Dealing with redness that won’t quit? Blame your skin barrier. Woke up to a fresh breakout? Your skin barrier might be to blame. Skin feeling dry and flaky? …you probably know where we’re going with this. Skin’s moisture barrier is the MVP of all its layers, and there’s no way to have a healthy, radiant complexion without it. Here, everything you need to know to keep it in tip-top shape.
What Exactly Is Your Skin Barrier
Consider it your skin’s armor against the world. It acts as your first line of defense against everything, from environmental aggressors (looking at you, pollution) to nasty microbes. “It basically protects you from the outside,” explains Jennifer Chwalek, MD, a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, NY. On top of that, “it maintains the moisture in your skin,” she adds. So, the skin barrier works both ways: It keeps external disruptors out and seals in the good stuff you need, such as moisture. And when it’s functioning properly, skin is smooth, soft, and doesn’t have any redness or visible irritation. The problem? It doesn’t always function properly.
What Messes With the Skin Barrier
A few factors can compromise — or impair or weaken — your skin barrier. Because it’s comprised of lipids, science speak for oils that serve as the glue for skin cells, anything that removes or disrupts these oils can cause damage. A common one is being too enthusiastic with your exfoliating regimen (including acids, manual scrubs, and harsh treatments like retinol). “Over-exfoliating or over-washing can compromise the function of the top layer of your skin,” says Chwalek. Environmental aggressors, including UV exposure, can also affect its function (just think of a bad sunburn), as can dryness. When your skin gets flaky or rough in dry weather, you’re just experiencing an impaired skin barrier in real time. You could also be genetically predisposed to it, as is the case with eczema.
What Happens When It Doesn’t Work
Over time, these various forms of damage chip away at the barrier, eventually giving irritants and bacteria access to the deeper layers of skin and allowing moisture to escape, says Chwalek. This disturbance in skin can manifest in a few ways, and none of them are subtle. “Your skin might look dry, flaky, or dull,” Chwalek explains. “Or you might have red, blotchy rashes.” On top of that, your skin will be more vulnerable to infection. The good news is that in spite of this, you’ll never not know if your skin barrier is impaired — because clearly, it makes itself apparent.
How to Keep It Healthy
Luckily, the solution is fairly simple: Replenish the oils that make up the skin barrier. Chwalek is a fan of ceramides in particular, but anything that’s a lipid is really fair game. “Ceramides, triglycerides, squalane, and different forms of fatty acids — using moisturizer with these ingredients can help create a healthier skin barrier,” she says.
You’ll find all of those skin-barrier repairing ingredients in the Phykology Bright Tomorrow Guardian Cream. This gentle hydrator contains 67% of soothing seaweed as well as nourishing phytosqualane, and skin restoring ceramide NP to fortify your skin barrier and leave it stronger and healthier than ever.
Another boss barrier healer is Propolis, which is the hero ingredient in the Moisture Green Ampoule. It uses a special hydrating version called Brazilian Green Propolis, which is packed with flavonoids — a mega-antioxidant that strengthens your skin’s natural barrier, heals blemishes, and is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.
One other common way people sabotage their skin barrier is by using harsh cleansers that can strip away those protective lipids. Switch to a gentle face wash, like our Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser. It’s made with vitamin-rich Blueberry extract, plus hydrating Hyaluronic Acid to strengthen and replenish as it clears away dirt, makeup, and debris.
Follow these tips to give your skin a fighting chance this winter and beyond.
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