Your skin is more than just the reflection looking back at you in the mirror; it's a workhorse skin barrier that works around the clock acting as your body's first line of defense from things like pathogens, to impacts from your environment. When your skin barrier is happy and hosting a thriving micro-biome, your skin is youthful, glowing, and showing off that radiant mermaid glow that lights up a room. When it's in distress and the skin barrier micro-biome is out of whack, you'll start to see symptoms of skin conditions surfacing, which is your skin asking for help. As spring rolls in and you shed your winter skin, your skin barrier needs to adapt to the changes that come with the seasonal shift, and we have some tips to aid you in doing so!
What Is The Skin Barrier?
Skin is the largest organ in your body, and it has many key functions! It helps maintain body temperature and acts as the primary barrier between your body and the environment, and consists of three different layers: the stratum corneum (aka the epidermis), the dermis, and the hypodermis (aka subcutaneous fat) at the deepest layer. If you’ve ever heard of a burn being third-degree for example, that is referring to the specific layer of skin that is impacted. The stratum corneum, the outermost layer of your skin, is the most crucial part of the skin barrier and is the lipid matrix. It comprises of cholesterol, fatty acids (sebum), and ceramides which consist of lipids and makeup over 50% of the skin function forming this natural barrier.
The skin barrier has many functional uses including preventing bacteria and substances from entering the body, thereby preventing an immune response. The skin isn’t impenetrable, however. Medications such as topical estrogens, smoking cessation products, and even birth control are absorbed through the skin, including toxic chemicals in your skincare! The skin also helps the body remain hydrated by preventing moisture loss through the skin (hence why you need to rehydrate when working out and sweating). Your skin’s outer layer is also referred to as the acid mantle. This acid mantle is your body's invisible force-field that keeps moisture in and pathogens out. It's formed from the combination of sebum and amino acids from your sweat to create a perfect pH of 5.5 that is neither too acidic nor too alkaline. You can see signs that your skin’s pH is wonky by visibly damaged skin such as dry and flakiness, early aging, redness, or more sensitivity than normal. These are signs your skin is crying out for some extra TLC!
Symptoms of a compromised skin barrier:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Skin infections
- Sensitive or inflamed areas
- Rough or discolored patches
Some common skin conditions point to acid mantle regulation and include atopic dermatitis (eczema), an itchy skin condition that can be impacted by genes, food allergies, stress, and in some cases, using the wrong (or too aggressive) skincare products. Also, Psoriasis is an example of an acid mantle skin condition.
Things that can impact the skin barrier and inhibit its function:
- Steroid use
- Over exfoliation
- Environmental factors
- Pollutants and allergens
- Excessive UV exposure
- Skincare products
- Diseases such as diabetes
How can I improve my Skin Barrier?
There are plenty of things you can do to improve your skin health. While some skin conditions may not have a magic cure, simple changes in your diet, lifestyle, and skincare products can greatly diminish the effects of skin conditions and drastically improve your skin health!
Opting for plant-based skincare is a great way to enhance your skin health. Plant-based ingredients like oils and extracts help repair the skin and some plant-based ingredients are naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Marine-based plant ingredients, like those found in all Earth Harbor skincare gems, are well known for improving skin barrier function, especially seaweeds and algae. One of our most popular skincare gems, CALYPSO Rejuvenating Moisture Elixir, is our top recommendation to help you protect your skin barrier, as it contains compounds that help your skin barrier thrive.
Maintaining a balanced skin barrier pH is very important, as we discussed above about the acid mantle. It's important to reach for skincare products that help balance your skin's pH, like all Earth Harbor Facial Soaps and all of our water-based skincare gems, like our best selling AQUA AURA Reparative Eye Cream and our AHOY LOVE Nourishing Cream Cleanser. These pH-balancing products, which are often labeled as “pH balanced” or something similar can help make finding pH balancing products easier. However, oil-based/anhydrous products do not have a pH. This means a company can’t label non-pH product as pH balanced because it lacks a pH altogether.
Another way to help enhance skin barrier function is by customizing your skincare ritual for your skin-situation! Earth Harbor skincare gems are known as modular skincare and are specifically designed to mix-and-match to suit your skin’s needs and target concerns. For example, adding a few drops of any Earth Harbor ampoule and/or serum with Earth Harbor’s MERMAID MILK Nutrient Glow Moisturizer creates a hyper-targeted skincare ritual. To help enhance a thriving microbiome (especially as we transition from winter to spring weather), try a few drops of our MARINA Biome Brightening Ampoule mixed into a dollop of MERMAID MILK Nutrient Glow Moisturizer!
Merbabe Tip: Avoid overusing special skincare treatments. For example, exfoliation is necessary for healthy skin, however, it's important not to overuse it more than a couple of times per week!
Protecting your skin from UV is a very important means of protecting your skin barrier function since excessive sun exposure can cause premature aging and even cancer. At Earth Harbor, we've been tirelessly working to create a clean, marine-safe SPF gem to keep all you merbabes safe while soaking up the sun. Be on the lookout for our new SPF gem dropping next season!
Just like your gut has a diverse microbiome of bacteria (both good and bad) that is responsible for a healthy immune system and digestion, your skin has a microbiome that needs nurturing too! Earth Harbor MARINA Biome Brightening Ampoule uses marine ingredients such as spirulina and blue tansy to help balance the delicate microbiome of the skin barrier.
How to Optimize Your Skin Barrier Internally
Just as important as working on your skin barrier from the outside, is working on it from the inside. The skin barrier is a synergistic balance of inner health and outer beauty.
Hydrate: Drinking half your body weight in ounces of water daily is ideal for most people to maintain adequate hydration. In some instances, you may need to consume more water on occasions like a hot day or after a workout. Tip: Consuming water-rich foods such as cucumbers and celery is a great way to increase your body's hydration. Not a fan of plain water? Jazz it up with fruit or sip on herbal tea!
Collagen: It’s important to boost collagen production for a healthy and happy skin barrier. Consuming silica-rich foods and aloe vera is a great way to enhance collagen production.
Vitamins: While the benefit of vitamins and minerals in the body are endless, there are a few key vitamins for optimal skin barrier function:
Vitamin D: Helps build healthy tissue, including skin cells. While Vitamin D is often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” since it’s highly produced in the skin as a result of sun exposure, it can also be absorbed from food sources. (Did you know that Vitamin D isn’t actually a vitamin but rather a hormone? Calcitriol is a bio-available product that is converted in the body from sunlight and food sources.)
Vitamin C: This powerful (and probably the most well-known antioxidant) is found in its highest concentration in the layers of our skin.
Vitamin E: This vitamin is produced in the sebum (oil) of the skin and is well-known to help aid in healthy skin.
Vitamin K: This vitamin is actually a cofactor for Vitamin D, meaning you need both vitamins for the body to utilize Vitamin D effectively. Vitamin K is used to help the body clot blood, which is important in helping wounds heal (i.e. reduced scarring, etc.)
Balance Hormones: Happy hormones are crucial for healthy skin. Balancing hormones through diet, lifestyle, and supplements is a great way to enhance skin barrier function. Dive in here to read our article on hormone balancing.
Maintaining a Thriving Skin Barrier
There's so much happening with your skin every day. Your body is constantly renewing itself and building healthy, fresh skin cells. With a little help, you can enhance your skin barrier function drastically. Ensuring you have the best skin care products is only a start, while maintaining proper micronutrient levels, hydration, and hormones make waves of change.