Is Skin Repair the Future of Skincare?

skin barrier graphic
Damaged Skin Barrier

“Okay Jess, chillax. You’re gonna be fine” I said to my friend Jessica.

“But MY SKIN! ” she screamed at me.

Okay. I know I said that she’d be okay, but I was actually starting to get worried. I mean, her face is as red as a lobster. And I’m talking about the tight, tingling, and sunburnt looking kind of red (at least that’s what she told me).

“What did you do though?” I asked.

“I just put on this exfoliating mask and it started burning. But I thought that it meant it was working” She said.

Long story short, a trip to the dermatologist later revealed my suspicion: She has damaged her skin barrier function.

And according to the dermatologist, Jessica wasn’t even the first person that day to come in with a damaged skin barrier.

It seems to me like this is a huge issue nowadays. So let’s talk about it.

But first, let’s ask ourselves…

How does the skin barrier work?

It’s often easy to forget, but our skin is the biggest organ on our body. It does many wonderful things for us, some of which includes:

  • Prevents excessive water loss from the body
  • Maintains the balance of electrolytes (minerals in our body that have an electric charge)
  • Protects against environmental damages, microorganisms, ultraviolet radiation, harmful substances…
Structure of the Stratum Corneum

Our skin is made up of 3 layers: hypodermis (deepest layer), dermis (second layer), and epidermis (outermost layer). For this article, we’ll only focus on the epidermis, and more specifically, the stratum corneum – aka. the skin barrier function. This layer is made up of corneocytes, keratin, ceramides, cholesterols, and fatty acids.

And when your skin barrier is damaged, you’ll be in plenty of troubles.

Your skin will lose water more easily, resulting in dry and cracked skin. Also, outside substances can get in to the small, exposed cracks in the skin and make you more sensitive to products (even the ones you’ve been using for years). This will lead to other conditions like acne, dermatitis, psoriasis…

How does the skin barrier become damaged?

There are many ways for the skin barrier to become damaged:

  • Not giving your skin proper protection from the sunlight, resulting in UV damage
  • Stress and hormonal changes
  • Overusing harsh or very-alkaline cleansers
  • The environment where you live might be too harsh (extremely hot or cold, polluted…)
  • Using way more products than your skin can handle
  • Exfoliating improperly (use harsh tools, chemicals, exfoliate too much…)
  • Etc. etc.

So basically, any action or factors that disturb your skin from its natural state, would all have the potential to damage your skin barrier.

And in my friend Jessica’s case, she has damaged her skin by using an acid peel that was too aggressive for her to handle. Yikes!

How can you tell if your skin barrier is damaged?

You can tell if your skin barrier is damaged when it feels more irritated than usual, over a prolonged time period. Some signs include tightness, dryness, redness, flakiness, itching, and acne flare-ups.

Particularly, if your skin feels like it’s tight and dehydrated, yet still oily at the same time, then that’s also a common tell-tale sign that your skin barrier is damaged. Oily but dehydrated skin is often a sign that your skin barrier is damaged.

Also, you can also tell if your skin barrier is compromised when the skincare products that you normally use are starting to irritate, sensitize, or even cause redness in your skin.

Healthy Skin vs. Damaged Skin

Can your skin barrier be permanently damaged?

In most cases, skin barrier damages can be fixed.

If your skin barrier has just recently been compromised, maybe by over-exfoliating with harsh products, and you’re seeking help immediately, then it should easily be fixed. The damage by then isn’t permanent.

However, maybe your skin barrier is damaged from years of neglect. Maybe you’ve used harsh products and exfoliated too often for too long. And maybe you also have an unhealthy lifestyle, consists of smoking too much, drinking too much, stress, and bad diet. And maybe on top of that, you’ve failed to protect your skin against sun damage (aka. not using sunscreen).

In this case, some serious damage has occurred, and some of them might be irreversible.

With that being said, there are still good practices that you could do to get your skin back to a healthier state. And if these good changes start to pile up, you’ll most definitely see a big improvement overall.

Can your skin barrier repair itself?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

In some cases, the damage is mild. You might just experience some dryness and flakiness.

And so, you might be off with just cutting down on products, like scrubs or peels. Also, stop using any harsh ingredients like salicylic acid or SLS. And when you’re washing your face, use cool water. And limit washing your face to twice a day or less.

Less is more. By doing less, you give your skin the time it needs to heal itself naturally.

How can you help repair the skin barrier?

There are cases when the damage is more severe, and you’d need to give your skin more aids.

In this case, aside from eliminating harsh ingredients and products, you also need to replenish your skin with what it’s lost. Use products with skin-identical ingredients (aka. factors that already exist in your skin) such as ceramides, cholesterols, and free fatty acids.

Also, you’d need to fortify your skin barrier function with products that can strengthen it. These are products that would stimulate the production of ceramide and collagen. Some proven clinical ingredients to look for are Squalane, Copper Tripeptide, and Vitamin B5.

TEWL (Trans Epidermal Water Loss) is a huge issue when your skin barrier is damaged. And so you’d need to give your skin plenty of hydration. Use humectant ingredients such as Centella Asiatica Extract and Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein to draw moisture into your skin. Then seal in that moisture with occlusive ingredients such as Jojoba Oil.

Finally, protect your skin from free radicals with antioxidant ingredients such as Idebenone and Vitamin E. Then top it all off with a mineral broad-spectrum SPF 50 to protect against sun damage.

What else can you do to help repair your skin barrier faster?

The most important part in a skin repair regimen is to maintain consistency.

Depends on how severe the damage is, it could take quite some time for your skin to repair. Some may take weeks. Others may take months. But in either cases, it’s extremely important that you continue to with the process.

And that means you must be consistent with your skin repair routine, day in and day out.

On top of that, be holistic about your approach.

When it comes down to it, healthy skin means that your overall health is also optimal. And every lifestyle choice also plays a vital role in this.

Beauty is vitality revealed

Vu-Hoand Le – CEO of Eblouir Group

Have a balanced diet. Drink more water. Eat food with anti-aging properties, such as salmon, chia seeds, olive oil, eggs, tofu, broccoli, spinach, carrots… Also, have a healthy sleep routine. Don’t stay up too late. Make sure you get that 8-hour per day. And cut down on smoking and drinking (if that’s what you’ve been doing).

Skin repair – the future of skincare

The global beauty industry is huge.

It’s estimated that its market value is worth about $532 billion USD as of 2019. And it’s forecasted to reach $805 billion USD by 2023.

Of all the product categories of the cosmetic market (hair care, makeup, perfumes…), skincare is the most profitable category. It’s estimated at around $145.2 billion USD – which is almost a third of the entire market – and it’s only projected to be growing more.

The reasons why the beauty industry is growing so big has to do with the increasing popularity of social media channels like Youtube and Instagram. These platforms help to create a demand for beauty products and popularize beauty brands to consumers. And of course, they’re also highly influential as well.

With its increase in popularity, there’s also an increase in misinformation as well.

Now more than ever, it’s incredibly easy for just about anyone to upload a video and talk just about anything. And if that person gains a bigger following, their potential to influence their followers would grow even more.

Imagine, if this person has no scientific background, or they failed to research a topic properly, they could easily spread misinformation to an entire group of people who follow and trust them.

And that’s exactly what’s happening. Misinformation. And I believe this is why so many people are unintentionally damaging their skin barrier function.

Renee Rouleau – celebrity esthetician – even mentioned that “not a day goes by that I’m not giving a diagnosis of a damaged skin barrier function as the underlying cause of someone’s skin issue”.

Beauty brands are not helping either.

The beauty market has become incredibly saturated, with beauty companies continuously pumping out new products just to compete with each other. And they don’t always have the consumers’ best interest at heart. Not all products are of good quality, made from ingredients clinically proven to benefit the skin.

It’s like fast fashion.

At this rate, if more misinformation continues to spread, and beauty brands keep producing subpar products, we’ll definitely see more and more consumers damaging their skin barrier function.

And skin repair might just be the future of skincare as we know it.

But maybe it doesn’t have to be the future

Maybe all hope isn’t lost.

Social media is a double-edged blade. With all my talk about how social media contributes to the spread of misinformation, it’s also a tool for education.

Nowadays, many individuals like estheticians and dermatologists, have recognized the power of social media and started created content on the science behind skincare. This is huge because these are people who, traditionally, you must pay to book meetings with.

It’s easier than ever to receive expert advice right at the comfort of your own home.

But what’s most important is for us to become conscious consumers. And that requires being critical about the information that we receive. It requires understanding the basic science behind what we’re putting on our face. And last, it requires us to continuously educate ourselves on what’s best for our skin health.

Let’s Recap:

  • The skin barrier function protects our skin from excessive Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL) and prevents potentially harmful substances to enter the body via the epidermis.
  • Any action or factors that disturb your skin from its natural state would all have the potential to damage your skin barrier.
  • You can tell if your skin barrier is damaged when it feels more irritated than usual, over a prolonged time period.
  • In many cases, your skin will heal itself naturally when you reduce the usage of products. However, in more severe cases, you need aids from other types of products.
  • You can repair your damaged skin barrier by:
    • Cutting down on products
    • Replenish your skin with skin-identical ingredients
    • Strengthen your skin with ingredients that stimulate collagen and ceramides
    • Give your skin plenty of hydration
    • Protect your skin with antioxidants and SPF
    • Be consistent in maintaining the regimen

 

Further Resources:

Recent Advances on Topical Application of Ceramides to Restore Barrier Function of Skin: www.mdpi.com/2079-9284/6/3/52/htm.

Repairing a Compromised Skin Barrier in Dermatitis: https://www.longdom.org/open-access/repairing-a-compromised-skin-barrier-in-dermatitis-2155-6121.1000187.pdf

Skin Barrier Can Solve Your Skin Problems: https://www.youglowgal.com/skin-barrier-solves-skin-problems/

Your Moisture Barrier May Be Damaged & Here’s How to Fix It: https://blog.reneerouleau.com/dry-tight-irritated-skin-your-moisture-barrier-might-be-damaged/#

Cometic Industry – Statistics & Facts: https://www.statista.com/topics/3137/cosmetics-industry/

All Of Those Products Are Making Your Skin Worse: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/30/style/all-of-those-products-are-making-your-skin-worse.html

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