Our skin barrier is a smart, protective shield made up of living and non-living cells. Its main function is to serve as an interface with the outside world. When our skin barrier is healthy, it acts like a biodynamic membrane, constantly making decisions about what is allowed to enter the skin and what is blocked; what must be kept outside.
So, you can think of our skin barrier as a protective guardian of our skin’s healthiest glow, trapping needed moisture in and keeping irritants, pollutants, allergens and pathogens out. Trapping moisture in the skin is absolutely critical when it comes to preventing the skin from becoming dehydrated, and preventing too much evaporation off of the skin surface: something called transepidermal water loss. We want to optimize the function of our skin barrier to optimize our skin’s health. A healthy barrier protects our skin against infection, dehydration, and inflammation.
What makes up a healthy skin barrier?
Lipids: A healthy skin barrier has ceramides, free fatty acids and cholesterol. These work together to trap and seal moisture in the skin.
A Healthy pH: pH is really important, which is why the skin is often referred to as having an acid mantle. Our skin’s pH should be slightly acidic.
SALT: Our skin has its own immune system called the skin associated lymphoid tissue (“SALT” for short). Many skin issues result from an overzealous immune system—one that is too revved up and causing unnecessary inflammation. It’s all about having a smart, balanced immune system that is strong enough to prevent infection, but is not over-responsive and hyperreactive.
Microbiome: Trillions of microorganisms living in and on the surface of your skin. When they are rich and diverse and in balance, they work hard to keep your skin barrier healthy. When they are out of balance (something called “dysbiosis”), that’s when the skin barrier suffers.