Why your skin’s barrier function is a big deal
Did you know our skin is our largest organ? It literally covers every inch of our bodies and is just as high functioning as our brain, lungs and heart.
Pretty crazy to think, right? Especially considering it’s external – there to protect our bones, muscles and internal organs. So while the skin’s protecting all of that, what’s protecting the skin?
Unfortunately there aren’t microscopic soldiers fighting against all the skin baddies – think irritants, allergens, pollutants and more – but there is something called the skin barrier function that’s just as impressive...
What is the skin barrier function?
The skin barrier refers to the stratum corneum - the outermost layer of the skin. It's made of parallel stacks of skin cells (think of them like bricks), embedded in a lipid matrix (comparable to mortar, the paste that binds bricks together). The skin barrier helps to prevent water loss, and protects us from harmful materials, microorganisms and harsh environmental factors such as the wind, cold and sun.
What does it look like?
When the skin barrier is functioning at its optimum, your skin will look “even in complexion, with a little moisture and shine,” says Eva Karpati, Dermal Technician, Karpati Medispa. “There should be a suppleness to the touch and skin should feel hydrated.” Essentially, your skin will look and feel healthy – so although you can’t necessarily see the skin’s barrier function, you can trust it’s working optimally if your skin is in good condition.
Can the skin barrier function ever be damaged or weakened?
Unfortunately there are some elements that can weaken the skin’s barrier function so our skin doesn’t appear as beautiful, soft and smooth as we’d like. The sun is a big culprit, says Eva. “UV rays injure DNA, corrupting synthesis and the structure of the [skin].”
Consultant dermatologist Dr Liz Dawes-Higgs adds that “skin disease, allergens and infectious agents” can also weaken the skin’s barrier function and when this happens “the skin looks dry, feels rough and can also become itchy and sore.”
So not only will a weakened skin barrier feel and look unhealthy, but if it’s not functioning at its optimum, it allows for the penetration of organisms, irritants and allergens.
How to keep your skin barrier healthy
In order to help your skin’s barrier perform at its best, there are a few things you can do.
Despite the freezing cold weather winter brings, Liz says to keep your showers short and lower in temperature, as hot water can cause further dryness and irritation.
In terms of which products to use, Liz says to avoid harsh soaps and look for ingredients that are soothing on the skin, like colloidal oatmeal.
“Oatmeal has been used on the skin for years,” says Liz.
Colloidal oatmeal is a natural and effective ingredient for soothing damaged skin and also aids in restoring and maintaining the skin’s barrier function.
Unfortunately lathering your skin in the same oats you eat for breakfast won’t have quite the same effect, but it’s easy enough to reap the benefits of oatmeal by popping Dermaveen’s Daily Nourish Soap Free Wash* in your shower.
Liz also says that “damaged skin can be improved by applying a moisturiser”, so as hard as it can be to remember (hands up if you haven’t moisturised in the last 48 hours? #guilty), try using one after your shower.
The hypoallergenic formula of DermaVeen Daily Nourish Moisturising Lotion* also contains colloidal oatmeal and is fragrance-free – a big win for those with sensitive skin (or nostrils). A good trick is to apply it while the skin is still slightly damp, so it’s easily spread and absorbed.
And last, but certainly not least, wearing a sunscreen is essential to protect the skin barrier from UV damage. “I cannot stress enough the importance of using an SPF every day, regardless of season and activity,” says Eva.
To keep things really simple, you can use DermaVeen Revive & Protect Body Moisturiser SPF 50+*. We all love a multitasker and this moisturiser will help to replenish the skin barrier, while protecting it from UV damage at the same time.
Even if your skin barrier is currently weak, resulting in dry, sensitive or itchy skin, the right products can be used to restore and improve its condition to help your skin look and feel better.
Did you know oatmeal was good for the skin? Have you ever tried DermaVeen?
*Always read the label. Use only as directed. If symptoms persist see your healthcare professional.