If you're a skincare lover scrolling through your Instagram feed or TikTok, you’ve most likely seen skin barrier content flash across your screen at one point or another. The #skinbarrier is a popular topic that’s been trending in recent years on social media (it has garnered over 1.9 billion views on TikTok alone!) and has steadily secured its place in the vernacular of everyday skincare and beauty aficionados. While we are generally not proponents of social media-borne skin trends, bringing attention to the importance of your skin barrier health is one trend that we approve of.

So what is the skin barrier exactly and what are the signs of a damaged skin barrier? And more importantly, how can you actively support your skin barrier health? We’ll break it down for you. 

The Skin Barrier Simplified

The skin barrier, or stratum corneum, is the outermost layer of your skin which consists of skin cells called corneocytes that are often compared to bricks. These brick-like structures are glued together with a "mortar" composed of cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids. Your skin barrier essentially keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out — it helps to retain water and moisture and protects against environmental stressors and pathogens that can disrupt your health.

Signs Of A Compromised Skin Barrier

Some of the most common signs of a weakened skin barrier are the following:

  • Dullness and uneven texture
  • Dryness and dehydration
  • Itchiness
  • Sensitized, irritated skin
  • Redness and inflammation
  • Acne breakouts
  • Skin infections
  • Rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis (while these have a genetic component, a weakened barrier can trigger flare-ups or worsen the condition)

What Can Damage Your Skin Barrier

There are many different factors and environmental stressors that can weaken your skin barrier. Some of the most common barrier disruptors are the following:

  • Physical exfoliants like skin brushes, washcloths, or scrubs
  • Chemical exfoliants or potentially irritating ingredients
  • Over-cleansing your skin
  • Overly aggressive skincare treatments
  • Harsh soaps or detergents
  • Hot water which strips the skin
  • Environmental factors like wind, extreme weather (hot or cold), and levels of humidity (high and low)
  • Sun exposure
  • Allergens and pollutants
  • Stress
  • Sleep quality
  • Poor diet

 

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