. The main difference between Humectants is that it attracts moisture while Emollients lock water in. This includes, Honey, Aloe vera, Caster Oil, Glycerine, Hyaluronic Acid and Butylene Glycol.
8. Avoid Exfoliating and Active Ingredients
Vitamin A such as Retinol is sensitive to sunlight, increasing the risk of experiencing sun burns. On the other hand, exfoliating acids such as AHAs, BHAs shead the top layer of the skin and expose the already damaged skin to harsh pollutants in the environment. It is best to avoid such ingredients until the damaged barrier is fully repaired. That can take anytime between 2 weeks to a month. In the process do not forget to apply SPF to reduce risks during this repair phase.
Prevent your skin barrier from damage by taking the following Steps
Use antioxidants such as:
1. Vitamin C
Known for its brightening and anti ageing properties, Vitamin C promotes production of new skin cells. It also has highly effective antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals. We recommend Conscious Chemist Vivid C Pro Collagen Serum harnesses an antioxidant complex of Glutathione, Pomegranate, Carrot seed & Turmeric extracts for superior protection against oxidative stress.
Also known as Vitamin B5 it helps to rebuild skin cells and protect damage caused by ultraviolet rays. It can also help treat dark spots, pigmentation and lighten uneven areas caused due to sun exposure. We recommend Dr. Sheth’s Centella and Niacinamide Serum to control sebum and maintain the skin’s barrier.
3. Apply Sunscreen
SPF helps to block the skin from the harmful rays from the sun that is a major contributor in breaking down the skin’s barrier. Prolonged exposure can damage the cell's DNA and cause redness, sensitivity and inflammation. We recommend using the Paul Penders Herbal Sun Prosperity before leaving home.
4. Stay Hydrated by Drinking Water
Our skin contains 30 percent water. It is important to stay hydrated to enable the skin to effectively maintain our skin’s barrier. To make up for the excess loss of water the skin faces through evaporation, you must drink at least 8 glasses of water per day. This will prevent the skin from tightness that can lead to cracking.
Fortunately, a damaged skin barrier is not a permanent problem and can be easily reversed by making certain changes. Simply boosting your hydration levels, protecting your skin from the harmful rays of the sun and using the right ingredients to boost nourishment can replenish your skin making it look refreshing and youthful.