The skin barrier, also known as the stratum corneum, is responsible for retaining water to keep the skin hydrated, transporting vital nutrients to the skin and protecting the body from external stressors like pollution, free radicals and microorganisms. The status of your skin barrier also determines how healthy and even toned your skin looks.

If your skin barrier isn’t working as it should, this can cause the skin to be vulnerable to damage making it more prone to dehydration resulting in a dull, dry appearance. A dysfunctional skin barrier can also contribute to acne, eczema, rosacea and psoriasis.

If you are experiencing challenges with your skin, sometimes the best thing you can do is to focus on the integrity of your skin barrier by giving it the nourishment it needs (internally and externally) and also by removing things from your routine that have been shown to irritate and breakdown the barrier.

What is the composition of the skin barrier?

  • Stratum Corneum: The outermost layer of the skin barrier is the stratum corneum which is composed of dead skin cells, known as corneocytes, that are tightly packed together.
  • Lipids: Lipids (ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol) form a lipid matrix between the corneocytes. These lipids act as a protective barrier helping to prevent trans-epidermal water loss while also blocking the entry of harmful substances from the external environment.
  • Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF): NMF’s such as amino acids, urea and lactic acid are water-attracting substances that help the skin hold onto water.
  • Proteins: Structural proteins like filaggrin contribute to the structural foundation of the skin barrier.
  • Microbiome: The skin is colonized by beneficial microorganisms that act as a barrier against invasion, colonization and infection by foreign pathogenic microbes.

What can damage the skin barrier?

  • Too humid or too dry of an environment
  • Allergens, irritants and pollutants
  • Too much sun exposure
  • Alkaline detergents and soaps
  • Exposure to harsh chemicals
  • Over-exfoliation or over-washing
  • Chronic stress
  • Insufficient intake of essential fatty acids

How to repair and maintain the skin barrier?

You see, even skincare practices like washing your face too much can lead to skin issues because it impacts the integrity of your skin barrier, while most people believe that washing your face multiple times a day helps keep it clean when instead, it breaks down protective barriers that actually keep the dirt out!

You are more likely to see results if you focus on the fundamental ways to improve your skin barrier rather than buying all of these different skincare products that promise results but tend to not really deliver.

  • Use Gentle Cleansers: Harsh cleansers can strip away the essential moisturizing and nourishing substances that keep your skin barrier strong. Opt for a gentle cleanser or even an oil cleanser like The Clear Oil!
  • Moisturize Regularly: Moisturizers help replenish the lipid matrix of the skin barrier. Moisturizers like tallow are rich in bio-available nutrients that supply the skin barrier with what it needs to repair and to maintain the skin. New to tallow? Try one of our most popular tallow balms, The Simple One!
  • Avoid Over-Exfoliation: Excess use of abrasive scrubs can cause micro-tears to the skin’s surface. Instead, try a gentle exfoliator like a honey mask every 2-3 days!
  • Pat Your Skin Dry: Tugging, pulling and rubbing your skin can disrupt the barrier. The goal is to be gentle with your skin!
  • Protection from EXCESS UV Exposure: Sun exposure is essential for a healthy body and healthy skin, but you can overdo it! Our skin needs about 15-20 minutes of sun exposure at least 4 times a week. If you find that you’re in the sun for extended periods of time it may be best to utilize a big hat, shade or a mineral based sunscreen.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking mineral-rich water is essential for overall skin health. Hydrated skin helps improve the function of the skin barrier.
  • Limit Hot Water Exposure: Hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils. Use lukewarm water on your face when washing/rinsing to prevent excessive drying.
  • Try To Stay Away From Harsh Skincare Products: Using active ingredients like AHA, BHA, synthetic retinol or anti-acne treatments can break down the skin barrier.
  • Consume Healthy Fats: Consumption of foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids have the potential to improve the skin’s barrier. Foods like avocado, walnuts, oily fish, dairy products, eggs, chia seeds, olive oil, butter, and fatty cuts of meat like chicken thighs, beef ribeye, beef short ribs, and pork belly.