March 22, 2022
Published: March 22, 2022
Welcome to Part 2 of the Healthy Skin Guide. In this 4-part series we’ll cover everything you need for healthy, happy skin (body and mind, too). You’ll learn about the 2 underlying causes of skin conditions, how these processes impact your skin and how to repair your skin naturally and holistically. Here’s what each of the 4 parts will cover:
Part 2: Skin Barrier 101: What is your skin barrier and what does it mean if your skin barrier is impaired or compromised?
Part 3: Inflammation and Your Skin: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Part 4: Natural Holistic Tips for Healthy Skin: How to Repair Your Skin Barrier and Reduce Inflammation
In Part 1, we talked about how the vicious cycle of skin barrier break down and inflammation are the underlying causes of all skin conditions. In Part 2, we’re going to learn more about our skin barrier, what is does and how it becomes impaired or compromised.
Your skin is the primary barrier between your body and the environment. The epidermis is the outermost of 3 layers of skin and is your skin barrier. The stratum corneum, which is the outermost sublayer of your epidermis, provides most of this barrier function.
As I mentioned in Part 1, your skin barrier has 2 functions: keeping water in and keeping damaging toxins, irritants and pathogens out.
Imagine your skin barrier as a brick wall. It is the gatekeeper that regulates what passes in and out of your body through your skin. Your skin cells are the bricks. Your lipid matrix is the mortar that holds (glues) those bricks together in a tight structure. The lipid matrix is composed of fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol.
When your skin barrier becomes damaged or compromised, the bricks (your skin cells) don’t fit neatly together and you lose some of the mortar (lipid matrix).
When this happens, your skin’s gatekeeping abilities don’t function optimally. Your barrier becomes more permeable and is unable to function properly. It’s easier for irritants to penetrate your skin barrier and it’s harder to retain moisture.
When your barrier is impaired, you are absorbing more though your skin and things that normally don’t cause problems suddenly become irritants. Pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungus), allergens, chemicals and pollutants can enter and cause all kinds of trouble. These irritants also cause inflammation, which we’ll discuss in Part 3.
When your barrier is compromised it’s also more difficult to retain moisture due to a process called transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Normally, moisture (aka water) from the deeper skin layers moves up to hydrate the outer skin layers. When your barrier is functioning properly it allows a necessary amount of water to evaporate out through your skin barrier. When your barrier is compromised, too much water evaporates through the skin barrier and you’re left with dehydrated skin, which can lead to rough skin, redness, irritation and inflammation.
Sensitive skin, by nature, has a thinner barrier. Irritants are more easily absorbed and cause inflammation. This is why people with sensitive skin experience redness, itching and stinging more frequently.
Aging skin is also more susceptible to barrier compromise. As we age, we lose the ability to produce and maintain the fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol that make up the lipid matrix (the mortar that holds our cells together). Our skin structure changes and our ability to respond to insults decreases.
So many things can damage our skin barrier. Here’s a brief list:
Your skin will look and feel unhappy overall. You may experience one or more of the following:
Less is more when it comes to repairing your skin barrier. We need to be gentle with our skin so that it can heal itself. We can do this by removing potential irritants, calming the inflammation and supporting barrier repair.
In Part 1, we learned how inflammation and skin barrier dysfunction work together in a vicious cycle.
In Part 3, we’ll dig deeper into inflammation and how it affects your skin.
We’ll wrap it all up in Part 4 with dietary, environmental and topical tips to repair your skin barrier and reduce inflammation.
Did you learn anything new about your skin barrier today? Are you experiencing any signs of an impaired skin barrier? What are your favorite tips for repairing your skin barrier?
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