How to Repair a Damaged Skin Barrier
How to Restore Skin Barrier?
From harsh weather to harmful UV rays, pollution, and smoke, your skin endures a lot through the days and the weeks. While working 24 hours a day, it could sometimes become dry, itchy, or irritated with acne, inflammation, or discoloration. One of the possible reasons could be a damaged skin barrier. Not often talked about, a healthy skin barrier is one of the main reasons your skin stays hydrated, moisturized, and healthy. This blog discusses everything about skin barrier, reasons for barrier damage, and how you can repair it back to its full glory.
What is Skin Barrier?
Skin is made of three layers. The outermost layer is the epidermis. Within the epidermis, there are five layers. The outermost layer in the epidermis is the stratum corneum that acts as the skin barrier. The stratum corneum is the first line of defense against harmful external factors. Because this layer protects your body against toxic external substances, it becomes the skin’s protective barrier. The barrier looks like bricks made up of corneocyte skin cells, glued together with fats like ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. These fats in the epidermis are also called lipids.
The Function of the Skin Barrier
Your skin’s protective barrier has two main functions.
- To act as a defense against harmful external factors like pollution, UV rays, environmental irritants, smoke, toxins, etc.
- To keep the moisture and hydration locked inside the deep skin layers.
If, for any reason, the barrier gets compromised or damaged, it could lead to dehydrated, dry, and flaky skin, itching, skin irritation, inflammation, even redness, rosacea, and psoriasis, in some cases.
Reasons why Skin Barrier Gets Damaged
Lipids are the natural fats that protect our skin from damage, strengthening the protective barrier. The skin’s protective barrier gets damaged once the lipids are broken down. Here are a few reasons why this happens.
- Over-Exfoliation. Although exfoliation is necessary to maintain healthy skin, overdoing it can significantly affect your skin’s protective barrier. Harshly exfoliating the skin will further add to it. Besides removing the dead skin cells, over-exfoliation will strip your skin of natural oils and leave you with a damaged skin barrier.
- Overwashing with Harsh Cleansers. Overwashing your face with some very harsh cleansers can strip the skin of essential oils, leaving it extremely dry and irritated. This could lead to a damaged skin barrier in the process.
- Over-use of Active Ingredients. Active ingredients like AHAs, retinol, niacinamide, vitamin C, Hyaluronic acid, and acne creams have a very intense reaction on the skin. While all of them are great on the skin as per your need and skin type, overusing some of them like the AHAs, retinol, and acne creams could damage your skin barrier. Also, because these ingredients work as exfoliators to remove dead skin cells from the deep skin layers, it could have the same impact on the barrier as over-exfoliation.
- Washing with Too Hot Water. Washing your skin with hot water will melt the natural fats on the skin, also called lipids. These lipids are the glue that binds the brick-like skin cells together and does not let the environmental irritants get in or hydration and moisture to leave. If these lipids melt away, nothing keeps the skin cells together, giving way to irritants to enter the skin and hydration and moisture to leave it. That is when the skin barrier gets damaged.
- Environmental Factors. Going too much out in pollution and environmental irritants like dust, smoke, and dirt can often leave the skin irritated with surplus dead skin cells. Not doing anything to clean up these dead skin cells will never let your skincare products seep through the skin layers to have any effect on the skin. This will make your skin dry, dehydrated, dull, or oily, acne-prone, and unhealthy with visible effects like hyperpigmentation, dark spots, or age spots.
- Harsh Weather. Too hot or too cold weather can also hamper your skin barrier. Cold weather will strip your skin of hydration and moisturization, damaging your skin barrier, while during hot weather, the sun’s UV rays will have immensely harmful effects on the skin, harming your skin barrier as a result.
- Aging. Aging is one of the reasons you could have a damaged skin barrier. As you age, your skin cells and the fats that keep them glued become weaker, leaving you with a compromised barrier.
- Genetics. Your genes could also carry skin conditions like atopic dermatitis or psoriasis, which could become a significant cause of a damaged skin barrier.
Ways to Repair Damaged Skin Barrier
Some of the symptoms of a damaged skin barrier are dry, dehydrated, dull, and flaky skin with redness or dark spots, hyperpigmentation, acne, inflammation, bacterial or fungal infections, and even rosacea, psoriasis, or eczema. Here are some ways to repair a damaged skin barrier.
- Avoid Exfoliation. If you see any of the above-mentioned signs of a damaged skin barrier, it is better to avoid exfoliation for some weeks. This way, your skin can heal itself with its production of natural oils. Exfoliation is twice a week process. Make sure to stick to the same process after you start doing it again, and exfoliation will never become the cause of a damaged skin barrier for you. If you want, you can use a moisturizer with lactic acid. It will gently remove dead skin cells without drying your skin.
- Use Gentle Cleansers. Using mild and gentle cleansers will not tighten or dehydrate your skin. You should go for sulfate-free cleansers that match your skin type, are mild on the skin, and maintain your skin's pH level. Cleanse only twice a day.
- Follow a Simple Daily Skincare Routine. Continuously avoiding your daily skincare routine can have lasting implications on the skin. Your skin might become dry, dehydrated, or aggressively oily with acne. Follow a simplified twice-a-day skincare routine of cleansing, toning, and moisturizing with sunscreen. You can also include a daily serum your skin needs like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, or any other active ingredient, but make sure you use only one active ingredient at a time. Changing your skincare routine as per the weather is also a step in the right direction. With winters, make sure to switch to a winter skincare routine to help your skin adapt to the changing weather.
- Include Hydrating and Nourishing ingredients in your Skincare. Because skin barrier damage results in dry and dehydrated skin, it is good to include hydrating and nourishing skincare products in your daily routine. Hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, shea butter, vitamin E are some of the hydrating ingredients. Hyaluronic acid is one such ingredient that helps draw hydration into the skin and keeps it locked.
- Use Essential Oils. Some essential plant oils like jojoba oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, sunflower seed oil, olive oil, and rosehip oil work wonderfully to repair the skin barrier. These oils are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and have antioxidants to lock moisture into the skin.
- Always Moisturize. Your skin needs to stay moisturized to nourish and heal itself better. You need to keep the skincare ingredients sealed with a moisturizer as a damaged barrier is a pathway for hydration to evaporate quickly. You can also use a hydrating moisturizer to get the double benefits.
- Never Forget Sunscreen. You need sunscreen to protect your skin from sun damage even when indoors. Use a lightweight broad-spectrum sunscreen. You can also use a hydrating sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection.
Analyzing your skin health is a significant factor in repairing a damaged skin barrier. If you see any signs of a compromised barrier, undo what you did that brought your skin to such a state. Follow the mentioned ways to repair your barrier and keep your skin healthy and happy.
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