At its core, our skin is a barrier which shields our body's internal tissue from the outside world. Within this barrier is a number of complex layers, each working to support our skin's overall structure and health.
Protecting our internal tissue from external environmental factors, it helps to retain moisture levels while keeping out potential harmful bacteria and infections. As such, when our barrier function is compromised, it can be to the detriment of the look and feel of your skin, commonly resulting in dryness, fine lines and flaky skin.
Here we break down the role of our skin's barrier function and how to support it.
The layers of skin and their function
The epidermis is the outer layer of your skin and includes the top-most layer called the Stratum Carenum. The Stratum Corneum helps minimise moisture loss in the skin due to environmental factors like the sun.
The stratum corneum is composed of flattened cells called corneocytes, stacked tightly together and held in place with a protein envelope of lipids in what can be thought of as a brick and mortar structure.
Over time, old corneocytes (the brick-like cells of the skin barrier) are shed from the surface of your skin. The process is continuous, but it can be accelerated by exfoliating products that contain AHAs and BHAs, such as our Even Skintone Serum.
The lipid envelope that binds and packs your corneocytes together is composed of ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids. These intercellular lipids play an essential role as a barrier to environmental irritants and assists in water retention within the top-most layer of your skin, the stratum corneum.
"With sensitive, inflamed skin, it is of utmost importance that the skin barrier or outer layer of the skin is replenished appropriately with biomimetic ingredients. This will ensure that the skin is receiving all the essential ingredients that are required to restore and provide true moisturising properties." – Tracey Beeby, Ultra Skin Expert #skintip #sensitiveskin #moisturise #ultraceuticals #skincare #realvisibleresults
Why does dehydration occur?
Dehydration occurs when your lipid layer is lacking in essential fatty acids and can't provide sufficient protection from environmental factors. When this happens, it can loosen the bond between corneocytes, creating gaps that allow essential moisture to escape – you can think of it as the mortar being too weak to hold the bricks of your skin's barrier in place.
Your skin's barrier function can be compromised by exposure to wind, air conditioning or over-cleansing. Using unsuitable skin care products, as well as certain medications can also have a detrimental effect.
A compromised skin barrier often leads to dehydration which can manifest as skin tightness or tautness, dryness, flaking and fine lines. It can also lead to sensitivity, which can affect all skin types, including oily skin.
How can I support my skin's barrier function?
Drinking enough water to suit your lifestyle is important. This means replacing fluids lost due to perspiration in hotter temperatures and after physical activity.
Topical moisturisers play an important role in supporting this vital function. Ingredients such as Hyaluronic Acid, found in our Ultra Moisturiser Range, can help to maintain your skin in good condition. Similarly, the Vitamin B5 and Sodium PCA found in the Ultra B2 Moisturising Serum can infuse the skin with hydration while enforcing the skin's barrier function.
At Ultraceuticals, we have many skin care products suited to help restore and support your skin barrier function. To find the best products for you, book a consultation with one of our qualified skin technicians today.