Finding the balance when it comes to skin health can be a tricky one to master. Too much interference can result in a compromised skin barrier. Not enough and skin can feel lacklustre. And after two years of staying close to home, the return of flights, sun and pollution are causing havoc. Much like our bodies, our skin needs feeding with the right nutrients and protecting from external aggressors. So how best to give your skin a much-needed boost? It’s all about the trending term of the moment: skinmunity. Aka, boosting your skin barrier. This is everything you need to know.
What’s your skin barrier?
Think of your outer most layer of skin as a brick wall. Except this one is made up of skin cells, held together by lipids, like ceramides (fats found in the skin cells). In short, your skin barrier keeps the good stuff - like moisture - in, and the bad stuff – pollution, toxins, UV rays etc – out.
Not only that, but your skin barrier also has a very fine, slightly acidic film on its surface (known as your acid mantle). Thanks to a precise pH balance, this works to keep the growth of harmful bacterial and viruses in check and help any wounds to heal. Clever.
In a nutshell, your skin barrier is responsible for how your skin looks and feels. No pressure.
What happens when your skin barrier is compromised?
Those bonds we mentioned above? They become looser, our pH balance changes, and as a result our skin becomes irritated. The culprits? It can be anything from excess sun exposure to over-exfoliation and contact with harsh chemicals. A nasty rash after changing your washing powder or accidental sunburn? We’ve all been there.
How do you know if your skin barrier has been damaged?
In short: you’ll know. The skin has a knack for flagging its concerns and in this case, it’ll be in the form of dryness, dullness, redness, sensitivity and breakouts. Pinpointing exactly what caused it can sometimes be tricky but there are a few tricks you can have up your sleeve if the worst happens.
How can I improve my skin barrier?
Skin feeling irritated? The best thing you can do when suffering is go back to basics: a gentle cleanser, a hydrating serum and a rich moisturiser. Cut back on using any harsh exfoliators and acids and keep an eye on products as you introduce them to your routine. This’ll help you to identify which ingredients your skin doesn’t like.
When it comes to strengthening your skin barrier and repairing any damage, there are a host of beauty products that can help to soothe and repair. Take note.
MOISTURISE, MOISTURISE, MOISTURISE
The key step to repair? Ensuring skin is hydrated and happy. Hyaluronic acid should be a staple in your routine (still not sure why? Read our Hyaluronic Acid 101 guide for a deep dive into the good stuff). Make it your first step post cleansing and follow with a rich, luxe moisturiser to lock it all in. Medik8’s signature night cream, Advanced Night Restore, works to reinforce the natural skin barrier and repair any damage caused by free radicals during the day. How does it work? It’s all down to its blend of antioxidants – from dragon fruit extract to saskatoon berry – and restoring peptides. Mists are a gamechanger for keeping skin fresh throughout the day, while masks can be life savers for giving instant moisture when things get rough.
Step away from the harsh chemicals and opt for gentle cleansers that’ll remove impurities without stressing the skin out. When it comes to ingredients, look out for ceramides, which support the skin barrier. Top of our list? Kate Somerville’s Delikate Soothing Cleanser, which works to balance the skin’s natural pH level; Tata Harper’s Softening Cleanser that dissolves impurities while using lipids to strengthen the skin barrier; and Inkey List’s viral TikTok cleanser: Oat Cleansing Balm. Formulated with oat kernel oil and soothing oatmeal, it calms and protects.
ALWAYS USE PROTECTION
One of the best ways to boost your skin barrier and avoid any future discomfort? Always apply protective products. SPFs are a daily non-negotiable and in 2022 they’re smarter than ever. Chantecaille’s Ultra Sun Protection SPF 45 blocks both UVA and UVB rays, whilst giving the skin a dose of soothing botanicals. Sisley’s Phyto-Blanc Brightening offers an SP50 and a shield against pollution, fine particles and free radicals. When it comes to digital pollution, Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Anti-Pollution Drops and 111Skin’s Nac Y2 Pollution Defence Booster are specially formulated to protect against blue light and HEV (high energy visible) rays.
FEED YOUR SKIN
Much like taking your daily vitamins, your skin needs feeding with the right nutrients too. But which ones to look out for? Vitamin C (we love Oskia’s Super C Beauty Capsules which deliver just the right dose), vitamin B3 (aka, niacinamide), vitamin E and just a touch of vitamin A (aka retinol). Each one helps to boost your skinmunity, strengthening your skin barrier and helping to protect it from future damage. Darphin’s Ideal Resource Renewing Pro-Vitamin C and E Oil Concentrate is a two in one hit, helping to protect against external aggressors and deliver a glowing complexion. Prefer to keep things simple? The Inkey List’s Niacinamide helps to tackle redness while fortifying the skin’s strength. And if you do want to dip your toe into the world of retinol, Medik8’s gentle Night Ritual Vitamin A is a great place to start. Word of warning: going too heavy on retinol can compromise your skin barrier itself, so go easy.