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Skin Barrier Protection Guide: Plus the Ingredients ALL Good Moisturisers have

Skin + Me have always advocated that skin barrier protection should inform your lifestyle rather than enter your routine as a one-season wonder. That said, our Dermatologists highlighted skin barrier awareness and protection as a growing trend at the start of 2022. 

What is your skin barrier?

Your skin barrier is made up of skin cells and lipids (the natural oils that keep your skin lubricated and healthy).  A well-functioning skin barrier is essential to the health of our skin. Your routine can nurture it by ensuring skin is gently cleansed, hydrated and protected from external pollutants and aggressors.

Why is skin barrier care so popular right now?

Content about our skin barrier is increasingly high on our social feeds and across industry skincare shelves. The trend lines up with the growth of retinoid use (think tretinoin that increases cell turnover) and exfoliating acids (AHAs and BHAs) in our routines. Overuse of these products – and active ingredients in general – has the potential to compromise the skin barrier resulting in irritation and sensitivity.

Active ingredients are popular for a reason – they’re a powerful, effective way to help you reach your skin goals. To keep your skin barrier happy at the same time? You just need an expert-approved approach and a basic bit of skincare savvy.

If active ingredients in your routine feel like they’re excessively drying your skin or triggering increased sensitivity, assess first if this is a reaction to your ingredients or you simply need to decrease the frequency of active ingredient use until you build tolerance and (at the same time) step up your skin barrier protection routine.

The secret to skin barrier protection 

We’ll let you in on a skincare secret: The reality of skin barrier protection is that you don’t really need a buzzy product that screams ‘skin barrier protection’ on the label. 

If you’re already using a gentle cleanser and good quality moisturiser, then the chances are you’ll be using some of the key ingredients that support a healthy skin barrier already.

Skin barrier-loving ingredients

Our Head of Medical, Dr Jason Thomson summarises the best of what you should look out for, “Essentially all good barrier-protecting moisturisers will include emollients, occlusives and humectants.”

Emollients:

+ Soothing and conditioning, emollients likely form the base of your moisturising treatment. Emollients can also be used as a skin-softening soap substitute.

+ They’re used to treat dry and irritation-prone skin (and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis).

+ Emollients can be water-based (lotions) or have a higher oil-water ratio (ointments).

+ The higher oil-water ration emollients form a film on the skin that locks in moisture and these are known as occlusive emollients. 

+ Examples of emollients include shea butter, allantoin and ceramides.

Occlusives:

+ A group of ingredients that form a protective, physical barrier over the skin to prevent water loss and seal in hydration.

+ Coating your skin in an occlusive overnight is known as slugging.

+ Occlusives are mainly oil-based and can be comedogenic.

+ Examples of occlusives include petroleum, coconut oil, almond oil, avocado oil and jojoba oil.

Humectants:

+ A common skincare agent that attracts and retains moisture, pulling moisture from the air into the upper layers of skin.

+ Apply your humectant on damp skin for an extra hydration boost.

+ Examples of humectants include AHAs, salicylic acid, glycerin and sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid.

Simple ways to support your skin barrier

+ Use active ingredients mindfully. The personalised formula in your Daily Doser evolves in strength as your skin builds tolerance to ingredients like tretinoin. You don’t need additional layers of active ingredients in your evening routine.

+ Sensitive skin? Consider applying active ingredients every other day, until you build tolerance.

+ Make skinimalism your mantra. Less is more when it comes to healthy skin.

+ Don’t forget SPF – this will protect you from external aggressors that can irritate your barrier further.

+ Remove makeup gently – lookout for products that include natural moisturisers like glycerin in your cleanser and face wash.

+ Moisturise with the right ingredients. Look out for scientifically-proven skincare heroes in your products – glycerin, allantoin and ceramides will soothe all skin types.

Medical facts checked by Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Jason Thomson 

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