The skin barrier serves an important role in protecting the body from toxins, bacteria, infection and other DNA-damaging elements. However, we’re seeing more cases of compromised skin barrier than ever before as a result of environmental aggressors, stress, overuse of active or harsh ingredients, medications, autoimmune diseases and even overly aggressive professional treatments. What happens when the barrier becomes compromised? There are a number of challenges that may arise including increased dryness, irritation and sensitivity, as well as susceptibility to bacteria and a decrease in antioxidants.
How do you work with a compromised barrier to resuscitate and restore its vitality? There are several key ingredients that can increase the skin’s strength, and support in rebuilding and restoring it to optimal health. But first, you must be able to identify the signs and possible contributing factors.
Breaking Down the Skin Barrier
The stratum corneum—the outermost layer of the skin—makes up our skin barrier. As you may know, the barrier comprises corneocytes that are bound together by mortar-like lipids. This thin wall has a big job. It keeps harmful environmental toxins and pathogens out of the skin and retains our body’s water content.
When the barrier is compromised, the skin no longer effectively retains hydration, and its ability to protect itself is also weakened. This makes it more vulnerable to toxins, UV rays, bacteria, allergens and harsh skin care ingredients. As a result, compromised skin may have excessive inflammation, dehydration, visible capillaries, increased sensitivity, erythema and appear dull. A compromised barrier exasperates acne, rosacea and can increase pigmentation. There are a number of factors that can contribute to a compromised barrier (see Compromised Barrier Culprits.)
If you’ve determined your client does have a compromised barrier, how do you work with the skin to resuscitate and restore its vitality? Nutrients, vitamins and other rebuilding ingredients are going to be a very important part of the process and making sure they are high in antioxidants is essential.