The Importance of the Skin Lipid Barrier

Did you know that your skin has a shield that works to protect it 24/7?

The shield is called the stratum corneum or the skin lipid barrier. The skin lipid barrier protects your skin from external irritants, UV rays, pollution, bacteria and chemicals. When your skin lipid barrier is comprised, usually inflammation, dryness and break outs can occur . A weakened skin barrier can’t protect the bottom layers from external irritants.

The top layer of the skin is comprised primarily of lipids and according to most studies a blend of ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol. These lipids help regulate the moisture content within the epidermis.


What disrupts the barrier?


A lot of things can harm your skin’s barrier. Top culprits are believed to be:


1. Over exfoliation – it is not necessary for every skin type to exfoliate daily or weekly. See your dermatologist to determine your exact skin type, which type of exfoliation you require (physical vs. chemical) and how often you should be exfoliating. Also, it is important to note that some things should be avoided after exfoliating. You should avoid some actives (vitamin C, retinol, etc.) if you are using a physical exfoliator at the same time. Ask your dermatologist about what you should and should not be doing after exfoliating.


2. Over cleansing – double cleansing is very popular right now, but it is not necessary for every person or every skin type. Again, ask your dermatologist how often you should be cleansing your skin and whether morning washing is necessary. Micellar water or water cleansing might be all that is necessary, especially if you are not using any actives/acids in your evening routine.


3. Irritating ingredients in your face masks – some ingredients in masks can irritate sensitive skin. Read the ingredients and ask your dermatologist if your regular application of serums, actives, retinols can be used after using these masks.


4. Smoking


5. Diet – Hydrated supple skin begins with a healthy diet and lots of water.


6. Stress – stress increases cortisol levels and inflammation in your body and skin.


How can you improve the skin lipid barrier?

Go back to basics. Ditch the mask, exfoliates, retinols, actives and skin brushes. Studies suggest you may need to do this for several weeks, until your skin’s barrier is restored.


Use the following:

1. Gentle non-abrasive, detergent free cleanser.

2. Toner for sensitive skin – rose water is best

3. Moisturizer – look for a moisturizer with any of these ingredients: ceramides, hydralonic acids, peptides, anti-oxidants and adaptogens.

4. Use sunscreen to prevent further inflammation. Mineral sunscreens are preferred. The chemical based ones can be irritating to sensitive skin.

5. Eat a diet rich in Omega 3s and drink plenty of water. It never hurts to nourish your skin from the inside out.


Of course, avoid exfoliating your skin until after your skin has healed and/or you get the ok from your dermatologist.

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