4 Reasons Why The Skin Barrier Is So Important

By Carla Oates

Although we innately know that beauty begins in the belly®—our skin barrier also plays a critical role in healthy skin and a glowing complexion.

And while you may not have previously given your skin barrier much consideration—or even really know what that means—it’s likely that the topical skincare products that line your bathroom cabinet all promise to nurture and nourish your skin on a surface level, thereby protecting this incredibly important layer of skin.

The question is, why is the skin barrier so important? And, if we have a damaged skin barrier, how do we then go about protecting, preserving and repairing it?

Here’s everything you need to know…

What Is The Skin Barrier?

First things first, the skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin—also known as the epidermis or stratum corneum—and consists of epithelial tissue (yes, just like your gut wall!) that essentially protects your body from its external environment. It is often referred to as ‘bricks and mortar’ as its cells (known as corneocytes) act as the bricks, tightly packed together to give your skin barrier its structure—and these are glued together by lipids (known as ceramides). Beneath this critical layer lies the dermis and in essence, this is what your skin barrier helps to protect as it’s this lower layer that houses things like your sweat glands and blood vessels, as well as collagen and elastin—the proteins that keep your skin firm, plump and healthy.

Why Is The Skin Barrier So Important?

Given its complex structure and innate intelligence, it’s clear to see just how important our skin barrier is—not only for our outer beauty, but our inner health as well. Acting as the interface between our external world and inner environment, our skin barrier exhibits a range of diverse functions, including:

Maintaining moisture & preventing water loss
Our skin is permeable, but this doesn’t just mean that it is vulnerable to external aggressors that seek to penetrate the skin—this permeability is bidirectional. Put simply, one of the main roles of the skin barrier is to regulate and manage our moisture and lipid levels, whilst maintaining a balanced pH. You may have also heard of transepidermal water loss (TEWL). This occurs when the skin barrier is damaged and the tight junctions of cells become even more permeable—allowing not only foreign irritants to penetrate the skin’s surface, but allowing water to leave our skin, too. The symptomatic manifestation of this TEWL can be dryness, redness, irritation, dehydration or flaky skin.

Protection from pathogens
You’ve likely heard us talk about the skin being our first line of defence—not only on a superficial level but also in terms of how it can impact our gut health and overall wellbeing, too. Well, this is due to the fact that our skin barrier also acts as an antimicrobial barrier and has its own unique microbiome which protects us from pathogens, viruses, bacteria and fungi that we don’t want and prevents their growth. On a more complex level, our skin also plays a role in our immune response system with immune cells inhabiting both the epidermis and dermis—and with research indicating how reduced microbial diversity in the gut can result in a weakened immune system and thereby contribute to skin inflammation and damage to the skin’s protective barrier, it’s even more important to nourish and fortify our skin’s delicate ecosystem and maintain its balance. 

 

Reducing the impact of environmental stressors
Everyday we are faced with literally countless external aggressors. From sun exposure and blue light, pollution, extreme weather, smoke, harsh chemicals and allergens—our skin has a lot to deal with and when our skin barrier is compromised, it can leave us vulnerable to a whole host of skin issues (think dry skin, sensitive skin, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, breakouts and acne). However, our skin barrier also has a photoprotection barrier, meaning that when robust and healthy, it can help to reduce the effects of ultraviolet (UV) light exposure—and subsequently reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles caused by these environmental stressors.

 

Mitigating the effects of oxidative stress
The skin barrier also boasts antioxidant properties which help to mop up free radicals, mitigating and reducing the effects of oxidative stress—a process that damages your cells and DNA. As mentioned above, our skin comes into contact with a myriad of aggressors each day and while free radicals are naturally produced by normal metabolic processes, lifestyle and environmental factors like UV exposure and pollution can really ramp them up and compromise our skin barrier. A well-nourished and supported skin barrier, however, will ensure that our skin remains firm, plump and glowy!

How To Repair The Skin Barrier

The good news is that there are a number of ways to protect, preserve and repair the skin barrier—beginning with avoiding causing any unwanted damage. This includes avoiding over-exfoliation, as well as ditching harsh chemicals, scrubs and soaps which can strip the skin barrier of its natural oils in favour of gentle cleansers which promote barrier repair. Likewise, being mindful of the actives you include in your skincare routine is also important as vitamin A in the form of retinol, for example, can be irritating and cause extreme sensitivity in some people. Likewise essential oils and fragrances can be irritating and disrupt the skin’s acid mantle so simplifying your skincare routine can be a wonderful first step.

The key, however, is to lock in moisture by using a hydrating face oil and moisturiser that contain ingredients specifically selected for their hydrating and nourishing properties—including emollients like squalane, humectants like hyaluronic acid, fatty acids and plant oils like jojoba, rosehip and argan oil—as well as antioxidants like vitamin C, A and E which nourish skin cells and help to prevent barrier damage.

And finally, don’t forget to consider your diet as what you consume internally can also assist with skin barrier repair and protection. Focusing on a well-balanced, wholefoods-based diet is a good start as is incorporating some of our inner beauty products like GLOW and OMEGA ELIXIR™ into your daily routine. While GLOW contains 18 Certified Organic wholefoods as well as vitamin C to support collagen production and provitamin A which is necessary for healthy cellular turnover, OMEGA ELIXIR™ contains an abundance of plant-based omega 3, 6, 7 andf 9 oils as well as sea buckthorn and evening primrose oil to ease inflammation and promote a smoother, more supple complexion from the inside, out.

 

OMEGA ELIXIR™ Inner Beauty Boost

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A vegan, citrus-flavoured drinking oil to quench dry, irritated skin from within.

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