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How To Strengthen the Skin Barrier

The skin barrier is the unsung hero of a healthy-looking complexion. It is the outermost layer of skin which defends against damaging pollution, irritants and UV light whilst locking in essential hydration. Because it is the most visible layer of skin, it’s important to keep it healthy and strong, so here are a few key products to add to your everyday routine to ensure your skin looks and feels its best.

What weakens the skin barrier? 

The skin barrier can be weakened by three main factors: ageing, genetics and environmental stressors. Genetically, some people can develop a weak skin barrier if they suffer with inflammatory conditions such as eczema, as they can disrupt the barrier by breaking down the natural hydrating oils within the surface layer, making it very hard to repair, and in some cases, worsening the skin condition. Additionally, the skin barrier can weaken due to ageing and environmental factors because both reduce the effectiveness of the skin’s natural ceramides which in turn can disrupt the skin barrier’s ability to protect the lower layers.

How can the barrier be strengthened?

Cut out harsh products

When suffering from a damaged skin barrier, it’s important to cut out strong exfoliants, cleansers and scrubs as they can be too aggressive on skin that is already vulnerable. Take a look at your products and swap any astringent cleansers for creamier, more soothing formulas such as Medik8’s Cream Cleanser. This cleanser is free from harsh surfactants and irritating cleansing agents, plus it combines moisturising extracts and oils derived from plants to soften dry patches alongside gentle AHAs which sweep away dead cells without causing irritation. 

Build up the barrier

The skin barrier works with the naturally occurring bacteria present on our skin, so it’s important not to strip it away with harsh cleansers and exfoliants. Try to balance and strengthen the skin with conditioning treatments such as the SKINCITY skincare Barrier Building Second Concentrate. This deeply moisturising formula has a light oil-like texture that conditions dry patches and supports a compromised skin barrier to help dry and damaged skin feel more comfortable. Another product which can reinforce the lipid layer is Dermalogica’s UltraCalming Barrier Repair which is formulated with an UltraCalming Complex. Made with Oat Oil and botanical extracts, this cream penetrates the skin’s surface to disrupt the inflammation process to successfully prevent the discomfort and itching that comes with weakened barrier function. 

Nourish and hydrate

To keep the skin barrier healthy, it’s essential to support and comfort the skin with nourishing products both morning and evening. Look for products that will hydrate and support the skin with ingredients such as Niacinamide, which works to boost healthy ceramide production within the surface layers. We love Verso’s Hydration Serum it’s formulated with Niacinamide and has a lightweight texture yet works to lock in moisture and strengthen skin. Antioxidants such as vitamins B5, C and E also help to support the skin barrier by working to prevent environmental damage. Vitamin E also doubles as a skin-healing hydrator, so try Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin E Mask which contains antioxidant Vitamin E, balancing Niacinamide and anti-inflammatory Adenosine. Its comforting pudding-like texture also makes it a great product to apply to very dry, irritated skin to provide immediate relief from tightness. 

Protect the skin

One of the easiest ways to protect your skin barrier is to wear a daily SPF. Choosing one which is packed with antioxidants and skin-loving ingredients is going to be even more beneficial for damaged or lacklustre skin, so something like the NeoStrata’s Daytime Protection Cream SPF23 is perfect. It provides UV protection whilst effectively calming visible redness and strengthening the lipid layer. 

Image from iStockphoto

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