The skin barrier acts as a protective layer that helps to shield our skin from the environment and external stressors such as dust, pollution, UV radiation and nasty pathogens, all while also working to retain moisture levels and regulate necessary skin functions.
Naturally, whenever the skin barrier suffers, it can lead to a range of skin issues, such as dryness, irritation, redness, inflammation and itching. Moreover, a compromised skin barrier can also increase the risk of skin infections and heighten its overall sensitivity.
A thriving skin barrier equates to a hydrated, bright and healthy complexion – which is incentive enough always to keep our skin in top shape. In this article, we’ll go over six proven skincare tips to maintain a healthy skin barrier:
1. Keep your routine simple
Think about how many steps are in your current skincare routine or how many products you’ve been layering on. Less is more concerning many things, including your skin barrier health. An overcomplicated routine can do more harm than good, especially if you’re applying one or several ingredients that might be irritating your skin.
Using a simple skincare routine containing only a few high-quality products will go a long way in minimizing the risk of skin barrier damage. It can also help reduce exposure to potentially harmful ingredients like fragrances, preservatives, and dyes, which can be particularly disruptive to sensitive skin types.
2. Avoid over-exfoliation
As tempting as it may be to exfoliate your skin for that instant radiant and glowy complexion, over-exfoliation is another habit that the skin barrier does not appreciate.
Whether through manual exfoliation/ scrubbing or chemical exfoliation, doing this too often can easily disrupt the natural balance of vital oils and moisture in the skin, stripping it all away and resulting in a dry, dehydrated complexion.
Experts recommend limiting manual exfoliation to once a week and avoiding harsh scrubbing (especially with abrasive products). When it comes to daily chemical exfoliants, choose gentle products formulated with mild ingredients for everyday use.
3. Ditch potentially harmful ingredients
Anyone striving for a well-maintained skin barrier should always be reading the labels of their products to ensure they’re getting all of the essential ingredients their skin needs to flourish and none of the ingredients that may potentially be causing harm.
For example, eliminate toners or products that contain harsh astringents such as alcohol and witch hazel. These ingredients are known to dry out the skin and strip it of its natural oils (a surefire way to irritate the skin barrier).
Instead, opt for products containing antioxidants, as well as omega-6 fatty acids like linoleic acid and niacinamide which improves lipid barrier function by increasing ceramide production.
4. Pump up the moisture
One of the most critical components of healthy, happy skin is moisture. When the skin is dehydrated, its barrier can easily and quickly become compromised — resulting in a range of potential skin issues like redness, sensitivity, and irritation.
Laying on a good moisturizer formulated for your skin type both in the morning and at night is one of the best ways to improve the health and integrity of the skin barrier.
However, be sure to choose moisturizers that contain ingredients like glycerin, ceramides, and other lipophilic substances that aid in reducing water loss so that you can effectively lock that moisture in.
5. Choose pH-balanced products
The pH level of your skin’s acid mantle (a thin protective layer on the skin’s surface) plays a critical role in maintaining the skin’s barrier function while protecting it from harmful environmental irritants, bacteria, and loss of water or moisture.
That said, the skin maintains its barrier most effectively at a pH level of around 5.5, which is mildly acidic. An easy way to ensure you select products that won’t throw off your skin’s pH level and disrupt its barrier is to check the labels for mentions of “pH balanced.”
6. Apply that sunscreen daily
Wearing sunscreen every day not only helps to prevent premature wrinkles, sun spots, and other forms of visible sun damage, but it also helps to protect your skin’s barrier.
Unfortunately, UV radiation is known to cause other various kinds of damage to the skin, such as DNA damage, inflammation, oxidative stress, and dehydration — all of which can directly compromise skin barrier function.
It would be best to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, ideally containing zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a combination of both.
These ingredients work as powerful physical blockers that sit on top of the skin, reflecting the UV rays away from it. Therefore, they are less likely to contribute to any skin irritation.