Was there some point in your life when you experienced a rather frustrating skin issue that couldn’t be explained?
You looked in the mirror to be confronted with perhaps a dry patch, itchiness, or even eczema flare up that showed up overnight?
Sure you can blame it on the seasons, but when things don’t seem to add up… there may well be another little known culprit at work.
To understand how your skin works, you need to understand the skin’s barrier (also known as the lipid barrier).
The skin’s barrier performs many important functions. The primary function is to provide protection from: mechanical impacts and pressure, variations in temperature, micro-organisms, radiation and chemicals. Another important function the skin does is to regulate moisture, and prevent water loss through the pores. Dehydrated skin feels tight and uncomfortable and can appear dull, rough, flaky or red. When your barrier function is strong and working as it should, your skin will look soft, supple, hydrated and remain happy with no irritations.
Unfortunately, there are a number of factors that can damage the skin’s lipid barrier, causing those annoying skin issues.
In this article we’ll focus on a few of the biggest culprits that tend to affect the skin’s barrier the most, and upset its fragile nature. We’ll also provide you with natural ways to bring it back to optimal health.
Using harmful skincare products
Many products on the market contain synthetic humectants, emollients, fragrances, surfactants and harsh alcohol's, over time these ingredients can alter the skins PH affecting the normal functioning of the protective barrier, leading to dryness and irritation, and leaving the skin open to infection. The PH of our skin is slightly acidic and sits around 4.5 - 5.5 which helps protect the skin from harmful bacteria and fungi. Often in cases of acne, where the skin can be excessively oily and congested, we feel like we want to get rid of the excess oil in our skin, so using a product that does that, feels like the right move, but the reality is it can have an adverse effect on the skin’s barrier, creating even more oil as the skin attempts to replace what’s been taken away, and making the problem worse.
Always be sure to check the label, and opt only for products that are formulated with natural and pure ingredients. Using gentle ingredients from the earth are effective for your skin, and have the added benefits of infusing your skin with moisture and nutrients to maintain its delicate pH balance.
Our skin reflects our state of health and eating too much unhealthy, processed foods can take a real toll on the skin’s barrier function, causing physical manifestations such as acne, lines and wrinkles, and dry skin. Sugar is one of the biggest food culprits as it draws water out of the skin cells, putting it at risk for dehydration and breaking down collagen.
Be sure to fill your diet with whole, natural foods such as leafy greens, a rainbow of fruits and veggies, and healthy fats (fish, nuts and seeds), to ensure you’re getting valuable nutrients. Research has found that there is a link between healthy, youthful skin and diets that are high in antioxidant rich plant nutrients. According the American Journal of Public Health, eating foods containing carotenoids, can greatly improve skin tone and give skin a healthy colour and glow.
Of course there are factors that are out of your control that certainly do contribute to barrier function damage, this includes the climate you live in and environmental pollution such as: artificial air in homes, chemicals used at work, toxins in the air, smog, sun exposure, and smoke.
Feeling the sun’s warmth on your skin is incredibly healing and UVB rays gives us a shot of Vitamin D, however too much sun, is very damaging and ageing to our skin and puts us at risk of Skin Cancer. To maintain vitamin D levels, all most of us need to do is expose large areas of our bodies, such as legs or arms for 5 or 10 minutes in the early morning or late afternoon, as sun is less harmful at those times, and during the winter months at midday. Also get into the habit of applying a broad spectrum sunscreen daily to face, neck and chest areas and to areas like hands which can be constantly exposed when driving, so a 50 plus sunscreen is best, and regularly re-apply, to protect our skin from sun damage.
Don’t skip your moisturizer, no matter how much of a hurry you may be in. A moisturizer does so much more than simply add hydration. It forms a barrier on the skin to keep pollutants out, and if your moisturizer happens to be infused with ingredients such as aloe, colloidal oat, plant oils and antioxidants, then you can be sure it’s fighting aging free radicals all day long.