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What is a skin barrier?

By Ellie Hummerston

September 02, 2021 • 1 min read

What is a skin barrier?

Um, What Actually Is The Skin Barrier?

Our skin is our largest organ, and it’s incredibly important. Skin is made up of a complicated network of cells, proteins and lots of other stuff, but our skin barrier may be the most important part of it all. 

Skin is made up of three main layers: the topmost layer (epidermis), the middle layer (dermis), and the bottom layer (hypodermis). The outer layer, our epidermis, also has several layers, the outermost layer of which is our skin barrier, or stratum corneum. 

What Does The Skin Barrier Do?

Our skin barrier has three main jobs: protecting your body from pollution and UV radiation, retaining water to keep your body and skin hydrated, and transporting vital nutrients to the rest of your skin.

Your skin barrier is also what determines how healthy your skin looks. If it’s working properly, your skin will be hydrated, smooth and bright. However, if your skin barrier isn’t in great condition, you’ll be much more vulnerable to damage. That means dehydration, and dull, dry skin. You’ll also be less able to fend off free radicals, which can result in physical changes such as pigmentation and premature wrinkles. 

What can damage your skin barrier? 

All sorts of things can damage your skin barrier:

  • Very dry or very humid air
  • Allergens, irritants and pollutants
  • Sun exposure
  • Harsh chemicals
  • Over-exfoliation 
  • Stress

Skin conditions like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis

So, basically, everything.

How can you tell if your skin barrier is damaged? 

It’s pretty easy to tell if your skin barrier is damaged, with a long list of symptoms. 

  • Redness
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Itchiness
  • Rough or discoloured patches
  • Acne that isn’t hormonal
  • Sensitivity

If your skin barrier is damaged, take things back to basics with your skincare routine and cut out any potential irritants. If your symptoms don’t clear up within a few months, speak to a doctor. 

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