how to tell if your skin barrier is damaged -- and what to do about it
Let’s face it: at some point or other, we’ve all suffered from “bad” skin. The colder (or, in the case of Bangkok, only slightly cooler) winter weather is obviously to blame for it. But so are pollution, external stressors, diet, lack of sleep and, in a lot of cases, the wrong skincare routine.
Using products that are too aggressive on your natural Ph can in fact damage your skin barrier, resulting in dryness, dullness, redness, sensitivity, and breakouts. Luckily, adjusting your beauty habits and moisturising properly can help fix that. Even better though? Getting rid of any chemical lotion taking space on your bathroom shelf, and replacing it with all-natural remedies -- like Moringa oil.
But let’s start from scratch. Here’s everything you need to know about the skin barrier.
What is the skin barrier?
The skin is made up of three main layers: the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin; the dermis, the middle layer of the skin that contains collagen and elastin (but also the skin’s nerve and blood supply); and the subcutaneous fat that forms a barrier between skin and muscle.
When we talk of skin barrier -- which can also be described as “brick wall”, “moisture barrier” or “acid mantle” -- we refer to the top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum.
This part consists of tough skin cells called corneocytes, which are rich in keratin and natural moisturisers. Binding them together are mortar-like lipids, which contain cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides.
Why is the skin barrier important?
The skin barrier is essential to protect our internal body against harmful environmental toxins and pathogens, as well as ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure. Additionally, it helps the body to retain water and natural moisture. Without it, the water would escape and evaporate, leaving us completely dehydrated.
In other words: a healthy skin barrier is key to a healthy body, but also to a glowing, healthy skin.
What are the signs of a damaged skin barrier?
A damaged skin barrier manifests in different ways. If the stratum corneum doesn’t contain enough water, for instance, it can lead to dry, rough, flaky skin with little elasticity. Other ‘symptoms’ of a damaged skin barrier span from rosacea and eczema to itchy skin, infections, delayed wound healing, irritation, dehydrated skin and hyperpigmentation.
How can I treat a damaged skin barrier?
- Adjust your skincare routine -- and go natural
Avoid cosmetics and lotions that strip your skin of its natural pores and pigment. Instead, opt for a pared down skincare treatment, with only a few, natural products, like Moringa oil.
- Use fragrance-free products
Be wary of any product or chemical/ingredient that might be harsh on the skin barrier. Watch out for alcohol, aggressive acids like salicylic and glycolic acid, exfoliants and retinoids.
- Invest in a good, gentle skin cleanser and moisturiser
Something like Moringa oil can do wonders for the skin barrier, as it’s rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants, which soothe and protect the skin. The antioxidants act as natural preservatives, while its fatty acids -- most of which are oleic acids -- make it great for supporting the skin barrier, locking in hydration and protecting us from environmental aggressors. Not only does that mean that it is a good moisturizer and beneficial for dry and sensitive skin, but also that it’s a very cleansing oil.
- Be kind to yourself
We often forget that what we eat, how much we sleep, and how we release stress can really impact our overall health and skin health. So nourish your body with nutrients-rich foods, keep a balanced, healthy lifestyle, exercise, laugh and get a good night’s sleep. Your skin will thank you for it.