What Is The
Skin Barrier?

At Kiehl’s, we believe that healthy skin starts with a strong skin barrier and a well-hydrated epidermis. In our approach to skincare, we recommend using formulas that help keep skin as close to its natural state of balance as possible. Learn more about your skin barrier and how you can help balance and strengthen it for healthier-looking skin.

What is the skin barrier?

The skin barrier is the outer surface of the skin including the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis. The stratum corneum is composed of skin cells, lipids, and natural moisturizing factors like amino and fatty acids. It has a “brick and mortar” composition with skin cells as the “bricks” and lipids (or oils) forming the “mortar” which functions to move moisture between cells.

What does the skin barrier do?

One of skin’s major functions is protection, which the skin barrier plays an important part in. A healthy skin barrier can help defend against environmental aggressors like the sun and pollution. In addition to protection, the skin barrier also helps retain and regulate moisture within the skin.

What is a damaged skin barrier?

When a skin barrier is damaged or compromised, it is more susceptible to external aggressors, such as UV rays and pollution, which can more easily penetrate skin. A damaged skin barrier can also experience a loss of water and nutrients which can throw off its moisture balance. When this balance is disrupted, skin can lose its suppleness, look dull or uneven, feel tight or uncomfortable and may even experience dryness, redness, imperfections or blemishes.

What causes a damaged skin barrier?

Skin’s moisture barrier can be affected by a range of factors – from changes in your immediate climate to a long airplane ride to UV damage. These changes may affect skin’s rate of water evaporation which not only causes skin to look and feel dry but also makes it more prone to other damage. Some of the key causes include:

  • External Aggressors
    • UVA & UVB rays
    • Pollution
    • Pollen, dust, dirt and other particles
  • Internal Factors
    • Genetics
    • Stress
    • Skin cyclical changes
  • Environment
    • Extreme temperatures and weather conditions
    • Seasonal changes
    • Air conditioning
    • Saltwater and chlorine
    • Temperature or humidity changes in your immediate environment
  • Lifestyle
    • Shaving and hair removal
    • Ineffective cleansing
    • Over-exfoliating skin
    • Leaving makeup on overnight
    • Using skincare products that are harsh or not formulated for your skin type
    • Using too many skincare products or formulas that are incompatible
    • Dermatologist procedures

What is a healthy skin barrier?

A healthy skin barrier works effectively at retaining moisture and helping to protect skin from aggressors and irritants. Maintaining balanced moisture levels within the skin by using a daily moisturizer or facial cream can help create a foundation for delaying signs of aging and maintain its ability to protect itself. When the skin barrier is healthy and resilient, skin feels smooth and hydrated and looks radiant and younger-looking.

How can you tell if your skin barrier is healthy or damaged?

To get a sense of your skin barrier, look first at how your skin looks and feels. Irritation, blemishes and dryness can all indicate that you might have a damaged skin barrier. Signs can vary widely by skin type — damaged oily skin might produce more oil while damaged dry skin might become rough or flaky.

For better accuracy, visit your local Kiehl’s for a complimentary skincare consultation. In as little as 5 minutes, a Kiehl’s Skincare Expert can check the condition of your skin barrier and its hydration levels. Your representative will also recommend a custom routine with formulas uniquely targeted needs.

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