What is the skin barrier and how you can protect it? - biobod

What is the skin barrier and how you can protect it?

Everything you need to know about the skin barrier 

Controversial opinion: The words ‘skin barrier’ have been commandeered by the beauty industry. With various products named after it and routines dedicated to it, the skin barrier almost sounds like just another beauty buzzword. But it’s actually much more straightforward than that. 

Quite literally, your skin’s barrier acts as a shield between your body and the world. When it’s healthy, it keeps good things like moisture in and bad things like irritants out. 

Understanding skin 

Skin is the largest organ we’ve got. It’s made up of many different types of cells, proteins, ceramides and lipids which work together not only to keep skin looking healthy but also functioning healthy. What does healthy functioning skin do?

  • Binds fluids and prevents moisture loss
  • Regulates body temperature 
  • Senses danger or pain 
  • Acts as a first line of defence 

It’s also often the fastest way our bodies can give us a visible indication of when something’s wrong. So if you’re spending lots of time gazing in the mirror, you’re not (just) being vain. Keep an eye out for redness, dry patches and irritation, as these could be signs your skin barrier is damaged. 

There are three main layers to the skin: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. Within those layers are lots of sub layers, each with their own specific task. 

Epidermis, the top layer 

This is the outermost layer which you can touch and see. In effect, this is skin’s protective barrier which is often described using the brick wall analogy. A sturdy brick wall is made up with good quality bricks and kept together with strong mortar. It can easily stand against external aggressors and won’t easily crumble. So, if your skin barrier is the bricks, then all the cells inside are the mortar. This mortar includes lots of different nutrients like cholesterol, ceramides and fatty acids. Together, these are called Natural Moisturising Factors or NMFs which hold everything together and help deeper layers of the skin stay hydrated. 

Dermis, the middle layer

The main structural components of this layer are collagen and elastin, AKA the things that give skin bounce and firmness. As we age, our natural production of these proteins slow down which is when wrinkles begin to appear. 

Hypodermis, the innermost layer 

Also known as the subcutis, this layer is mostly made up of fat which acts as a cushion for our skin. 

How it gets compromised 

Skin works hard to protect our bodies, but the external forces we subject it to can impair its natural defences. External forces like:

  • Cleansing too often using too hot water 
  • UV and sun exposure 
  • Being unhealthy in general (we’re looking at you Uber Eats) 
  • Skincare ingredient combinations like retinol and AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) exfoliants, or soap-based cleansers and Vitamin C 
  • The amount of an ingredient used eg; a light Glycolic Acid peel vs one that’s 15% 
  • Your skin type—people with sensitive skin can often experience skin barrier damage more easily than others

What happens when it’s compromised?

Once your skin barrier has been damaged, you’re essentially losing water. You’re also much more susceptible to infections. Your skin is smart, so it’ll tell you if it has been damaged. Look out for these telltale signs:

  • Redness, inflammation 
  • Dry, itchy skin 
  • Irritation or sensitivity 
  • Dullness 
  • More breakouts than usual 

If your skin barrier has been damaged, you’ll need to take steps to ‘stick it back on’. Your first priority is to replenish and rehydrate. 

What you can do to protect it 

Besides avoiding the obvious external aggressors like too much sun exposure, smoking or over-exfoliation, invest in a solid skincare routine that works to hydrate and strengthen. Remember the brick wall analogy? You’ll strengthen your skin barrier by feeding the ‘mortar’ with nourishing ingredients like Squalane, Omegas (3, 6 and 7 are best) and Hyaluronic Acid. 

While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to throw away any products you think might be adding to the problem. Give them to a friend or do as Marie Kondo would and bid them a heartfelt ‘thank you, next’. 

Our approach 

We don’t believe in ‘cure alls’ or quick fixes. We also don’t believe that waiting to treat symptoms is the only way to tackle health, when it comes to skin or anything else. Which is why our approach to caring for the skin barrier is the same as our approach to life: be proactive. 

By not damaging your skin barrier in the first place plus supporting it with a simple skin routine packed with nourishing ingredients, you’re setting skin up to function naturally and happily. 

Your skin barrier cheat sheet:

  • Keep it simple—Remove unnecessary steps in your skincare rituals and get back to basics.
  • Seek out Squalane—It repairs skin’s barrier by adding hydration and sealing in moisture, whilst remaining incredibly lightweight.
  • Don’t over exfoliate—Avoid harsh physical or chemical exfoliants like walnut shell or glycolic acid.
  • Nourish, nourish, nourish—Support a healthy skin barrier daily by using low comedogenic oils with a range of fatty acids like Jojoba Seed Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Hemp Seed Oil and Meadowfoam Seed Oil. 

For everyday skin barrier support check out our Barrier Restore Nutrient Oil. For a compromised skin barrier check out our Probiotic Salvation Balm