Skin Barrier 101
Skin barrier, moisture barrier, acid mantle… it can get a bit confusing right? While different names may be used to describe it, there’s one thing that remains constant: the important role it plays in our appearance and overall skin health. Let’s take a look at what our skin barrier is, what it does, and how to best keep it in tip-top shape!
What is a skin barrier?
Made up of corneocytes (aka skin cells) that are held together by healthy fats, lipids, keratin and ceramides, it plays an important part in how our skin looks and feels - bouncy, even-toned, luminous… all the good things we want to see. Your skin’s barrier is naturally acidic (which is why the term acid mantle is used) with a pH of around 5.5, and supporting that pH is the key to success in achieving not just a healthy, happy skin barrier but skin overall.
What does the skin barrier do?
Your skin barrier is the body’s first line of defense when it comes to protecting you from all the harmful stressors out there: viruses, free radicals, bad bacteria, etc. It also keeps our body’s natural water content and essential nutrients inside so that we don’t completely dehydrate and expedite the signs of premature aging like sagging skin and fine lines and wrinkles.
What is the microbiome? Is it the same as my skin barrier?
They’re different! Resting directly on top of the skin barrier is your microbiome - a balance of trillions of microorganisms that live on the skin (and in our bodies!) The microbiome plays a vital role in the health and function of your skin barrier and is responsible for:
- Helping regulate the absorption of defensive antioxidants
- Manage skin inflammation and
- Offsetting the growth of harmful bacteria by maintaining its acidic environment (i.e. the acidic pH we mentioned earlier).
Without it, our skin barrier can become inflamed and compromised, bringing about visible signs of distress like redness, dry patches, blemishes, and even infections.
What can disrupt my skin barrier?
Your skin’s barrier can be stressed out by a bunch of things, some of which are in our control like products, ingredients and lifestyle choices, while others tie back to our surroundings or genetics. These can include:
- Overexposure to the sun and environmental stressors
- Overly dry or hot climates
- Stripping skin by over-cleansing or over-exfoliating
- Chronic inflammatory conditions like eczema
- Not having a balanced, kind-to-skin routine
How can I tell if my skin barrier and microbiome are compromised?
Comprised essentially means “in trouble” and is a way of saying your skin is in distress. When your barrier or biome is off balance, you might notice skin concerns pop up like:
- Increased sensitivity
- Visible signs of inflammation like redness
- Dry patches or tightness (dehydration)
- Pronounced signs of aging (fine lines, sagging skin, etc.)
How can I keep my skin barrier and microbiome balanced?
To keep your skin barrier looking and feeling its best, the easiest way is with a well-rounded skincare regimen filled with balancing facial cleansers, facial serums, moisturizers, and of course, face masks! Try incorporating the following ingredients and products into your daily skincare or weekly masking routine:
- Hydrators like Hyaluronic Acid
- Moisturizers like Shea Butter
- pH-balancing products
- Skin-identical ingredients like fatty acids
- Soothing antioxidants like Niacinamide
Maintaining a happy, healthy skin barrier is non-negotiable but it can be easy to do with a simple, effective skincare routine – hello, Karuna! Were any of these products already in your rotation or are there any newbies you’re excited to try? Let us know below and on Instagram @karunaskin !
Written by Ryan Nelson