Let's start this article by stating a simple fact: Healthy skin isn't possible without a functioning lipid barrier.
What's the lipid barrier and what does it do?
Otherwise known as the Stratum Corneum or moisture barrier, the lipid barrier is the outermost layer of our skin and is made of Ceramides, Cholesterol and fatty acids; as well as dead skin cells.
The skin barrier serves many function including:
- Permeability: preventing loss of water, electrolytes and minerals.
- Protection against the invasion of microorganisms, allergens and pathogens.
- UV barrier and anti-oxidation.
- Maintaining moisture balance in the inner layer of the skin.
- A healthy lipid barrier provides a youthful glow.
What are the factors that compromise the skin's lipid barrier?
An impaired lipid barrier can result in:
- Premature aging.
- Persistant acne issues and oil imbalance.
- Increased sensitivity, irritation, redness and itching.
- Worsening of skin conditions such as Eczema, Psoriasis and Rosacea.
Our lipid barrier can be easily compromised by:
- Using harsh cleansers containing Sodium Laureth Sulfate.
- Using Physical exfoliants and scrubs (anything with texture).
- Skincare products that are high in actives such as Retinol, AHA's and Ascorbic Acid.
- Consistent exposure to oxidants (chemical based skincare and polutants)
- Excessive heat and prolonged sun exposure.
- Impaired nutritional status: low fat diets and low nutrients, as well as excessive consumption of alcohol and artificial foods.
- Consumption of sugars which reduce the skin's ability to heal.
The lifestyle approach to repairing the lipid barrier
The lipid barrier repair needs a dual approach from the inside and the outside in. Let's start with internal strategies;
- Ensure your levels of Vitamin-C and Calcium are on point. They are responsible for cell differentiation and will aid in the repair process.
- Consume plenty of antioxidant-rich foods such as berries. They are essential to skin homeosis; the protection of proteins and lipids from oxidation.
- Vitamin E, Beta Carotene and Lycopene contribute to forming the UV barrier. So stock up on your veggies, nuts, and foods with cooked tomato sauce.
- Take a Collagen supplement and consume foods that stimulate your body's collagen production. More on that topic here.
- Reduce your sugar intake.
- Take your omega 3 fatty acid supplements or consume wild salmon twice per week, include olive oil and avocados in your diet .
- Wear a hat in the summer and stay out of the sun as much as possible.
What skincare ingredients repair a compromised lipid barrier?
- Look for the all the ingredients mentioned in the lifestyle section in your skincare.
- Use a milk or oil cleaners. A few options here. I especially love Loli Chamomile Water Cleanser and both Blü Fern Cleansers.
- Ceramides and Squalane.
- Use a mineral sunscreen everyday. Select one with Zinc Oxide. My favorite are Kari Gran and Suntegrity.
- Use skincare with copper, selenium and peptides. You can find these in Graydon Skin Food and Graydon Full Moon Serum.
- Use a protective and healing balm to help seal the moisture and protect the skin all day. A couple of my favorites are Arcana Holocene Balm and for those with major damage and extra sensitive skin, I recommend Loli Date Nut Brûlée (which can also be used as a cleanser), or Liha Ivory Shea Butter which is as simple as it gets being one single ingredient.
- Do not use any physical exfoliants ever! They are damaging to the skin. Instead, use an enzyme exfoliant such as Earth Harbor Glow Juice Enzyme Mask. Use it sparingly. If your skin feels rough, irritated and sensitized, do not use any exfoliation for 3 to 4 weeks. Just focus on all the other remedies. Once you start seeing improvement, you can introduce this mask once every two weeks, then once per week at most.
Be well. Be safe. Be beautiful!