Do you think you have sensitive skin? Actually, many of us don’t have truly sensitive skin but do experience sensitivity. What’s the difference? If you have true sensitive skin, you will have had this since birth - perhaps you have eczema or psoriasis. Most of us, however, experience sensitivity - when the skin barrier is impaired.
Whether you have truly sensitive skin, or are experiencing sensitivity, the good news is that you can repair the barrier. This can help to reduce sensitivity and to protect against irritation. To find out more, we need to first look at what the skin barrier is, how it gets impaired or damaged, to find out what we can do to repair the barrier.
What is your skin’s barrier?
Your skin is an organ. This is something we often forget. It has seven layers and is the thing that stands in between your muscles, bones, ligaments and internal organs and the world outside. It can protect your internal organs against all kinds of threats. But what protects your skin?
The skin barrier, that’s what. It’s often called the lipid barrier. It is the barrier between your skin and the world outside. Your lipid barrier has two important functions:
It stops bacteria, pollutants, UV rays and dirt from getting into the deeper layers
It stops water from leaving your skin
In both functions, the barrier is there as a seal over your skin. When that seal is broken, we says the lipid barrier is impaired or weakened. We’ll see why this leads to problems later - but it is the cause of dry skin, dehydration and sensitivity.
What is the lipid barrier made of?
The clue is in the name - it is made of lipids and cells. To understand more, we need to look at how the lipid barrier is made.
Imagine a brick wall - made of bricks and held together by cement. The cement acts almost like a glue between the bricks. The same is true of the lipid barrier.
The skin’s barrier is made of skin cells that are already dead and are kept together with lipids - which are found in the oil that your sebaceous glands naturally produces. The effect is like a brick wall.
What does the lipid barrier do?
When your skin is functioning healthily, your lipid barrier is impenetrable. It keeps the water and good stuff in and keeps the bad stuff out! Your lipid barrier should naturally renew itself.
How can the skin’s barrier get damaged or impaired?
There can be a number of factors involved in why the barrier gets damaged or impaired.
Skin Type - if you have naturally sensitive skin, you may have a naturally weakened lipid barrier. Equally, if you have dry skin, you may naturally not produce enough sebum, which is a source of lipids to make up the barrier. This leads to flaky, dry patches as the cells in the barrier have nothing to hold them together.
Age - as you age your skin naturally changes. Your cell renewal slows down and this can have an effect on the lipid barrier.
Environmental Factors - when your skin is exposed to extreme temperatures and excessive sun exposure this can cause a weakening of the lipid barrier.
Using too many or too harsh products - this can be an issue particularly for those of us with oily skin. Using harsh skincare products, or oversuing products like exfoliators or cleansers, can not only strip the skin of excess oil but can also strip the barrier of essential lipids, leading to barrier damage.
How can you tell if the lipid barrier is damaged?
To answer that, let’s go back to why we have a lipid barrier - to stop bad stuff getting in and the good stuff getting out. When the lipid barrier is damaged or weakened, that is exactly what happens - your skin loses water and natural moisture and irritants and allergens can get into the deeper layers causing damage, sensitivity and irritation.
What happens when the barrier is damaged?
When your barrier is damaged, you may experience one or more of these issues:
Increased sensitivity - an impaired barrier allows chemicals and active ingredients to get deeper into the skin. So skincare products, makeup, perfume etc can irritate and may cause sensitivity and allergic reactions. This can look like reddened, itchy and sore patches.
Transepidermal water loss - when water is able to leave the skin, this is a process called transepidermal water loss. It can lead to dehydration. This not only looks dull but also lack elasticity and plumpness - the water that ‘filled’ the deeper layers is missing so your face can start to look hollow with deepening lines and wrinkles, particularly in older people.
Dry, flaky skin - when the barrier is impaired and there are not enough lipids (oil) to hold together the skin cells that form this barrier, the result can be dry and flaky patches.
Breakouts - when your barrier is impaired, this can allow dirt and bacteria to get deep into pores, making ideal conditions for breakouts. This is especially true if you produce excess oil and are using harsh products that strip the skin of all its oils.
How can we repair skin’s barrier?
The good news is that damage to the barrier is repairable! You just need to find skin care routine that will help to rebuild and repair the lipid barrier but without irritation or causing a reaction.
Here are our three top tips for barrier repair:
Use sunscreen - this might sound like a strange start - how will that repair the barrier? Well, apart from the fact that every day is a good day to apply an SPF, but when you have an impaired barrier function, it’s eve more important to use an SPF for sun protection to protect against UV rays attacking the collagen and elastin in the deeper layers.
Don’t exfoliate too often - exfoliation is great but you can have too much of a good thing, especially when you have an impaired barrier.
Choose skin care products that repair the barrier without irritation - it can be tempting, when with sensitivity, to avoid cleansing altogether. But actually it’s really important you use products to effectively cleanse and start to repair the lipid barrier. A great range to look at is Myroo - the first ‘free-from’ brand, designed to be kind but effective skincare.
Myroo - Kind whilst still being effective
Myroo is a range that is free from all 14 food allergens and also free from synthetic irritants. Using natural, gluten free and vegan ingredients, Myroo has been developed by a woman who experiences sensitivity.
Myroo Rosehip and Starflower Oil Facial Boost Serum is also available with orange blossom or fragrance free. Using this booster as a part of your skincare routine can also help to boost your barrier function with rosehip oil being packed full of active vitamins and minerals.
Will sensitivity stop when the barrier is repaired?
This will largely depend on the reason for your sensitivity in the first place. As we looked at, at the start, if you have naturally sensitive skin or conditions like eczema, this is different to sensitivity due to an impaired barrier. People with sensitive skin can have more control over this by using skincare products to repair the lipid barrier.
Shop for Myroo
To find the right products for your unique concerns that can help with barrier repair, shop Myroo at Jersey Beauty here: