When it comes to keeping UV rays, pollutants, microbes, and other environmental nasties from finding their way inside your body, there’s no better defense than your skin barrier.

Not only does it play the essential role of keeping the bad stuff out, but it also does the equally important job of keeping hydration in so that your skin stays soft, supple, and strong.

While it’s nice to know someone’s always got your back, your skin barrier needs a little help from you to maintain its integrity and do its job correctly.

Today, we’ll explain what the skin barrier is, including its “brick and mortar” structure, how you can recognize signs of damage, the dos and don’ts of proper care, and a few of Dr. Briden’s dermatologist-recommended skincare faves for improving barrier health.

The Science Behind Your Skin’s First Line of Defense

You may have been taught in anatomy class that the epidermis is the outermost layer of skin, but did you know it’s further split into four or five layers?

The outermost of these layers- the stratum corneum- is what we often refer to as our skin, lipid, or moisture barrier. It comprises many layers of brick-like corneocytes, tough skin cells held together by a lipid “mortar” composed of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.

These two components form a remarkably strong blockade against external risks while also playing home to a customized mix of yeast, viruses, and good bacteria that make up the skin microbiome. Your skin’s slightly acidic pH gives these florae a safe place to hunker down while keeping unfamiliar microbes from invading your skin to wreak havoc.

All these different pieces come together synergistically, and when everything’s in the correct proportions, it works like a well-oiled machine.

However, without the proper preventatives, something as small as a change in the weather can throw off this natural harmony and lead to a damaged skin barrier.

Signs of a Damaged Skin Barrier

With all of these powerful defenses in place, it might be a surprise that your moisture barrier is still susceptible to damage when its ingredients fall out of balance.

For example, a lack of ceramides or cholesterol makes it much more difficult for your skin to retain moisture, leading to flaky, dry skin.

When it’s fatty acids that you’re missing, your skin develops rough spots and has a tougher time repairing itself from minor injuries.

Throw off the pH balance, and your skin can’t fend off harmful bacteria or produce the amount of lipids needed to bind together corneocytes.

Keep an eye out for these early signs of a compromised skin barrier so you can take measures to restore it:

  • Sudden sensitivity to products you’ve used before with no problems
  • Redness
  • Dryness and flakes
  • Itchiness and irritations
  • Skin feeling tight and uncomfortable after cleansing
  • Increased breakouts and overproduction of oil
  • Uneven texture
  • Discoloration
  • Dullness

The Dos and Don’ts of Skin Barrier Health

They say the best offense is a good defense, and that goes double for keeping your skin barrier in balance. It’s much easier to maintain its health than it is to attempt to repair it once it’s already damaged, so use these dos and don’ts to help you make everyday choices that support your skin:

Dos

  1. Do keep your skin well-moisturized with quenching ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and other humectants that maintain hydration.
  2. Do choose mild cleansers that won’t strip away your skin’s natural oils.
  3. Do incorporate skin-supportive foods into your diet, like those rich in fatty acids.
  4. Do protect your skin from harsh environmental dangers by wearing sunscreen and avoiding exposure to the elements.
  5. Do tailor your skincare routine to your specific skin type with the help of your dermatologist.

Don’ts

  1. Don’t ignore signs of skin stress. As soon as you suspect that your skin barrier is in danger, give it a little extra TLC to restore and renew it.
  2. Don’t over exfoliate. While it’s great for your skin health to slough off dead layers of stratum corneum once or twice a week, doing it too often saps away the lipids in your skin barrier.
  3. Don’t use products that are harsh on your skin, like alcohol and fragrances. Stick with dermatologist-recommended products that help keep your skin in balance.

Our Favorite Skincare for Improving Barrier Health

Now that you’re a bit more familiar with your natural bodyguard, here are some of our top recommendations for improving and maintaining its health:

  • Revision D.E.J Face Cream  Potent blend of antioxidants  ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids and botanical extracts that help replenish the skin’s moisture barrier and shield skin from environmental stressors.
  • Revision D.E.J Night Face Cream   A synergistic blend of antioxidants that help shield skin from environmental stressors, enhancing skin moisturization while visibly brightening dull skin. With a blend of ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids and botanical extracts to help replenish the skin’s moisture barrier, reinforcing the skin’s ability to attract and retain moisture.
  • SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2  2% of Ceramides 1 & 3 synergistically increase hydration and optimal barrier function, 4% Cholesterol accelerates the barrier recovery in aging skin and 2% Fatty Acids aids in structural integrity of skin lipids to optimize skin’s overall lipid balance and improve skin elasticity.
  • EltaMD Barrier Renewal Complex contains a selected blend of ceramides and other essential lipids clinically proven to moisturize the stratum corneum and improve dry, compromised skin after a single application within 24 hours.
  • EltaMD Moisture Rich Body Creme is formulated with humectant hyaluronic acid, replenishing mango butter, and ceramides to visibly improve dry skin and maintain your lipid barrier from head to toe.
  • EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer repairs and restores
  • EltaMD So Silky Hand Creme features powerful ceramides, gentle emollients, and antioxidant vitamin E to nourish and revive dry, rough hands.
  • CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion helps repair and restore your skin’s natural protective barrier with ceramides and hyaluronic acid.
  • CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser has a unique formula with three essential ceramides to cleanse and remove oil without disrupting the skin barrier.
  • CeraVe Itch Relief is a steroid-free solution for minor skin irritations and itching, formulated with 1% pramoxine hydrochloride and ceramides to restore your natural skin barrier.
  • Eczemact™ Flare Care Concentrate by GladskinMD takes a targeted approach to rebalancing the skin microbiome with a patented protein called Micreobalance® to restore bacterial balance.

You can shop all these products online or visit one of our locations to discover more dermatologist-recommended solutions for keeping your skin barrier healthy and happy.