Sun 101 |

Everything You Need to Know about Your Skin Barrier

what is the skin barrier

What is the skin barrier? We’ve been reading a lot of articles recently about maintaining a healthy skin barrier – namely this one in the NY Times – and we wanted to surface a few of the takeaways for you, our friends and fans. So keep reading to learn more about your skin barrier and how to keep it as healthy as possible.

Your skin barrier

Simply put, your skin barrier is the outermost layer of your epidermis (and the epidermis is the outer layer of the two main layers of cells that make up your skin). A healthy skin barrier keeps irritants out, while locking natural oils and moisture in. An unhealthy skin barrier doesn’t really act as a barrier at all…instead, it allows irritants to penetrate into your skin, and that can weaken it and prevent it from functioning properly to maintain your skin’s health. This can also manifest itself in the form of dry, red skin. 

what is the skin barrier

Your acid mantle

Your skin barrier is composed of one key piece called the acid mantle. This is a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of your skin (made of natural oils, amino acids and sweat) that helps shield your skin from bacteria, viruses and other potential contaminants. 

The acid mantle plays a really important role in protecting your skin barrier from external threats by working with skin-natural ingredients like ceramides, cholesterol, enzymes, sweat and even our skin’s own oil. But when it’s out of balance, skin conditions such as dryness, acne, inflammation, enlarged pores and oiliness can arise.

Skin barrier aggressors 

There are a couple of different things that can harm your skin barrier (and acid mantle)…

1.) The products you use

Using too many products or using the wrong ones can disrupt your skin barrier. 

Skincare formulas containing drying alcohol, synthetic fragrance or harsh essential oils in them can really damage your skin and strip it of its nutrients. 

2.) Your surroundings

Environmental aggressors, including UV rays and pollution, can also wreak havoc on your skin. 

Protecting your skin barrier

When it comes to using the right products, you want to make sure that the ones you use first in your routine, the ones that come into closest contact with your skin barrier (your cleansers, toners, actives and moisturizers), have the right pH level so as not to disrupt your acid mantle. This is widely considered to be below a pH of 7. 

But even though these pH-friendly products that are sitting closest to your skin barrier are important, you shouldn’t forget about your skin barrier’s first line of defense against those environmental hazards we also mentioned above, which is (you guessed it) SPF. 

SPF – especially the right SPF with clean ingredients (no parabens, synthetic fragrance, etc.) – can also help protect your skin barrier. After all, if you aren’t protecting your skin from its #1 environmental aggressor – the sun – then what use are your other skincare products? Essentially, sunscreen acts as a shield that helps all the other products underneath it do a better job, since it’s fending off those environmental attacks.

The bottom line

A healthy skin barrier is important. And using the right products – including SPF – will keep it in tip-top shape so that you don’t have to go into repair mode a few years from now. 

+If you have any questions, then just leave them in the comments below and we’ll get back to you.