What Are Skin Boosters and Do I Need One?

Just when you think you have your skincare routine sorted along comes along another category to shake things up - another must-have step that seems as important as the last. Well brace yourself friends, I have yet another. But I promise this one is worthwhile. Behold – the booster. 

Beauticate Loves: Image by Dave Wheeler

Beauticate Loves: Image by Dave Wheeler

Used before your serum, boosters are all about strengthening the barrier that sits on skin’s surface. A plethora of studies in recent years have uncovered just how important this barrier is to the skin’s – and the whole immune system’s - function. 

Why you need to strengthen your barrier

Skin is our largest and most important organ. Without an intact skin barrier we literally cannot survive,” explains dermatologist Dr Nina Wines. “The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of the skin and has the largest impact on barrier function. It acts like a thick armour protecting us from infection and dehydration. The health of this layer is the key to maintaining skin hydration, luminosity and that healthy glow we all seek and plays a pivotal role in our well being.”

“Imagine the stratum corneum is the roof of your house,” adds David Whyte Elizabeth Arden’s National Training Manager. “If the roof is in good, strong condition, then the contents of your house will be protected from the elements. If the roof has holes in it or is damaged then the environment is able to get in and damage your furniture, flooring and walls. It’s exactly the same with your skin.”

David explains that a skin booster aims to boost the overall health of the skin surface – as opposed to a serum, which targets specific issues such as fine lines, redness or pigmentation. Boosters aim to stabilize that barrier and provide your skin with those adequate levels of hydration we all so desperately seek.

“A booster will strengthen skins natural defenses and better protect itself from the environment, toxins and irritants, which allows the skin to perform at its optimum,” says David, adding that with a healthy skin surface, the rest of your skincare regime is boosted too as your other products are able to more effectively penetrate and work where they are meant too. “This means you get better value for money from your skincare regime,” he points out. Win and win. 

What to look for in a booster

While several brands like Dermalogica and Paula’s Choice offer boosters that are designed to strengthen the skin’s defense with antioxidants or antibacterial ingredients, Elizabeth Arden have just bought out a booster that claims to maintain the health of the bacterial micro-flora on the surface of the skin.  The secret ingredients? Probiotics along with a healthy dose of surface hydrators like flaxseed extract and glasswort extract.

“Just like we have good and bad bacteria in out gut flora, we have bacterial mico-flora on the surface of our skin. This bacteria is essential for maintaining the health of the skin,” says David, explaining that the probiotic complex in the brand’s new booster helps support skin’s natural microflora to strengthen its own natural defenses.”

Probiotics have been big news in the skincare world recently. While Dermatologist Nina Wines says she would like to see further studies on their topical use, as an ingredient, they are superb at soothing aggravating skin conditions.

"Promising evidence suggests that oral probiotics are effective for the management of acne, eczema, wound healing and ageing of the skin due to sun damage,” she says.

The booster category seems set to expand as our knowledge of the skin’s surface grow. And sadly for my nightly routine, another step seems necessary if I’m ever going to reach the dizzying heights of adequate hydration and protect my precious stratum corneum.  

How to use them

Different boosters are applied differently, but they are usually all used after cleansing and toning and before serums. For Elizabeth Arden’s Booster, apply one to two pumps before your treatment serum to dry skin.  For Dermalogica and Paula’s Choice boosters – both can be applied directly to clean, dry skin before serums or they can be added into your favourite existing skincare product to ‘boost’ its activity.

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Story by Sigourney; Photography by Dave Wheeler; Makeup by Isobel Claire at OneNinetyNine; Hair by Byron Turnbull at Reload and Model: Zoe Cross at IMG