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what is the skin barrier – and why does it matter

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What is the skin barrier – and why does it matter?

story highlights

  • The lipid barrier protects your skin – keeping moisture in and irritants out.
  • A compromised barrier can make your skin red, irritated, itchy, and flaky.
  • Ingredients like ceramides, Hyaluronic Acid and oats can help keep skin’s barrier feeling healthy.

  • It’s no overstatement to say that the skin barrier – often also referred to as the ‘moisture barrier’ or ‘lipid barrier’ – is the unsung hero of healthy-looking skin: it works as a protective layer, keeping hydration in and irritants out.

    But most of us don’t know much about how it helps skin stay hydrated and healthy. Here are answers to some of our most-asked skin barrier questions!

    What is the skin barrier?

    Your skin’s lipid barrier is the outer layer of cells that helps to form a protective layer between you and the world. It can be useful to think of the skin barrier as a brick wall. The lipids – which comprise a blend of fatty acids, ceramides, and other nutrients called skin’s Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) – are the “mortar” between your skin’s cells, or “bricks.”

    Why is skin’s moisture barrier important?

    A healthy skin barrier has two crucial jobs: it keeps skin’s hydration in and keeps environmental irritants and pollutants out. When skin’s barrier is strong, it prevents excess water loss (a.k.a. dehydration) and keeps out external aggressors like UV radiation, heat, cold, and environmental irritants. When skin’s barrier is compromised, or damaged, it’s unable to effectively perform these tasks – and you’ll know it!

    What are the signs of a damaged skin barrier?

    The first warning sign of a damaged skin barrier is dehydration. This can result in symptoms like redness, itching, and flaky skin. Your skin may also become more reactive, and may feel especially sensitive to heat, cold, dry air, or certain skin care products.

    What causes skin’s barrier to become compromised?

    Unfortunately, many factors can cause damage to the skin barrier. Here are some of the most common triggers:

  • etics play a role: people with chronically dry skin often naturally lack a strong lipid barrier.
  • Aging depletes skin’s natural lipids over time.
  • Seasonal changes in temperature, humidity, and environmental irritants can result in decreased lipids.
  • Over-exfoliating or using harsh skin care ingredients can strip lipids from the skin.
  • UV exposure, stress, and certain health conditions can damage skin’s barrier or cause it to recover more slowly.
  • How can I fix a damaged skin barrier?

    The fastest way to fix a damaged lipid barrier is to act right away! As soon as you realize your dryness and irritation are signs of a compromised barrier, take the following steps:

  • Stop using any products that are causing your skin to feel irritated or sensitive.
  • Avoid physical exfoliants until skin feels healthy again.
  • Look for ingredients that will soothe your skin and help support a healthy barrier – like ceramides, oats, plant oils, and Hyaluronic Acid.
  • Hydrate! Moisturize whenever skin begins to feel dehydrated.
  • How can I keep skin’s moisture barrier healthy?

    When it comes to maintaining a healthy skin barrier, prevention is the best medicine. Hydration is key here – so choose a toner, moisturizer, and SPF that work for your skin and use them every day. Finally, avoid irritants: over-exfoliating or using certain skin care ingredients (like alcohol or acetone) are potential triggers.

    Get more skin care tips at dermalogica.com