Great Skincare Divide: Those Who Strengthen Their Skin Barriers and Those Who Don’t
We’ve all heard it before, whether we’ve been told directly or we’ve read it in magazines, books, and on beauty blogs alike: Apply your skincare products in the correct order to keep your skin barrier healthy. And while we may have nodded our heads and agreed with this statement before, what are some things that we should know about this seemingly simple concept? What exactly does this skin barrier or barriers entail, anyway?
In this article, we’ll learn all about the skin barriers and why taking care of them should be everyone’s number one concern when it comes to skincare. If you want to read about the 4 skin barriers and what they are, please click here.
Why you should strengthen your skin barriers
In the skin care community, there is a divide between those who strengthen their skin barriers and those who don’t. There are many reasons to do so – for one, it helps fight inflammation and age your skin more slowly; for another, it’s more sensitive to ingredients if you have sensitive skin. Even though most moisturizers have emollients to try to provide some level of protection against these damages, they’re simply not enough. If your skin isn’t getting the nutrients it needs from external sources (like through skincare products), then it will start taking them from itself by breaking down the proteins that form its natural defenses. Basically, by strengthening your skin barrier, you’re keeping your skin healthier and helping prevent premature aging while also allowing other treatments like topical retinoids to be as effective as possible. The best way to do this is with an emulsion, facial oil or serum containing ceramides, lipid complexes, and cholesterol esters.
Why you’re probably failing at it
Many of us go through the day without giving our skin barriers a thought, like a car running on auto-pilot. For all but the most conscientious among us, too much contact with water, harsh chemicals, and open wounds means that more than a little wear will grind away at the delicate balance of oils and surface molecules. The skin’s lipid layer eventually breaks down, so what starts as dryness can evolve into eczema or worse. The more stressed your skin is by environmental factors or open wounds to protect, the sooner it needs time to heal. Now is when a temporary shield becomes essential–even if you don’t currently have a problem. Using occlusive barrier creams will help the skin re-establish its natural barriers, while soothing those irritating sensations. Products containing natural lipids and antioxidants may be added for extra protection. Add moisturizer with a serum or oil after cleansing so that the they are absorbed better. Start with a dime-sized amount of product and add as needed. Remember: You should also be gently exfoliating 1-2 times per week to remove dead cells that would otherwise clog pores.
How to strengthen your skin barriers
Avoid touching your face, or if you must, be sure to wash your hands first to avoid getting dirt or grease on your skin. While it’s a good idea to wash your face twice a day, scrubbing too hard can break down the skin barriers, disturb skin microbiome and agitate skin immune responses leading to inflammation and even more dryness. Add moisturizer in the morning skin care routine for best protection. Apply thin layers of moisturizer during the day instead of rubbing them into your skin because this will help keep your skin hydrated. It may also help to use an cream with anti-inflammatory ingredients at night that contains ingredients like aloe vera, niacinamide or vitamin E. To make sure your skincare routine is as gentle as possible, always read labels and check out ingredients before applying anything to your skin. Be wary of fragrances, harsh soaps, alcohols, retinoids (especially around the eye area), acids (e.g., alpha hydroxy acid), and any other strong ingredients that could be bad for sensitive skin.
Myths about skin barrier strengthening
Myth #1: No body has time for this, after all, we just want to make our skin look good! We want a quick fix that doesn’t take any effort on our part.
Myth #2: You’re still at an age where you need a basic moisturizer, no one needs a skin barrier anymore once they reach 30.
Myth #3: My skin is oily so my barrier is already naturally strong. I’m not sensitive or prone to allergies.
Myth #4: I don’t need anything special for my skin. I don’t have wrinkles yet and I’m in my 20s/30s/40s/50s/60s etc., so it’s not a problem now.
Myth #5: I know what my skin needs because the products I use seem to work fine. It’s probably due to the ingredients (moisturizing, hydrating, calming, repairing) but really it’s more about how often and consistently you use them.
I am frustrated with this divide because there is so much misinformation out there regarding the importance of healthy skin barriers. I can tell you first hand that maintaining your own healthy barriers will improve your skin’s appearance overall and will save money down the line as well because preventing issues will be easier than treating them!
Final thoughts on keeping your skin barriers strong
Keeping your skin barriers strong has numerous benefits. First, you will be less prone to skin infections such as pimples or boils. Second, you’ll feel better because your skin will be less sensitive to everyday irritants (e.g., chlorine in a pool or UV light). Finally, your skin barriers will help prevent certain signs of aging and inflammaging like wrinkles or sagging by limiting the ability of the lower layers of the epidermis from drying out. When it comes to skincare, it’s important to invest in an effective barrier repair cream that fits your needs in order to get these benefits.
However, there are other steps you can take too: Get plenty of sleep at night, drink plenty of water throughout the day, wear sunscreen on sunny days and limit your exposure to harsh soaps.
Molecular Immunologist & Skincare Expert
As an Immunologist trained in Molecular Medicine and as an expert in skin care and cosmetic chemistry, Dr. Ebru Karpuzoglu has spent +20 years researching skin, impact of hormones on the immune system sharing her findings in international publications with her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by scientists, doctors, editors, bloggers, celebrities and skincare lovers around the world, her deep real-world knowledge and research are invested in every drop of AveSeena.