Building a strong skin barrier is the best defense against sensitivity and irritation. A weak or damaged skin barrier cannot protect effectively and it is this weakness that is the underlying issue in sensitive and problematic skin. Strengthening the skin barrier may be the best defence against pollution, UV, harsh chemicals and environmental stressors.
Aging, colour (the fairer the skin, the more prone to redness, irritation, etc) and environmental factors can be reasons for why some have a weak barrier. The ability to maintain hydration and skin elasticity are the result of a strong skin barrier. If your skin cannot maintain balance, the result is dry, dull skin. A weak skin barrier also means chemicals can more easily penetrate the skin and cause inflammation. This is typically evident when someone complains that certain products sting or irritate and reddens the skin. So what can you do?
*Keep your skincare routine simple. Take a look at the products you use. Get rid of alcohol or witch hazel based products. Avoid detergents in your cleansing routine. Avoid harsh chemicals of any kind.
*No scrubs or cleansing tools, or over cleansing (i.e. brushes, cleaning cloths). If you must have a cleansing tool, then make sure it feels a gentle. Simply put, most of these tools are too harsh. Cleansing the face should be gentle at all times.
* Look for ingredients like linoleic acid (Omega 6 fatty acid). We don't manufacture this ingredient naturally and have to get it through diet or topical application. It repairs the skin barrier and is highly moisturizing. Look for oils like Hemp Seed Oil, Sunflower, Safflower in your products.
*No detergents! (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate). They leave the surface dry, irritated and SLS's upset the skins natural ph balance. Acids that remove the top layer of skin should also be avoided. Dyes, Fragrance, harsh chemicals are also culprits that contribute to weakening.
*Very Hot water should be avoided in showering and bathing. It contributes to the stripping of natural oils.
*Play defense! Protect skin from stressors, like free radical damage. Look for antioxidants, natural extracts like Green Tea, Vitamins (A,C and E) and nutrient rich oils like pomegranate in your products. These help promote a strong skin barrier.
*Stress. Look at how your manage stress. High stress levels slow down the ability to heal.
*Diet. Essential fatty acids (Omegas) are beneficial. They help the skin to retain water and are anti-inflammatory. The healthier your diet, the stronger your skin.
*Sunscreen. Wear it! It's one the best ways to protect your skin barrier.
Credit: Melanie Hemsworth