One of the most common complaints we receive from our customers is that their skin is not only acne prone but very dehydrated as well, even though they might actually have oily skin. This is a sure sign there is a skin barrier disfunction which is in the center of all skin conditions and is what prevents the skin from healing permanently.
But what is the skin barrier?
The skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum which consists mainly of flattened skin cells, keratin, fatty acids, ceramides, cholesterol and natural moisturizing factor (NMF).
The main functions of the skin barrier are to protect our body from UV radiation, pollution and harmful substances and microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi. The skin barrier is also responsible for maintaining proper hydration levels within the skin reducing trans epidermal water loss (TEWL).
An overwhelming body of research shows that most skin diseases like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and acne are associated with some level of impaired skin barrier function which makes sense since the barrier function is something like our skin immunity. When our barrier is down, impaired, disturbed or surprised the skin becomes more vulnerable and susceptible to skin problems and unable to effectively heal itself.
Dr Albert Kligman (the co-inventor of Retin A) recognised all this after discovering that the lipid barrier of the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of the skin) plays a significant role in skin health, it can communicate with the underlying, living epidermis and influences the regenerative processes in deeper layers of the skin. This was the beginning of Corneotherapy - a skincare methodology based on repair and maintenance of the skin barrier defense systems and overall boosting the skin’s innate immunity.
What does this have to do with me, you ask?
Well, if you have been dealing with skin problems like acne for years and nothing seems to work permanently chances are your skin barrier is not functioning properly, hence it is unable to maintain a healthy skin state. In fact, many of the things you might have been doing to get rid of acne are probably working perfectly well but since your skin immunity is down the results are just not long lasting, you relapse again into the old vicious cycle.
What are some of the signs of a disturbed skin barrier?
Most common sings are:
- dehydrated skin (very often described as oily and dry at the same time)
- flaking skin
- increased skin sensitivity
- skin discoloration
- acne, rosacea, skin infections
So what might be disturbing your skin barrier?
In many cases, especially for acne sufferers, this is caused by overuse of anti-acne topicals and overuse of stripping face washes and exfoliates. This might be exasperated by the fear of using skin moisturizers and oils which are actually crucial for a healthy barrier.
Other factors that may disturb your skin barrier are sun exposure, stress, not getting enough sleep and washing your face with hot water.
Despite the research based evidence most skincare products recommended for acne fail to address the skin barrier function, focusing primarily on anti-bacterial or exfoliating actives ultimately addressing only separate symptoms instead of boosting the overall skin immune function.
What can we do to repair the skin barrier?
Look for skin-identical ingredients in the skincare you buy. These are compounds that are actually part of what our skin barrier is composed of and when used topically these ingredients are clinically proven to dramatically boost and repair the skin barrier resulting in restored skin integrity and health.
The 3 main skin-identical ingredients that also compose most of the skin lipid matrix are:
- Linoleic Acid
Other highly beneficial skin-identical ingredients are part of the human’s Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF):
- Sodium PCA
- Sodium Lactate
- Glycerol (glycerin)
- Hyaluronic acid
These are water soluble humectants that draw water from the atmosphere to our skin keeping it hydrated but also maintaining a healthy skin pH.
Other ingredients that boost the skin barrier function are:
- Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
- Glucosamine (skin-identical)
Lifestyle changes that will help you repair the skin barrier:
- Avoid mainstream face washes and adopt oil cleansing
- Limit exfoliation to one or 2 times per week and only use chemical exfoliation, never mechanical (face scrubs)
- Wash your face once a day only at night
- Wash your face with lukewarm water, never with hot or cold
- Always moisturize after washing
- Get enough sleep, limit stress and drink enough water
A well functioning skin barrier will ensure your skin stays well hydrated, clear, youthful, healthy and happy.
We have adopted the principles of Corneotherapy and formulate skin barrier boosting products using a combination of the above ingredients as our main barrier boosting mix, especially Ceramides in high concentrations. We prefer using oils that are very high in Linoleic Acid like black cumin oil, watermelon seed oil, blackberry seed oil, and tomato seed oil instead of using pure Linoleic acid as unrefined, plant oils have many other skin benefits.