Article 02

The skin barrier & microbiome

What do we mean when we talk about the skin’s barrier?

The skin barrier is important because it is the gate keeper to our external and internal environments.

In the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, is where the cells link together to form a protective wall. If we imagine the cells are the bricks then the lipids (such as ceramides, fatty acids and cholesterol) are the mortar.

It is important to be respectful to your skin’s barrier because once you disrupt it, and it can’t perform its functions and that disruption perpetuates.

What we mean by this is when your skin can’t perform its functions you get an increase in water loss and an

increase in irritants (e.g pollutants, allergens and pathogens) entering the skin. The result is a worsening of the skin’s barrier function through impacts such as increased inflammation. Once it’s challenged and its function is declined the result is worsening of the problem.

There are many things you can do to look after your skin’s barrier, including; avoiding harsh abrasions, damaging UVA/UVB rays, looking for moisturisers which contain ceramides and responding to physical signals (such as dryness, redness). For example, in winter if you start noticing dryness, respond to this by adding more moisture.

Avoid UVA/UVB rays

Look for moisturisers which contain ceramides

So what is the microbiome and what is the difference between this and the skin’s barrier?

Your skin’s microbiome is made up of microbes that protect your skin, fighting infections, regulating your PH and preventing environmental damage. Your microbiome can be affected by external factors such as where you live, what you eat, what products you use – this has an impact on how your skin appears externally.

The communities of microbes that naturally live on your skin can be good or bad behaving, affected by different environmental factors and stresses. Bad behaving microbes can cause eczema, irritation, inflammation, redness, dryness, flakiness and even trigger the degradation of collagen. This is why it is so important to be gentle with your skin and avoid stripping the skin of its natural oils and bacteria.

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