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Your skin is constantly bombarded by elements like the sun, wind, and pollution. Thankfully, your skin barrier is there as a shield of protection.
But, without care, your skin barrier can become weak, leaving your skin prone to losing water and becoming dry. Taking care of this barrier is the key to sustaining healthy skin. Keep reading to learn more about this vital part of your body.
Table Of Contents
- What Is Your Skin Barrier?
- What Damages The Skin Barrier?
- How To Care For Your Skin
- Tips For A Strong Skin Barrier
What Is Your Skin Barrier?
The scientific name for the skin barrier is the stratum corneum. It sits on the outermost layer of your skin, known as the epidermis.
This protective layer helps your skin retain moisture. It also protects it from irritants that could cause skin damage, such as bacteria, allergens, and chemicals.
The stratum corneum is made up of corneocytes, which are anucleated keratinocytes that have reached the final stage of keratinocyte differentiation.
The keratinocyte cells are responsible for skin regeneration. They help the skin repair itself after it's been damaged. For example, these cells quickly reproduce when you get a cut to cover the affected area.
They also produce skin-healing proteins that help reduce inflammation and protect your skin from UV damage.
Your skin barrier is like a brick wall. It keeps out external aggressors, like the sun and wind, while fighting against irritants. In addition, it holds moisture in, helping to ensure your skin doesn’t dry out.
Taking care of your skin barrier can help maintain healthy skin that looks and feels great. But sometimes, this barrier can get damaged.
What Damages The Skin Barrier?
While it’s often compared to a brick wall, your skin barrier isn’t as formidable as bricks. It’s something that can get damaged by many things, including:
- Excessive sun exposure: Too much sun can break down the lipids in skin, causing skin dryness and inflammation.
- Hot water: Taking hot showers or baths for too long can strip away the skin's natural oils and weaken the barrier.
- Harsh ingredients: Some skin care products can contain chemicals that break down the cells.
- Over-exfoliating: Scrubbing your face too much can remove skin cells from the protective layer.
- Stress: Studies have shown that skin can become more sensitive and prone to infection due to stress.
- Allergens: Pollen, dust mites, and pet dander are all allergens that can cause skin irritation if not properly managed.
- Injuries: Any time you get a scratch or a cut, you’re opening up a way for foreign substances to get in, making your skin vulnerable to infection.
Signs Of Damage
No matter what causes damage to your skin barrier, you may notice some of the same signs and symptoms. These include:
If you’re experiencing any of these things, it could indicate that your skin barrier needs to be repaired. You might need to change your skincare routine to improve your overall skin health.
How To Care For Your Skin
Your skin is your largest and most visible organ. It's crucial to provide the care and protection it needs to maintain a healthy skin barrier. Here are some tips for keeping your skin healthy.
Your skin isn't something you can haphazardly care for. Instead, you must be mindful of your skincare routines and intentionally engage in activities that promote skin health.
Unfortunately, this might take a lot of work, especially if your skin barrier is already damaged. As mentioned above, repairing it requires consistency over time.
Before you buy skincare products, make sure to read the labels. Many skincare items contain harsh ingredients that can damage your skin. They can strip away your skin's natural oils, leaving you feeling even drier than you were before.
Ditch these products and look for ones free of parabens and sulfates instead. While reading the ingredient list, look for skin-friendly elements, like niacinamide, colloidal oatmeal, and guar bean extract. These can help keep your skin hydrated without causing further irritation.
For example, Bodewell products combine powerful clinical ingredients with a formula containing botanicals that moisturize your skin to help it rebalance over time.
Using skincare products with probiotics can help strengthen your skin and restore your skin barrier. Probiotics contain good bacteria that can help reduce inflammation, redness, and irritation.
Incorporating probiotic-rich foods into your diet is also a great way to give your skin an extra boost from the inside out. These foods include yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
A probiotic supplement is another option. However, you’ll want to speak to your doctor before you start one.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for skin health. When you’re hydrated, your body is more likely to produce a healthy skin barrier.
Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. But if you're active or live in a hot climate, you may need to drink even more than that.
Take Shorter, Cooler Showers
While hot showers can feel great, they aren't ideal for skin health. Taking long, hot showers strips your skin of its natural oils and weakens your skin barrier.
Try to keep your shower time under 10 minutes, and use lukewarm water instead of hot. This helps protect your skin from further damage and dehydration.
In addition, select gentle cleansers designed to clean your skin while helping lock in moisture. But no matter what body wash you use, remember not to scrub too hard. You don’t want to rub off your skin’s protective layer.
Avoid Extreme Temperatures
Extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, can compromise skin health. Avoid exposing your skin to these temperatures for too long, or you risk skin damage.
If you need to be out in the elements, prepare first. Wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat in the summer and gloves in the winter. This way, you have less skin exposed, and your skin can stay healthy and hydrated.
You’ll also want to keep an eye on humidity levels. If they drop too low, consider adding extra moisture to the air in your house by using a humidifier.
Apply Sunscreen Regularly
Sunscreen is essential for skin health and protection. Even when the sun isn't shining, you should apply broad-spectrum sunscreen. That's because UVA and UVB rays can pass through clouds, causing damage to your skin and weakening your natural barrier.
Select a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide for the best protection. These minerals create a physical barrier that reflects UV rays and can help keep your skin healthy.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Stress and skin problems go hand in hand. Stress can sometimes increase skin sensitivity and trigger problems like acne and eczema.
To keep your skin healthy, you need to manage your stress levels. Try integrating relaxing activities into your day. Here are a few ideas:
- Spend time in nature
- Take a yoga class
- Get a massage
- Listen to music
- Read a good book
- Enjoy a cup of coffee or tea
If those ideas don’t seem to help, you may need to look for other, bigger ways to reduce your stress, such as:
- Leaving a toxic relationship
- Changing jobs
- Making lifestyle changes
- Talking to a therapist
It’ll take some effort, but your skin (and the rest of your body) will thank you for lowering your stress levels.
Get Adequate Sleep
Your body repairs itself during sleep. This includes your skin barrier. So, make sure you’re getting enough quality sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours of uninterrupted slumber each night to encourage skin regeneration.
If you struggle to get enough hours of shut-eye, try these suggestions:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Establish a bedtime routine that encourages your body to relax before bed.
- Avoid screens for at least an hour before you hit the sack.
- Create a dark and quiet environment that's conducive to sleep.
- Exercise during the day to help relax your body and mind.
- Journal to get out thoughts that could keep you up at night.
- Make sure your room is an ideal temperature for sleeping.
Remember that sleep can be elusive for some people, no matter how hard you try. If you struggle to get enough rest, talk to your doctor about your concerns. They may have additional recommendations that might work better for you.
Tips For A Strong Skin Barrier
Get To Know Your Skin Type
Is your skin oily? Is it dry? Is it a combination of oily and dry? Is the skin on your face different from the skin on your hands and forearms? Do you struggle with any persistent skin problems, like eczema, psoriasis, or acne?
Answering these questions — and really getting to know your skin type — is one of the best things you can do to take care of your skin barrier.
Doing so will help you identify the best ways to keep the skin barrier on each part of your body healthy and strong so as to prevent dry, cracked skin.
To help in this regard, consider starting a skin journal. There, you can track the different skin problems you have to contend with and the skincare routine that works best for each area.
A skin journal can also help you zero in on which products work best for you and keep track of substances and practices that can irritate your skin.
Wash With A Gentle Cleanser
The harsh chemicals found in many soaps, body washes, and cleansers can damage your skin barrier and actually cause more problems than they prevent.
Instead of choosing the first product you see, shop around for a gentle cleanser that won’t over-dry or otherwise damage your skin every time you use it.
Washing with a gentle cleanser — be it for your face, your hands, or some other part of your body — is a great way to help keep your skin soft and supple.
Wash Your Face Twice A Day
At minimum, try to wash your face twice a day: in the morning when you wake up and in the evening before you go to sleep. This will help remove dirt and bacteria that, if left too long, can start to cause problems for your skin barrier.
It’s also a good idea to wash your face after working up a sweat. Neglecting to do so can lead to clogged pores and other issues.
That said, don’t overwash your face and body. Any more than three or four washings a day can lead to dry skin.
Wipe Off Makeup Before Cleansing
Before you wash your face at bedtime, wipe off any makeup you applied that day. Including this step before you wash with a gentle cleanser can clear away all the makeup so that residual particles don’t interfere with the natural function of your skin barrier.
Try using a micellar water or specially designed makeup wipe to remove as much of the makeup as possible.
Then, follow up by washing your face with the gentle cleanser of your choice to remove any excess dirt and impurities that can cause irritation.
Removing makeup and cleaning your skin before bed gives your skin barrier plenty of time to do what it does best: Lock in moisture and repair the skin underneath while you sleep.
Cover Up Outside To Protect Your Skin Barrier
We discussed the importance of applying sunscreen earlier in this article. But, depending on where you live, you may need to do more to protect your skin barrier from damage.
In warmer climates or those with more intense sun exposure, covering up when you go outside is your best bet for keeping your skin healthy. Long-sleeved shirts, scarves, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses do a good job of blocking out as much of the sun’s harmful rays as possible.
That doesn’t mean you can skip the sunscreen altogether, though. It’s still a good idea to apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 or 45 even if you cover up while outside.
While the clothing will do a good job blocking most of the UVA and UVB rays, no solution is perfect.
A few of the rays may penetrate your clothing (a lot less than if you went uncovered, but some may still get through), and a layer of sunscreen will help prevent them from damaging your skin.
Eat A Balanced Diet
Looking for a way to take care of your skin barrier and the rest of your body all at the same time? Eat a healthy, balanced diet.
The right foods contain vitamins and minerals that can help keep your skin smooth, hydrated, and healthier-looking all over.
To get the most benefit from your diet, do your best to eat the following types of foods every day:
- Lean protein
- Healthy fat
Not sure how best to go about doing so? Try these suggestions for getting at least one serving of each of those four food groups with every meal:
- For breakfast, blend some spinach, carrots, celery, frozen fruit, and a scoop of protein powder into a delicious and nutritious smoothie. Munch on a handful of almonds for a healthy fat boost.
- For lunch, add diced chicken breast to a mixed-green salad and top with an olive oil dressing. Pair with an apple, banana, or orange to complete four food groups.
- For a snack, mixed nuts or trail mix are a great option.
- For dinner, throw a salmon filet on the grill. Top with an olive tapenade and serve with a side of broccoli and a bowl of watermelon to complete your day of healthy eating.
Include Skin-Supporting Supplements
If you take protecting your skin barrier seriously, you may choose to include skin-supporting supplements in your diet.
Check with your doctor or dermatologist before adding a supplement to your routine — especially if you already take vitamins or prescription drugs, are pregnant, or are experiencing health problems.
Layer Your Skincare Products Correctly
We touched on the importance of using the right skincare products earlier, but did you know the order in which you use those products is just as important — if not more so — than the products themselves?
For best results, hydrate then moisturize your skin. Typically, this involves a hydrating serum and a moisturizing lotion. While these may sound like the same thing, they’re actually very different.
A hydrating product (or “hydrator” for short) adds water to your skin. A moisturizing product (or “moisturizer” for short) creates a barrier on the surface of your skin to keep water from evaporating.
So, while applying a moisturizer first and then a hydrator would certainly lock some water into your skin, the hydrator isn’t really doing any good because it’s on the outside of the moisturizer.
Applying the hydrator and then the moisturizer acts as a one-two punch: It puts water into your skin and locks it there, where it won’t get away.
Run A Humidifier Or Vaporizer
As we’ve discussed, moisture is crucial for the health of your skin barrier. Too little, and you may suffer from repeated bouts of dry, itchy skin.
You can certainly put moisture back into your skin by following the suggestions in this article (e.g., drinking plenty of water every day, eating a balanced diet, and applying a hydrating lotion and a moisturizer before bed).
Both humidifiers and vaporizers fill the air with water (a.k.a. humidity) so that the moisture in your skin can’t evaporate as easily (because it’s got nowhere to go).
When choosing between a humidifier and a vaporizer, keep in mind what each one does.
- A humidifier produces cool moisture
- A vaporizer produces hot moisture (steam)
Both will work well for helping preserve your skin barrier, but they can affect the environment around you.
Putting hot moisture (steam) into the air during the summer months can make your living space unbearable. Similarly, putting cool moisture into the air during the winter months can make your living space uncomfortable.
Try running a humidifier during warm months to help keep your living space cool and a vaporizer during cold months to help keep your living space warm.
Caring For Your Skin
Maintaining a healthy skin barrier is essential for clearer-looking skin.
To take good care of your skin, choose quality products from a company you trust, like Bodewell. With the right skincare routine and a little TLC, you can keep your skin healthy and hydrated!