Damaged Skin Barrier? Here are the symptoms to watch for
Our skin is our largest organ and can weigh up to 3.5 kilograms. It’s both waterproof and protects the body against extreme temperature, harmful chemicals and damaging sunlight. As one of the hardest working organs we have, how do you protect your skin from damage? Or even know when it’s damaged?
The skin barrier, sometimes called the moisture barrier, is crucial to protecting the health and wellbeing of your skin. To better understand your skin barrier, there are three layers to your skin you need to know about.
Maybe you've done some damage, or maybe you want to avoid damaging the skin barrier in the first place, and want to learn more. This article is for you.
What is the skin barrier and why is it important?
The skin barriers primary function is to keep the bad guys out and good guys in. When the skin barrier is unhealthy, irritants are able to penetrate and moisture is lost. With a healthy, well functioning skin barrier, irritants are kept out and moisture is retained. Possible irritants include pollution, UV radiation, harmful bacteria, viruses and so on.
The skin barrier is so important, yet overlooked. We often don't understand its value until we see a rash or feel pain and our skin has been damaged. If that's what led you here, don't freak out, it's not too late to start looking after it. Treat your skin barrier with the patience and care it deserves, and it will replenish.
So what makes up your skin?
Your skin is constructed of three layers.
1. The Epidermis
The outer layer is called the epidermis. It produces pigment and prevents most bacteria, viruses and unwanted substances from entering. The melanocytes in this layer filters out ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun to protect your skin from wrinkles and aging.
2. The Dermis
The Dermis is where the nerve endings, sweat glands and glands that release sebum exist (an oily substance that is moisturizing to your skin. This layer is crucial to holding up your skin as it is the thickest part and where the collagen protein and elastin reside to keep your skin supple and vibrant.
3. The Subcutaneous tissue
The deepest layer of your skin is called the Subcutaneous tissue. It consists primarily of fat cells and connective tissue. It provides temperature regulation and shock absorption to protect your vital organs.
As you may have guessed it, what we refer to as the skin barrier is part of the epidermis. To be even more specific, it's actually the very top layer of the epidermis called the stratum corneum. Having a healthy epidermis provides you with healthy hydrated skin that is smooth, elastic, and less susceptible to irritation.
Over exfoliation can harm your skin
When it comes to skin care, there is a lot of talk about cleansing and exfoliation. Remove dirt, remove oil, remove makeup. Now cleansing daily is definitely important, but exfoliating is not. Researchers have recently found that beneficial skin bacteria present in our skin that can prevent the growth of harmful microbes. Over cleansing or exfoliating may strip skin of this good bacteria and damage the skin barrier. When it comes to exfoliating your skin, avoid harsh chemicals, scrubbing and opt for natural gentle formulations. Instead of exfoliating your skin every day, try once a week.
What are the signs of a damaged skin barrier?
- Sensitive or sensitised skin - when your skin reacts to products it never used to
- Dry, scaly or flaky skin appearance
- Inflammation & redness
- Skin infections
- Hyperpigmentation or discolouration
- Increase in acne
- Rosacea and eczema - whilst these conditions may have a genetic basis, having a damaged skin barrier can cause it to flare up.
What causes the damage?
There's a variety of things that cause damage to the skin barrier.
Environmental factors include too much humidity, a season that's too dry, overexposure to the sun, harsh detergents or soaps, over cleansing or too much exfoliating, genetic conditions like eczema or dermatitis and even stress.
These are all potential culprits to a compromised skin barrier.
The first step is identifying the cause of your damaged skin and taking action to reverse the damage and start the healing process.
How to repair your damaged skin
It may take up to a month or more to repair your damaged skin barrier while you switch to a more simple and gentle skin care routine.
First off, let’s slow down on the chemical peels or exfoliation. Allow your skin barrier to return to normal, then you can exfoliate but only do it once a week.
Avoid using harsh cleansers. Anything with sulphates can be very drying to your skin. Opt for a gentle oil cleanser for sensitive skin.
Avoid putting products on your skin that contain parabens that are one of the harshest preservatives and known to cause contact dermatitis
Go for minimal make up or take some make up free days to give your skin room to breathe and repair.
Take a break from these ingredients while your skin barrier heals:
- Azelaic acid - It can lead to irritation by reducing the thickness of the outer layer of your skin
- Alpha hydroxy acids - AHAs exfoliate your skin. As mentioned above, wait till your skin barrier returns to normal, then exfoliate once a week.
- Beta hydroxy acids - BHAS are also exfoliating, which you should avoid when the skin barrier is compromised.
- SD alcohol - Specially Denatured Alcohol will show on the label followed by a number-letter combination. lt can be drying for your skin and is a lot more likely to cause irritation when your skin barrier is compromised.
- Benzoyl peroxide - In general, benzoyl peroxide may cause irritation and peeling skin. With a poorly functioning skin barrier, you will likely experience stinging or a burning sensation. It will also slow down the healing process.
- Vitamin C - Concentrated amounts of Vitamin C, like you may find in serums, can be irritating to skin. Bear in mind not all vitamin C are created equally, L-ascorbic acid (L-AA) is the most potent form of vitamin C that is most likely to cause irritation.
- Retinol - When used too frequently, or in concentrations too high, retinol is known to damage the skin barrier. In the circumstance of a damaged skin barrier, either opt out from using it, or use it very minimally.
- Sulphates - Sulphates strip your skin of its natural oils. At a time when hydration is key, this is an ingredient you definitely want to avoid.
- Parabens - When the guard of your skin barrier is down, you especially don’t want to be applying products that are linked to breast cancer. Parabens mimic estrogen and a study found traces of parabens inside breast tumors. This is one we recommend avoiding altogether, regardless of whether you have poor skin function or not.
Don't add so many steps to your routine. After gently cleansing your face, moisturise with the natural ingredients of Jojoba Oil, Kakadu Plum, Organic Rosehip Oil and Lilly Pilly found in Kadee Botanicals skincare.
The vitamins A, E and C found in Kadee Botanicals facial skincare products are gentle enough to repair your damaged skin barrier and reverse the drying effects of damaged skin.
So what's the takeaway?
Your skin barrier is important for your health, and glowing skin. You don't need to refrain from the above activities and ingredients all together, forever. However, some ingredients we definitely recommend avoiding like parabens, sulfates, artificial fragrance, and artificial colours. Especially if you have sensitive skin.
Ease off until your skin barrier is healed, then be more mindful in your future routine. Even if your skin barrier is not currently damaged, you can incorporate rest days for your skin barrier using the guidelines above. Prevention is a much more ideal scenario than treatment.
If you have a friend who might be going too hard on the active ingredients, do their skin a favour by sharing this with them.
And remember... It's not just about beauty
Thanks to billboards, movies, music videos and so on... It's easy to just focus on aesthetics when it comes to your skin. But your skin is important in much more ways than simply its appearance. It functions for your health and well being! And it just so happens that a healthy skin barrier also means radiant, hydrated skin with an even complexion.
Products we recommend
Whether it's full time abstinence from harsh chemicals, or a part time break, your skin can benefit from natural beauty products formulated with care. Natural ingredients offer a variety of results like skin brightening, smoothing out fine lines, hydration, evening out pigmentation and more!
Kadee Botanicals Hydrating Day & Night Cream. It's formulated with ingredients that are kind to your skin like jojoba oil, kakadu plum, macadamia oil and organic rosehip oil. It's designed to moisturize and hydrate your skin naturally, all without throwing off your skin barrier.
There's more skin than what's on your face! Your skin is the largest organ of your body, it makes up 15% of your total body weight and is home to over 1,000 types of bacteria. It's worth your care and attention. Here at Kadee Botanicals, we formulated a gentle yet effective moisturizing Kadee Botanicals Body Lotion. Your skin will soak up this natural goodness without leaving that greasy feeling behind!