What is the Skin Lipid Barrier?
The skin lipid barrier is the topmost layer of skin that protects the skin from damage and dehydration and binds the cells together. This barrier helps prevent water loss from the skin, helps prevent the loss of Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF’s) (free amino acids, lactic acid, urea, PCA, sugars, and inorganic salts), and helps prevent bacteria, allergens and environmental pollutants from permeating deep into the skin and setting off immune responses.
A Damaged Skin Lipid Barrier
With a weakened skin lipid barrier, harmful toxins and allergens are able to penetrate the skin, setting off the immune system’s inflammation response. Likewise, with the loss of the hydrating and cell binding components of the skin lipid barrier we see dryness and other related symptoms of dehydrated skin. Below are the main symptoms experienced with a damaged lipid barrier:
- Swollen areas
- Cracked skin
- Painful patches
- Increased fine lines and wrinkles
- Dullness in skin tone
How We Damage our Skin Lipid Barrier
Lipids in the skin naturally decrease as we age. Particularly around the age of 40 many individuals both male and female begin to experience many of the symptoms listed above.
However, each of these symptoms can also be experienced much earlier in life when the lipid barrier is damaged due to lifestyle, personal care habits and environmental factors. Below is a list of the most common factors leading to a damaged lipid barrier.
Harsh products with aggressive chemicals
Many mainstream skincare products and brands use chemicals that are known to aggravate the skin. This is seen particularly in acne products that can use very harsh acids. While these may remedy the problem for the near future, they can actually make acne worse in the long run due to chronic inflammation and irritation of the skin. For an in-depth look at all the chemicals we recommend avoiding see our article for 12 ingredients to avoid.
Harsh and over-exfoliation
Using aggressive exfoliants is the surest way to cause irritation and strip the skin of it’s important lipid barrier. At Facial Lounge, we recommend avoiding all “scrub” based exfoliants. The skin is far more delicate than many realize. Proper exfoliation can still be successfully achieved without aggressively scrubbing the skin. We recommend using enzyme-based exfoliating washes or face masks like our Papaya Enzyme Mask which gently eats away dead skin cells without causing irritation or dryness.
Furthermore, we recommend exfoliating 2-3 times per week for the average person. For those with acne, 3-4 times a week might be helpful. Daily exfoliation is usually unnecessary and can lead to a damaged lipid barrier.
Over-washing the face
For the vast majority of people a full face wash is only necessary once a day (usually at night). For those dealing with moderate to severe acne twice a day may be necessary until acne clears. Over cleansing the skin, even with non-toxic products can strip the lipid barrier.
The use of extremely hot water when showering or bathing
Excessively hot water melts away the critical components of the skin lipid barrier leaving the skin feeling tight and sensitive.
How to Protect the Skin Lipid barrier
Clean up your personal care products
Check out the ingredients labels on all of your personal care products including shampoos, conditioners, body washes, lotions, hand soaps, and skincare. Refer to our list of 12 ingredients to avoid and throw out any products with any of the ingredients on the list. This may seem overwhelming at first. Thankfully, there are now a host of amazing clean, non-toxic products that are just as effective as their toxic counterparts.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, just start with your skincare. Try starting with a new cleanser and moisturizer from the same company if possible and go from there. We recommend either our Pore Clarifying Cleanser for oily or acne-prone skin or our Gentle Facial Cleanser for normal to sensitive skin. For a wonderfully healing moisturizer we recommend our new Feather-Light Miracle Moisturizer.
Avoid harsh exfoliating
For those with normal and even sensitive skin, try washing your face at night only. In the morning you can splash some water on your face to wake up and dab dry with a soft towel then simply apply your morning skincare routine. For those with acne wash morning and evening, but be sure to only use gentle, non-toxic products.
Use Lukewarm Water
Keep your water temperature warm-lukewarm to avoid melting away much of the lipid barrier with hot water.
Repair the Skin Lipid Barrier with Antioxidants
Antioxidants protect the skin from the onslaught of environmental pollutants that lead to free radical damage. Look for antioxidant rich products like our Barrier Repair Antioxidant Booster and Antioxidant and Aloe Illuminating Mist.
Use Mineral-Based Sun Protection
It is critical to protect the skin from sun damage. Unfortunately, many sunscreens contain an array of harmful chemicals. Check out our article on harmful ingredients in sunscreens and refer to our favorite clean, mineral-based sunscreens at the end of the article!