The Secret to Good Skin? The Skin Barrier.
It is extremely easy to harm the skin barrier, so much it may be a result of self-sabotaging with everyday habits or skincare products. Read more to discover what the skin barrier is and how to identify damage to the skin barrier alongside tips to repair this. Lastly, see our client Natalie’s story of how she self-sabotaged with skincare and repaired this.
What Is the Skin Barrier?
This part may sound like a science lesson (we promise to keep the terminology to a minimum), but it is important to know what the skin barrier is, to understand how to protect it. The skin barrier in the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of cells on the skin. Because this is the layer that is in contact with the outside world (hence the barrier), it carries out some core functions. In short, a healthy and functioning skin barrier keeps the skin hydrated whilst blocking out bad bacteria and allergens.
What Is A Damaged Skin Barrier?
When the skin barrier is damaged, it is not as robust as it should be, enabling bacteria and allergens into the skin and failing to prevent water loss. The skin can become dry, dehydrated and irritated.
Over-cleansing is a common culprit for skin barrier damage. By cleansing too frequently or with harsh ingredients, can strip down the skin of its natural oils. (An easy way to recognise this is if you skin feels super squeaky-clean or tight after your rinse). Similarly, over-exfoliating is another factor. Chemical exfoliants, while excellent at removing dead skin cells from the surface of skin, could potentially damage the live, healthy cells in your skin barrier if the concentration is too high. Mechanical exfoliants on the other hand such as scrubs or other abrasives, can create microtears in the skin, which, not surprisingly, also harms the skin barrier.
Notably, other factors can contribute not just self-sabotage. Age being one given an individual’s ability to produce oil reduces over time, essential to the integrity of the skin barrier. Likewise, genetics including particular skin conditions such as eczema can weaken the skin barrier. Aggressive skincare habits and environmental factors are also referred to as self-sabotage. Environmental aggressors include sunlight and pollution which impact the integrity of the skin barrier.
What Are the Signs of a Damaged Skin Barrier?
A damaged skin barrier will reflect itself in several ways. Sometimes, your existing skin concerns or conditions (such as breakouts or sensitivity) can become even worse or flare up.
Here are the common signs of a damaged skin barrier:
- Dry or Dull Skin
- Skin Redness
- Sensitive Skin
Dry or Dull Skin
When the skin barrier is compromised in any way, there is an identifiable water loss. This leaves the skin with signs of dryness such as rough texture, tightness or flakiness. Likewise, dry skin and dull skin are linked. Remember that hydrated skin is dewy and plump.
Damaged skin may be a sign of inflammation and therefore, damage to the skin barrier. That is because the cracks and gaps in the skin barrier allows irritants and allergens to sneak through, causing an inflammatory reaction. Any noticeable skin redness or itchiness (both signs of inflammation) is likely that the skin barrier is involved in some capacity.
If you have sensitive skin, keeping it healthy is especially important. If skincare products, especially products that you have used before, cause stinging or burning, then it is likely that the skin barrier may be damaged.
Blemishes and acne flare-ups can be a sign of a damaged skin barrier, as the bacteria that causes acne is more easily able to penetrate the skin. In addition, traditional acne-fighting ingredients, such as benzoyl peroxide, tend to dry out skin — which can, in turn, further impair the skin barrier, creating an unfortunate cycle of breakouts. Acne has also (incorrectly) been seen as a matter of poor hygiene, leading people to over-wash their face in an attempt to “scrub” the breakouts away. But the only thing they are actually removing is the skins natural, not to mention very important, oils.
Case Study: Natalie
Our gorgeous client Natalie has kindly said that we can share her images and skin barrier story with you all.
As you can see in the top two images of the photograph above, Natalie had very irritated skin whereby it was visibility shedding and producing patches of acne. Following a skin consultation prior to treatment, we discussed her skincare regime at home. Natalie explained that she had received a skincare advent calendar for Christmas including 25 different products. As a result, Natalie advised she had been trialling each of them out on her skin. Upon browsing the products that Natalie had been using, some were highly recommended due to the specific ingredients that Natalie wanted to achieve. However, the volume of products she was using alongside the many active ingredients she was piling onto her skin, this resulted in damaging her skin barrier. Active ingredients are contained within skincare products that actually work to address the skin concern the product is meant to target. They are the ingredients that have been scientifically proven to actually have the desired effect. However, active ingredients that are not suited to your skin or overloading with many will cause significant issued as evidenced by Natalie.
There are many amazing skincare products available and it is great to try new products. However, it is very important to understand what you are purchasing and how it will impact your skin. The bottom two images of the photograph above show Natalie’s skin now. Following a specific skincare regime that Natalie was able to undertake at home, tailored to her skin and needs alongside regular treatments, Natalie was able to repair the skin barrier. Following consultation, we agreed for Natalie to use the following products:
- DermaQuest Essential Daily Cleanser
- DermaQuest Essential B5 Hydrating Serum
- DermaQuest Essential Moisturiser
- DermaQuest SheerZinc SPF30
The above products are also part of the DermaQuest Essentials Starter Kit in which I recommended. This kit contains comprehensive blends of high-performance ingredients such as powerful antioxidants and botanical plant stem cells designed to balance, hydrate, strengthen and protect the skin. The products supports a regimen to help the skin reach its fullest potential by improving skins’ natural balance and establishing a vibrant healthy glow.
Alongside the above products used consistently, Natalie undertook the Oxygen Pro Treatment. Oxygen Pro is a professional treatment we offer which increases hydration by the use of Hyaluronic acid.
How to Repair a Damaged Skin Barrier?
We recommend seeking specialist support from a skincare expert to prevent further damage. A combination of correct products and treatments will seek to repair. However, below are a few top tips.
Firstly, it is important to review your skincare habits and whether your skin needs a detox. If you have oily skin, cleansing in the morning and again at night might be fine. But if you have dry skin, you may be better off sticking to cleansing only at night and splashing your face with water in the morning. Also, choose your cleanser wisely. At Fixation, we can recommend the most suited products to your skin following a consultation. The same goes for exfoliation. Done properly, exfoliation is a good thing — it delivers radiance, a smooth texture, and more even skin tone. But you can have too much of a good thing, and in this case, that may mean a compromised skin barrier. If your skin looks red or feels uncomfortable after you exfoliate, either slow down the frequency or switch to a gentle formula.
Always use a hydration product. That goes for every skin type — even those who are oily or acne-prone. A hydrating product such as Hyaluronic Acid should become a part of your skincare routine and if your skin barrier is highly damaged, you can never use too much of it. Your skin barrier can never max out on moisture. If your skin is particularly oily, consider an oil-free formula. Finally, the best offence is a good defence. Rather than fixing a damaged moisture barrier, it is far easier to prevent it from getting impaired in the first place. Sunscreen is an obvious winner, since UV exposure leads to free radical activity on the skin — which, again, damages your skin barrier. It will help you avoid a damaged skin barrier altogether, which is the goal.