Whether defending, restoring, or strengthening, in skincare there’s a lot of talk about the skin’s moisture barrier. Sometimes known as the skin's protective barrier too, aside from its name being pretty self-explanatory, it’s not always that clear however why we need to pay so much attention to the moisture barrier. For example, how does it get damaged, what are the signs of damage, and why is protecting the skin barrier so important?
To answer all these questions and more, here’s everything you need to know about the skin’s moisture barrier.
There are various layers to the skin, each serving a different purpose. Your moisture barrier, also known as your acid mantle or stratum corneum, provides critical protection for your skin. This layer acts as the first line of defense, keeping good things in and bad things out. Those bad things it keeps out include environmental stressors, bacteria, pollutants, and other irritants.
And the good things? That mainly includes hydration or moisture.
Here's a not so fun fact, it's estimated that more than 75% of the population suffers from dehydration. And, you guessed it, that means your skin's moisture barrier is damaged. The good news is, you can restore it and at the same time, improve your skin's hydration levels and get rid of that tight, dry feeling.
When your moisture barrier is healthy, epidermal cells are packed tightly to prevent water loss. This is similar to the way mortar fills in the gaps between bricks. It’s much more difficult for anything to enter or exit the skin when there's a solid line of defense blocking the road. The more it’s compromised, the more room there is in between your skin cells for moisture to escape and bacteria to enter. If your skin feels tight, itchy, or abnormally sensitive, your moisture barrier is likely damaged. A sure sign of a damaged acid mantle is when even your normal products cause sensitivity or reactions.
You may also have heard of a term known as inflammaging—inflammatory aging. Two of our least favorite things, this chronic inflammation is when the skin's barrier is damaged, becoming vulnerable to infection from microorganisms, pollution, toxins, UVA/UVB rays, increased cortisol levels, and more. Basically, your skin is working harder to defend against stressors. And, over time, inflammation leads to sensitivity, irritation, redness, rosacea, acne, and rapid aging - fine lines, wrinkles, uneven texture.
Nothing disrupts your stratum corneum quite like over-exfoliation. We always recommend exfoliation as part of every skincare ritual, but it needs to be kept within a reasonable amount. Chemical and physical exfoliation can be incredibly effective, as are monthly peels too, but should be used within the recommended frequency.
Everyone's skin is different, however, so make sure to listen to your skin and avoid exfoliation if you’re feeling extra sensitive. Reduce it for a while and see how that goes.
Another factor in damaged moisture barriers is winter or prolonged cold weather. Increase your moisturizer when the temps drop to help avoid dry, dehydrated skin. We promise, your skin will thank you.
If you notice that your skin is starting to show signs of a damaged moisture barrier, don't stress, just try these easy steps.
Stop exfoliating (chemical and physical) and focus on repairing your skin.
Switch to gentle products that use emollients to not only strengthen the skin but also hydrate and seal in moisture. Some of our favorite picks include:
Bio-Renew EGF Drops: The vegan epidermal growth factor (EGF) and bio-active peptides in this anti-aging serum gets to work restoring and repairing skin's barrier, ready for the hyaluronic acid to rehydrate and strengthen skin.
HA-Revive Hyaluronic Drops: Next-level hyaluronic acid-powered hydrating serum, boosts moisture levels, while plumping and strengthening for refreshed, radiant skin.
HA-Revive Hyaluronic Mist: Created to deeply hydrate and help prevent water loss by reinforcing skin’s protective barrier. Use it to rehydrate throughout the day or to prep skin for serum and moisturizer.
Vita E Essential Cream: A true medium-weight moisturizer that helps strengthen damaged skin, while also calming irritation and redness.
Restorative Mask: A nutrient-rich mask that helps restore skin’s strength and elasticity with the use of antioxidants and other conditioning ingredients.
Be patient. Repairing your moisture barrier takes time. Remember you’re in a marathon, not a sprint, and the more gentle you are with your skin the faster you’ll see results.
Unsure whether you have dry or dehydrated skin? Find out more about both with our guide.