If your skin often feels irritated, inflamed or dehydrated, your skin barrier may be damaged. We’ve put together a quick guide to what that means, what can cause it and repairing a damaged skin barrier.
What is a skin barrier?
First things first: what exactly is a skin barrier? This is the outer layer of your skin that quite literally acts as a barrier between your skin’s inner layers and your outside environment. It’s a combination of tough cells and lipids that bind them together, and it’s what protects you from irritants and bacteria. This barrier also locks in all the important things like water for hydration. When your skin barrier is damaged or weakened, external irritants may be able to break through and water may be lost, leading to skin that feels dehydrated, inflamed, or oily.
An important element of your natural skin barrier is your skin microbiome. This is the term that describes the essential tiny bacteria that live on your skin, helping to balance your skin’s pH and provide a healthy environment for your skin to thrive in. These bacteria help to fight external irritants and can be supported by pH-friendly and probiotic products.
What can damage a skin barrier
The microbiome lives in a delicate balance. There are lots of things that can damage this and your skin barrier, including:
Excess retinol or chemical exfoliants
Retinol is often used to target skin conditions and pigmentation as it helps to speed up the turnover of cells. However, when used incorrectly, it can damaged your skin barrier and sometimes cause irritation and inflammation that affects the microbiome. This goes for many potent chemical exfoliants, which can strip the skin’s natural defences if used in excess. Pairing these products with barrier-boosting options can help prevent some of the damage and give your skin the boost it needs to recover.
A broken skin barrier can lead to water loss, which may dehydrate your skin. Frustratingly, dehydration may, in turn, disrupt the functioning of your skin barrier. Using hydrating skincare products to support your skin and making sure you drink plenty of water to hydrate the rest of your body can ensure your skin barrier is functioning at its best.
Constant exposure to air pollutants can put extra stress on your body. As well as causing irritation, it can promote the production of free radicals, which are moving cells in your body that can collide with and damage the cells that make up your skin barrier. Finding protective products that you can apply at the beginning of your day can help give your body an extra line of defence against any irritants.
Excess hot water
Hot water can strip the natural fats and oils that help protect your skin and make up important aspects of your skin barrier, so constantly choosing hot water over cool or lukewarm could lead to dry and dehydrated skin. Limiting time spent under hot water and using cooler temperatures on sensitive areas like your face can help to support your skin.
It’s thought that smoking can make it harder for the body to repair any damage to the skin barrier, leaving more opportunity for irritants to slip through. The smoke itself may put stress on the skin and disturb the microbiome’s natural balance. Cutting smoking could help to restore your skin barrier’s ability to function.
How to repair a damaged skin barrier
To keep your skin barrier at its best, choose products that support natural functioning and maximum hydration. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid help draw more moisture into the skin’s top layer, ensuring your skin feels healthy and hydrated.
Our Advanced Genifique Serumhas been developed after 20 years of research and inspired by microbiome science. Along with hyaluronic acid, it contains a new complex of seven prebiotic and probiotic-derived extracts that support skin barrier recovery and pH balance. For those with reactive or sensitive skin, we’ve created the Advanced Genifique Sensitive Serum with Ferulic acid and Vitamin E.