What is Your Skin Barrier?
Your skin is made up of three layers, each of which plays a distinct and important role in protecting your body. The outermost layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, is made up of skin cells called corneocytes. These corneocytes are bound together by lipids and this structure makes up your body’s skin barrier. The skin barrier is often compared to a brick wall, with the skin cells serving as the bricks and the lipids as the mortar that holds them together.
Inside the skin cells you have keratin and natural moisturizers and within the lipid layer you will find cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids. These essential building blocks allow your body to ward off harmful toxins and bacteria. They also help your skin regulate water loss, retain moisture, and stay hydrated. Without your skin barrier, the water in your body would quickly escape, leaving your skin dehydrated. In order for your skin barrier to execute these functions properly, it must be protected and well-maintained.
What Causes Skin Barrier Damage?
Damage to the skin barrier occurs when your skin cells (i.e. the “bricks”) become unglued. This results in water loss that causes skin irritation and dehydration. The most common cause of skin barrier damage comes from practices that strip the skin of its natural oils. This includes using harsh cleansers, exfoliating too hard or too often, or waxing frequently. Other causes may include:
- Too much sun exposure
- Hot showers or baths
- Harsh soaps, fragrances, or detergents
- Lack of sleep
- Irritants, allergens, or pollutants
- Cuts or wounds
- Certain medications like steroids
Signs Your Skin Barrier May Be Damaged
Dehydration, dryness, and irritation are the main, telltale signs of skin barrier damage. Others can include:
- Itchy skin
- Inflammation, stinging, or burning
- Scaly texture
- Wrinkles or fine lines
- Lack of skin elasticity
- Thinning of the epidermal layer
- Visible bacterial infections
How to Repair Skin Barrier Damage
If you suspect your skin barrier might be damaged, no need to stress! Reversing and repairing damage is actually a fairly straightforward process and it starts with letting your skin rejuvenate itself. Keep your skin care simple, cut out exfoliants, and make sure to apply healing and hydrating ointments (like Vaseline or Aquaphor) to the affected areas. When trying to repair skin barrier damage, dermatologists also advise against wearing makeup to prevent further irritation.
Hydrating and nourishing ingredients are going to be your best friend. Stick to products with rejuvenating ingredients like ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, cholesterol, and squalane.
If you’re looking for intense hydration to fight irritation and dryness caused by a damaged skin barrier, look no further. Our best selling Honeybutter intense hydration salve can help you repair and restore damaged skin, protect against harmful bacteria, and speed up the creation of new, healthy skin cells.
Healthline: What To Know About Your Skin Barrier and How to Protect It | Herron Dermatology: Understanding Your Skin Barrier | WebMD: What To Know About Your Skin Barrier and How to Protect It | California Skin Institute: Do These 5 Things to Strengthen Your Skin Barrier