You may not always notice it, but your skin is constantly protecting you - literally, 24/7. And the area that’s hardest at work? It’s called the skin barrier, and if you look after it properly it can keep you looking younger, longer. So, what is the skin barrier exactly and how does it work its youth-preserving magic? We sat down with Crystal Patel, Managing Director at Clinica Lase, to talk us through it.
Why is the skin barrier so important?
The skin barrier (also known as the lipid barrier) is made up of the outer layers of the skin, which protects underlying tissues from environmental factors and prevents moisture loss. It does so by producing lipids and antimicrobial agents that not only serve as a shield against the outside world, but also help regulate inflammation. Which is why it pays to treat it with care in order to maintain our youthful looks.
Crystal from Clinica Lase tells us: “When the skin barrier is functioning well, the skin will be more hydrated, plump and radiant.” Bottom line: ensuring its health will in turn help us reap the rewards.
How can we maintain it?
Crystal says the best way to strengthen the skin barrier is to limit the factors that weaken it, in order to let the barrier repair naturally. To help, Crystal suggests: “Using better quality and tailored products, reducing the number of times we wash our skin, stopping smoking, improving our diet, reducing stress, avoiding sun exposure, and limiting time spent in air-conditioned environments.”
“Using the right cosmeceutical-grade products can also assist in repairing a damaged skin barrier, by both stimulating natural lipid production and introducing specific ingredients that help build the barrier,” Crystal adds.
A waterless moisturiser that can help repair sensitive skin with a damaged skin barrier. Infused with vitamin C and E, it will fight free radical damage too.
What to avoid
If we don’t use the right products for our skin type, could we be doing our skin barrier more harm than good? “Most definitely, especially if they contain stripping ingredients, parabens, perfumes or sulphates,” answers Crystal. “Using harsh ingredients, over-exfoliating, or following a routine that lacks balance is also harmful - for example, an oily skin sufferer over-exfoliating and not using adequately hydrating and protective ingredients. These are common mistakes that people make in their skincare routine.”
Unfortunately, genetics seem to play a big role too. Despite all of the hard work you might be putting in to strengthen it, the skin barrier will naturally weaken with age due to a decrease in lipid production - and everybody’s will weaken at different rates. But Crystal says there are a number of factors that can accelerate this process - like overusing products, smoking, and poor nutrition - which we can choose to avoid.
A favourite hyaluronic acid serum amongst skincare devotees. It uses both ceramides and hyaluronic acid to plump skin, even out fine lines and wrinkles, and protect your skin barrier.
The ingredients you need
Using the right ingredients in our skincare is key to protecting one of our most valuable weapons against premature ageing - and Crystal recommends looking out for three in particular.
Firstly, ceramides. Occurring naturally within the cell membranes, their job is to hold the skin cells together (not unlike cement between bricks). This forms a protective layer, allowing the skin to retain moisture and giving it that plumpness we all desire. Her second pick? Hyaluronic acid - also naturally occurring in the body, this ingredient helps to regulate cell renewal, and maintain skin’s moisture and elasticity. She additionally recommends niacinamide: also known as vitamin B3, it stimulates the skin’s natural ceramides, preventing transepidermal water loss and boosting skin immunity. Long term use of this wonder ingredient will help maintain the skin once your barrier is functioning properly - oil flow will become more regulated, while redness, breakouts and dryness will improve.
At the end of the day, consulting an expert will never be amiss if you’re keen to improve your skin’s health. “I would always advise a visit to a skin specialist who will be able to assess the skin and make specific recommendations based on your symptoms,” Crystal adds.