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15 skin care products to strengthen the skin barrier: serums, moisturizers and repair creams

techsm5

Few other subjects have dominated beauty waves as much as the skin barrier. Forgotten for decades in our collective quest for clear, radiant skin – resulting in enthusiastic scrubbing, peeling, and cleansing habits that inadvertently cause damage – an intact barrier has now earned its place as a true source of skin health.

Part of this newfound recognition has to do with social media, which has ushered in barrier-friendly trends like probiotic skincare (to maintain the surface microbiome) and skin cycle routines (which alternate active and restorative treatments). “People have become more aware of the science behind skin conditions,” says dermatologist Kim Nichols, MARYLAND. “They are more likely to self-educate using the internet, which provides them with information about why they may be experiencing certain symptoms.” Quite often, an underlying cause is a compromised skin barrier.

Research links an altered stratum corneum (as this outermost layer is called) to a host of skin problems; for example, studies suggest that a disrupted barrier may serve as a mechanism in the development of acne. Addressing the root cause is a new approach. “When trying to address unwanted skin conditions, such as signs of aging, sensitive skin, acne, and dermatitis, you need to repair your barrier, which hasn’t always been the method of healing in industries. dermatology and skin care,” says San Francisco esthetician and trainer Kristina Troue, which was among the first to create products dedicated to the skin barrier. “Harsh preservatives, exfoliation and peels all break down this natural protection system – and now, with the resulting increase in inflammatory skin conditions, we are all focused on repairing.”

On a biological level, the primary role of the stratum corneum is protection, as the body’s first line of defense against environmental stressors, including bacteria and viruses, UV rays and pollution. It is also responsible for maintaining moisture in the skin, where water is needed to perform important cellular functions. To do this, “a healthy barrier layer has the essential components in place: a balanced pH, a robust microbiome, balanced natural moisturizing factors, a balanced lipid layer,” says Holey.

The microbiome in particular has become an increasingly valued (and much discussed) aspect of the skin barrier; this diverse ecosystem of surface microorganisms is responsible for supporting the skin’s immune system and controlling inflammation. “Barrier function and the microbiome do not exist independently of each other,” says Holey. “Maintaining the integrity of the barrier layer helps skin flora stay healthy, which ensures overall healthy skin.”

If something is missing from the neat makeup of the skin barrier, things can quickly get uncomfortable. “Redness, tightness, flaking, and dryness are signs that your skin barrier is compromised,” says Nichols. “The most common misconception I see in my patients is that the tingling or slight sting [sensation] when the application of products is a sign of an effective product; in fact, it signals potential damage to the skin barrier. In addition to harsh formulations, certain preservatives (which interfere with microbiome balance) and habits like too frequent cleaning can also upset the barrier.

Nichols recommends looking for ingredients naturally found in the lipid-rich stratum corneum, such as ceramides and fatty acids. Water-sucking humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin are also beneficial because a compromised barrier leads to a kind of evaporation known as transepidermal water loss. Together, “these ingredients help hydrate, lock in moisture, and act as a protector for compromised skin without further irritation,” she says.

While the extent of the damage — and therefore the time it takes to repair — can vary, “generally you can expect to start seeing improvement anywhere from two weeks to a full month,” says Nichols. But patience is well rewarded, with a little boost from these 15 formulas, designed for immediate and lasting care.

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