What Is Your Skin Barrier Anyway?

If you’ve spent time rooting through the corners of SkinTok and Skincare Twitter, you’ve likely heard the term “skin barrier” before.

Everyone seems to be obsessed with it; knowing when it’s damaged and how to repair it. But, not many have taken the time to explain what it is and why you should care about it.

So, we are here to answer the questions you may feel nervous to ask!

What part of my skin is the skin barrier?

Your skin barrier refers to the uppermost layers of skin cells “glued” together by a complex of oil-like substances.

This “glue” is made up of lipids, or fats, like ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol. Similar to how oil and water don’t mix, this layer of complex lipids creates a waterproof barrier at the skin’s surface that keeps water in and bacteria out.

What is the skin barrier for?

The skin performs several unique functions including preventing bacterial invasion, maintaining functioning water levels and absorbing ingredients applied topically.

All of these functions rely on the optimal performance of the skin barrier! You can think of the barrier as a fortress around valuable treasure. If the doors are left open and unattended, chaos ensues.

How does my barrier become damaged?

Irritation and inflammation are the quickest routes to damaging your skin barrier. Overusing products that strip the skin of its natural oils, unprotected sun exposure and certain medications that affect your body chemistry can lead to barrier breakdown.

Some people are also genetically prone to a finicky barrier. Dry skin and eczema-like conditions are associated with a natural barrier deficiency.

For most people, using too many active ingredients (like exfoliating acids!) or using them too often is the most common culprit of barrier damage.

What does barrier damage mean for my skin?

Barrier damage means a host of issues for your skin:

  • Because there are “cracks” in your fortress, precious water needed to hydrate skin internally and maintain functioning escapes quickly — leaving you feeling perpetually dry.

    • Water loss, called dehydration, can stimulate an overproduction of oil as the skin attempts to compensate. This ultimately increases breakouts. In this case, typical acne treatments will often increase irritation and make your barrier issues worse.

  • Bacteria and allergens have free rein to enter your skin when the barrier is down, leading to more skin reactions.

  • Your absorption mechanism is also impaired, meaning the skincare potions that previously banished breakouts overnight seem to lose their magic.

How do I know if my barrier is damaged?

If you experience discomfort or burning when applying non-active products like basic moisturizers or cleansers, it’s likely your barrier isn’t in great shape.

If your skin feels simultaneously dry AND oily, this is a telltale sign of dehydration. Dehydration is linked to barrier trouble and is addressed similarly.

That’s happening to me! What do I do?

The great thing about the skin is that it’s amazing at healing itself. All we have to do is recognize the signs and provide support.

  1. If your barrier is damaged, immediately ease back on actives. Switch to a simple, gentle skincare routine focusing on hydration, moisture and protection.

  2. While drinking water is great for overall health, the skin prefers taking its H20 topically. Reach for hydrating serums with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, urea, beta-glucan and saccharide isomerate to return water to the skin.

  3. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! Hydration refers to water in the skin while moisture fills in the gaps and patches up your damaged barrier. Everyone needs both!

  4. SPF! The sun creates inflammation which is what got you here in the first place. Don’t ruin your hard work by buying into myths that you don’t need SPF daily. Be diligent, and you will thank us later.

Luckily, Light Beams Barrier Treatment has everything you need to not only get your barrier back on track, but keep it healthy every single day. Restore water with saccharide isomerate, build moisture with ceramides and get a bright glow with yerba mate and licorice root!


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