The human skin is probably one of the most important organs on the human body. The skin protects your internal organs from environmental factors and threats. It has the ability to absorb sunlight and convert it into Vitamin D which is crucial for bone health. But is there something that additionally shields the skin from harmful factors? As a matter of fact it does. It has this protective layer called the skin barrier or lipid barrier which helps to deflect a good number of environmental stressors such as – UVA & UVB rays, irritants, and pollutants to name a few.
What is the skin barrier?
The outermost layer of our skin is the skin barrier, sometimes referred to as the stratum corneum. It acts as a barrier, keeping out irritants from the environment and dangerous microorganisms while allowing moisture to remain where it is needed. The barrier, which is made up of lipids (fats) and dead skin cells, keeps the skin hydrated, supple, and healthy in general. Skin damage can cause it to become dry, itchy, and prone to problems like acne and sensitivity. Strong skin barrier maintenance includes moisturising and avoiding abrasive soaps.
How does the skin barrier get damaged?
The skin barrier takes up the role of protecting the inner layers of your skin. However, it can get damaged from certain factors including:
- Poor skincare,
- Lack of proper sleep,
- Irritants and pollutants,
- Alcohol-based skincare products,
- Excessive facial cleansing and exfoliation,
- Prolonged exposure to sunlight without a sunscreen.
These are a few factors that causes a damaged skin barrier which can further cause skin concerns and complications.
4 Signs your skin barrier is damaged
Now that you know the causes that lead to a damaged skin barrier, let’s look into what symptoms you’ll start noticing due to a skin barrier being damaged:
1. Dryness and dehydration
You’ll notice increasing signs of dehydration and dryness leading to dry, rough, irritated, and itchy skin. Your skin will feel less elastic and will appear duller in complexion.
2. Inflammation, Redness and Sensitivity
The most obvious signs of a damaged skin barrier include inflammation, sensitivity and reddened skin. Since the layer right beneath the skin barrier is quite sensitive to external factors, you’ll often notice these tell-tale signs when you have a damaged skin barrier.
3. Increased acne breakouts
The skin barrier keeps your skin protected from bacteria, impurities, and keeps sebum levels in check. But once it is damaged, it make it easier for acne causing bacteria to invade your pores and cause acne breakouts couple with increase in sebum (oil).
4. Early aging signs
The lipid barrier is what retains moisture and other nutrients needed to keep your skin elastic and stretchy. However, when the lipid/skin barrier is damaged, it can cause the moisture and nutrients to escape easily causing signs of early aging.
Can a damaged skin barrier be repaired?
Now the question we all want answered – can a damaged skin barrier be restored/repaired/healed?
Before we jump to answers let’s look into what really makes the skin barrier a first line of defense for your delicate layers of skin.
The skin barrier is made up of primarily two things:
1. Corneocytes and
Corneocytes are like bricks while lipids can be compared to a concrete plaster that hold the bricks together. Combined, they act as a brick wall of defense for the inner layers of your delicate skin.
With that said, the skin barrier can be repaired much like a brick wall can be mended. But note that it may or may not go back to it’s original state once damaged. Hence, it is always a good choice to take care of your skin with a proper skincare routine suitable for your skin type.
How to repair a damaged skin barrier?
In order to restore and repair a damaged skin barrier there are quite a few things you can do. This article will highlight one amazing ingredient that’s been under the radar for some time – niacinamide.
Niacinamide, a type of vitamin B3, is used as a skincare ingredient which helps to address a wide variety of skin concerns including strengthening a damaged skin barrier.
What is niacinamide?
Niacinamide is an ingredient derived from Vitamin B3. It is a water-soluble ingredient that does not accumulate in your body and therefore it needs to be applied it on a regular basis when it comes to skincare.
Now in skincare, niacinamide is perhaps one of the most effective all-rounder as an ingredient. It has properties that address a number of skin concerns such as strengthening your skin barrier (lipid barrier), calming down redness, acne, sensitivity, brightening hyperpigmentation (dark spots, uneven skin tone), etc.
What does niacinamide do to your skin?
Using niacinamide-based skincare products such as serums, essences or moisturizers can work to repair and renew your skin.
A few examples of concerns that this ingredient may help address include –
- Minimizing enlarged pores.
- Repairs damaged skin barrier.
- Calming facial redness, acne inflammation and sensitivity.
- Brightening dark spots.
- Sun damage protection to name a few.
Here’s how niacinamide works on your skin:
1. Strengthens and repairs your skin barrier
Niacinamide is known to build keratin – a protein which helps to keep your skin firm and plump. A strong skin barrier is crucial in protecting your skin from environmental stressors (pollutants and irritants) by taking up the role as the first and most important line of defense.
2. Brightens your skin
Using a niacinamide based product can help to brighten and balance your skin tone. This ingredient works by slowing down the process of melanin (a pigment that gives skin its pigment).
3. Calms redness, inflammation and sensitivity
Niacinamide works by calming and sensitivity by strengthening the skin barrier which deflects irritants and environmental stressors that may cause your skin to become inflamed, sensitive and reddened.
4. Minimizes enlarged pores
One of the primary causes for enlarged pores is excess sebum (oil) production. Niacinamide works by regulating and balancing the excess production of sebum by strengthening your skin barrier.
5. Protects skin from sun damage
Sun damage is known to cause early aging, enlarged pores and the worst of all – contributes towards skin cancer. Niacinamide is known to rebuild healthy cells that help to combat and protect against sun damage.
Top Niacinamide-based skincare products to try
The bottom line
If you are experiencing either or all 4 signs mentioned above, it is always best to get to know the root cause before introducing anything new to your skincare.
We hope this article helps you to get to know your skin better and use ingredients that are more suitable for your skin concerns and skin type.