The lipid barrier, also known as the moisture barrier or the skin barrier, comes with numerous functions and responsibilities. Functions that are vital to support your skin and allow it to work at optimal condition.
Healthy skin starts with a healthy lipid barrier - so, what is it and how does it work?
The Lipid Barrier
Our lipid barrier is responsible for how our skin functions day to day. It is the outermost layer of the skin (Stratum Corneum), composed of lipids (the skin's natural fats) and corneocytes (dead skin cells), which work as a protective barrier.
The two kinds of lipids are epidermal and sebaceous. The epidermal lipids are composed of fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol. The sebaceous lipids include squalene, triglycerides and fatty acids.
This structure prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and protects the skin against free radicals. Our skin is constantly evolving throughout its life. It is constantly changing its structure and functions as we start to age and as we expose ourselves to different external aggressors. As we age, our natural production of lipids declines. Not only this, but internal and external factors can contribute to damaging the lipid barrier.
Damaged / Compromised Barrier
Once this barrier is damaged or compromised, it is unable to do its job properly - which is to retain water and protect the skin from free-radical damage. As this protective barrier breaks, issues like inflammation, breakouts and dryness can come about. It may be the case that your sudden sensitivity to a product, or sudden breakout, is due to your lipid barrier being compromised.
It is common to think that the quickest and easiest way to fix a breakout is to apply more skincare, wash your face more thoroughly and reach for those more active ingredients. However, this could very well be what caused the damage in the first place.
Understanding your skin's barrier is key when using active skincare. Finding the source or trigger of the change in your skin is the first step. Ask yourself questions like:
- Have I changed anything in my skincare routine?
- Introducing a new product
- Increasing your usage of a product
- Applying more product than usual
- Have I had a stressful week?
- Have I been exposed to harsh temperatures?
- Have I had any changes in my medication?
- Have I had any changes in my diet?
- Have I had any changes in my hormones?
- What stage are you in your menstrual cycle?
What Can Compromise / Damage the Lipid Barrier?
- Changes in weather
- Overexposure to the sun
- Overuse of skincare
- Over Exfoliation
- Hormonal changes
- Imbalance of Gut Microbes / read more on the gut-skin connection here
- Changes in medication
Signs of a Compromised / Damaged Barrier
You’ll know something is not quite right with your skin when it comes to a damaged lipid-barrier. When the skin isn’t adequately protected it will show in all forms of chaos on the skin:
What to do if You See Signs of a Damaged Lipid Barrier?
1. Strip back on your skincare routine.
a. Remove actives such as Vitamin A & C as this can cause further irritation.
2. Nourish your skin with lipid-loving ingredients morning and night.
3. Swap to a gentle oil or cream cleanser.
4. Be extra cautious of external aggressors.
a. Avoid harsh temperatures.
b. Protect your skin from sun exposure.
5. Be extra diligent with SPF applications. Sun exposure is a sure-fire way to break down that protective barrier.
6. Minimise makeup application.
a. Allowing the skin to breath as much as possible will assist in the healing process.
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Vitamin E
- Fatty acids
- Camelia Oil
Creating & Maintaining a Healthy Lipid Barrier
What we can do to support our lipid barrier is to choose lipid supporting topical skincare products. Ingredients like ceramides, fatty acids, squalene and antioxidants will support your barrier function.
It can take time to heal a damaged lipid barrier, anywhere between 6-12 weeks - it is different for everyone. Patience, and consistency is key.
You will know your barrier is healed once you are no longer experiencing abnormal dryness, inflammation or breakouts.
Once this is healed, slowly reintroducing ingredients like Vitamin A and C into your routine will work to further strengthen your skin, and create healthy skin cells working at optimal condition. It is important to note that your skin may be more sensitised after damaging your lipid barrier, and is why this needs to be incorporated slowly.
Secret Hydrating Duo
Our favourite duo to help nurture and support your skin's barrier. Rich in antioxidants, natural oils and essential fatty acids, this combo will deeply hydrate, nourish and strengthen your skin.
Secret Face Oil & Face Serum
Visit our website for more information on our Hydrating Duo.
**Stressed skin is an outward symptom of internal stress. Stress triggers a hormone in our body called Cortisol. High Cortisol levels cause our skin’s sebaceous glands to produce more oil which can clog our pores and lead to breakouts. Increased cortisol production also causes higher levels of inflammation in the body and accelerates the ageing process, leading to the appearance of lines, wrinkles, and age spots.