What Is Skin Barrier And How To Restore It

A strong skin barrier is a "must" in the K-Beauty and has always been a building block in the basics of healthy skincare and protection. Team Eunogo dove into this topic to help you understand why it is important and how we can better care of our skin barrier. 

First of all, what is skin barrier?

Your skin, your body’s largest organ, is composed of a vast and complex network of various cells, proteins, ceramides, and lipids. There are nine lipids that make up your epidermis, the top layer of your skin and the most vital component of all: the skin barrier. Take a close look at the back of your hand. See how your skin looks textured, almost like bricks and mortar keeping them together? You’re looking at the collagen and lipids (the “bricks” and “mortar” whose essential job is to keep moisture locked inside your skin. 

If your epidermis is lacking ceramides, you may experience it as rough, flaky and dry skin conditions. Those who have extremely weakened barriers may also experience it as eczema or psoriasis flare-ups.  

What does your skin barrier do? 

Your skin barrier is crucial to the health of your skin because that combination of 9 lipids (like cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides) is what keeps moisture inside, while keeping damage and bacteria outside. One more very important job relevant to our skincare discussion? Delivering nutrients/vitamins to your skin. Basically, if your skin barrier is healthy, your skin is well hydrated, retaining water, and has a smooth appearance. If your skin barrier is weakened, you may see rough, irritated skin.

If your skin barrier is compromised, no matter how much money you spend on products, it will all be for naught. Simply put, your skin barrier is your front line of defense against free radicals, bacteria, and pollution.

Can my skin barrier be damaged?

In short, yes. The most common skin barrier weakness may actually be caused by genetics. Pollution and constant UV exposure (remember to wear your SPF) can also weaken your skin barrier, as can over-exfoliation. Weather and atmospheric conditions alike can affect your barrier as well. For example, because Korea is prone to dust storms in the spring, which can cause irritation to the face, many Korean brands focus on skin barrier strengthening ingredients in their products.  

Another prime example of skin barrier damaging procedures? Ablative lasers like CO2, which have to cause damage to the epidermis in order to create new collagen fibers underneath. Immediately post-procedure and for weeks after, your skin barrier may be damaged and sensitive. Last, but not least, sunburn/sun damage will really hurt your skin barrier. So feel free to get up and go reapply your SPF now. Don’t worry, this Journal will be waiting for you when you come back.  

How can I tell if my barrier is damaged?

Great question! The most tell-tale signs of a compromised or weakened skin barrier are itchy, dry skin, sometimes it may even feel scaly. People who suffer from eczema or psoriasis are extreme but quite common examples of a skin barrier that is not working properly, in balance to retain moisture. 

If you are experiencing inflammation and unusual acne breakouts, it may also be an indication that something is amiss. A bacterial or fungal infection that just won’t heal can also be a sign, as your skin barrier is supposed to keep nutrients in and infectious substances out.  

How do I protect and restore my skin barrier?

One of the first things to check would be your skincare routine. Are you using physical exfoliants rather than enzyme based? If you’re using harsh scrubs and brushes this may be a good time to stop and switch to a gentle chemical exfoliator using AHA, BHA or PHA

Next, use skincare with a high amount of ceramides. Ceramide is one of the building block lipids contained in the “mortar” between the “bricks” of your skin cells.  Not only does it work diligently to keep your skin hydrated and retain moisture, but it also works to build skin elasticity and the structural integrity of your moisture barrier.  

Finally, make sure you are using moisturizers with a high hyaluronic acid (HA) content. HA binds with collagen and water on a molecular level and helps keep your skin hydrated and smooth. You can read more about the benefits of HA here.

Recommended products for strengthening the skin barrier

<Ceramine Dual Balance Toner>

<Ceramine Time Solution Cream>

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