Overdone It With The Exfoliation? You Probably Have A Compromised Skin Barrier

Between extreme temperatures, environmental aggressors, retinol use, and over-exfoliation, our skin can look less than ideal. However, what is often diagnosed as ‘dry’ or ‘sensitive’ skin can often be the result of impaired skin barrier function. 

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Confused? We were too. Fortunately, we enlisted the help of Mukti, founder of Mukti Organics, to set the record straight with everything you need to know about skin barrier function. 

What is the skin barrier?

“The skin barrier – or outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum) – prevents water loss from the skin and acts as an external barrier from the external environment,” Mukti told Albert Review, adding that external aggressors include irritants, bacteria, sun and pollution.

“[The skin barrier] is composed of three main lipids – cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides that make up the intercellular structure.”

Why is skin barrier function important?

“Any form of inflammation can affect the barrier function,” says Mukti. “If the barrier is disrupted, it means that the lipid composition and structural organisation are altered, leading to a reduced capacity for the skin to maintain water and an increase in transepidermal water loss (TEWL).”

As for how a healthy skin barrier should look? Mukti says “smooth, soft, hydrated, and radiant” skin are signs of good skin barrier function. 

How you may be damaging your skin barrier function

According to Mukti, skin barrier function can become impaired as a result of introducing or overusing irritating elements into your skincare routine. This includes “over-exfoliating, using harsh products that strip the natural lipids, overuse of AHAs and BHAs, acne treatments, intensive lasers, and clinical applications of strong retinoids.” Additionally, a “sensitivity to fragrances and certain preservatives” can all compromise the skin barrier.

How can we maintain a healthy skin barrier?

Mukti recommends maintaining a healthy skin barrier through the use of gentle emollients, oils, and lipids that works to lock in and seal water.

I think my skin barrier function is compromised. Now what?

When dealing with a damaged skin barrier, Mukti recommends using washing your face with lukewarm water and a mild cleanser, avoiding abrasive scrubs and exfoliants, opting for fragrance-free skincare, and using a good quality SPF to protect your skin from the sun (always a must!).

We’d also recommend opting for products rich in barrier-building ingredients like hyaluronic acid, peptides, squalane, and ceramides. 

The best products to restore your skin barrier

Words by AR Staff
Cover image courtesy of Txema Yeste for Vogue Arabia