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In order to even begin talking about damaged skin barriers and how to fix it, we must understand what is a skin barrier. We hear it all the time and we nod our heads, but do we reallllyyy know what is it? 


If we want to get all science-y, your skin consists of these layers. The epidermis is divided into:

  1. The Microbiome (this is the outermost layer of the epidermis) 
  2. Stratum corneum
  3. Stratum granulosum
  4. Stratum spinosum
  5. Stratum basale (Parke, Perez-Sanchez, Zamil, Katta, 2021).

The dermis layer is divided into:

  1. Papillary dermis
  2. Reticular dermis (Venus, 2010). 

 

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? (ITS PURPOSE)

So now we know about the layers of our skin, but which layer exactly is our skin barrier? The skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin aka the stratum corneum. Physically, it protects from external threats such as infectious agents, chemicals, systemic toxicity and allergens. Internally, the skin helps to maintain homeostasis and protects from enhanced loss of water from the body (Kanwar, 2018). 

 

SIGNS OF A DAMAGED SKIN BARRIER

How do you know if your skin barrier is damaged? Chances are you’ve seen these signs yourself, because irritation is mostly on the superficial layer of the skin, so they’re easy to spot (Elias). You’ll know your skin barrier is compromised when it is:

  1. Dry or Scaly: This is most easily spotted on darker skin (think ashy-ness) 
  2. Itchy/Irritated/Sensitive: Looks like red spots, an irritating feeling to scratch the skin
  3. Infected/Clogged Pores (Acne): Usually shows up as pus filled bumps, with redness
  4. Fungal/Bacterial Infections: Might show up as discolored patches of skin that also can itch, or acne.  

 

WHAT CAN DAMAGE YOUR SKIN BARRIER

According to Ehrhardt Proksch et. al, there are many ways your skin barrier can become damaged. 

The most notable and dangerous aggravator to the skin is UV damage without protection (Strugar et. al), so pleaseee wear your SPF! Apart from that, there are other less obvious irritants to the skin. 

For example, using products that are not well adjusted to your skin's pH (which is slightly acidic at about 4-5.5), most commonly a product on the alkaline (basic) side of the pH scale. This discrepancy can certainly cause irritation. A good example is when you use a soap that strips your skin of all its moisture (side eyeee!!). 

Environments can also affect your barrier negatively. If a room is very muggy or humid, oftentimes your skin can become red and irritated, with the skin also becoming less tough, or an environment that’s too dry (Proksch et. al). 

Another important skin aggressor would be harsh physical exfoliants (beads, seeds, shells), which can quite literally slowly destroy the skin barrier through micro tears (Proksch et. al). Although more safe, over-exfoliating with chemical exfoliators can also cause harm. 

It’s important to note that sometimes decreased barrier function can also be genetic, and therefore inevitable (Strugar et. al), with conditions such as atopic dermatitis or psoriasis, which should always be treated with the help of a dermatologist! 

 

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR SKIN BARRIER

So with that being said, here are a few simple ways to maintain a healthy skin barrier!

  • Simplify your skincare routine! Stick with washing your face with lukewarm water, cleansing with a gentle cleanser. 
  • Look for fragrance-free products to use on your skin to avoid irritation caused by terpenes found in fragrant oils
  • Avoid or cut down on exfoliators whether it’s physical or chemical until your skin feels back to normal. 
  • Mind your gut. The effect of synbiotics and omega-3 fatty acids on the gut barrier may be linked to their effects on immune regulation and the expression of skin barrier proteins (Parke, Perez-Sanchez, Zamil, Katta, 2021). 

 

And if your skin is breaking out, we have JUST the solution for you: The MULTI Patch 2.0. It's not just a pimple patch. It's a pimple patch with postbiotic actives to hydrate, soothe, and inhibit the growth of acne. Not only that, it'll help prevent you from picking!!

Get your MULTI Patch here ☻ 

 

Written by Alayna Bouie, BSPS, MSPS, founder of Shereen Cosmetics

Find her work here: Alayna BouieShereen Cosmetics

 

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AS MEDICAL ADVICE. THIS POST IS NOT MEANT TO TREAT, CURE, PREVENT, OR DIAGNOSE CONDITIONS OR DISEASES; AND IS MEANT FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES. AS ALWAYS, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE TRYING ANY NEW TREATMENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS.

 

Elias PM. Epidermal lipids, barrier function, and desquamation. J Invest Dermatol. 1983;80 Suppl:44s-49s.

Proksch E, Brandner JM, Jensen JM. The skin: an indispensable barrier. Exp Dermatol. 2008;17(12):1063-1072. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0625.2008.00786.x

Proksch E, Brasch J. Abnormal epidermal barrier in the pathogenesis of contact dermatitis. Clin Dermatol. 2012;30(3):335-344. doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2011.08.019

Strugar TL, Kuo A, Seité S, Lin M, Lio P. Connecting the dots: From skin barrier dysfunction to allergic sensitization, and the role of moisturizers in repairing the skin barrier. J Drugs Dermatol. 2019;18(6):581.

Matt Venus, Jacqueline Waterman, Ian McNab, Basic physiology of the skin, Surgery (Oxford), Volume 28, Issue 10, 2010, Pages 469-472, ISSN 0263-9319

Kanwar AJ. Skin barrier function. Indian J Med Res. 2018 Jan;147(1):117–8. doi: 10.4103/0971-5916.232013. PMCID: PMC5967208.

Parke MA, Perez-Sanchez A, Zamil DH, Katta R. Diet and Skin Barrier: The Role of Dietary Interventions on Skin Barrier Function. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2021 Jan 29;11(1):e2021132. doi: 10.5826/dpc.1101a132. PMID: 33614213; PMCID: PMC7875671.

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