Has mask wearing and winter compromised the barrier of our skin?
Generally, our bodies do fairly well at protecting themselves, but when it comes to our skin barrier, day to day life really takes its toll. A compromised barrier creates a lot of challenges for our skin including faster aging, dryness, sensitivity, irritation and redness.
The skin barrier serves an important function in protecting the body from infection, toxins and other DNA damaging elements. In the Clinic we are seeing more cases of compromised skin barrier than ever before as a result of stress, overuse of active or harsh ingredients, environmental aggressors (extreme weather, allergens and pollutants), overexposure to the sun, over-exfoliating, over washing, harsh detergents, soaps and hand sanitiser, medications, autoimmune diseases, genetic factors, blue lights from computers and smartphones and even overly aggressive professional treatments when the skin has not been prepared prior to treatment.
The dermal layer of the skin (the inner layer of the two main layers of the skin and includes connective tissue, oil, blood vessels and other structures) is the precursor to a strong epidermal layer (the thin outer layer of the skin that is visible to the eye) and a properly functioning barrier.
The barrier comprises of cells called corneocytes that are bound together by cement-like lipids. This very thin wall has a monumental job in keeping out harmful environmental pathogens and toxins and retaining our body’s water content. When the barrier is compromised the skin no longer effectively retains moisture, and its ability to protect itself is weakened.
As a result, compromised skin may exhibit
- a dull appearance
- visible capillaries
- increased sensitivity
- pigmentation and early ageing signs
The compromised skin requires resuscitating and revitalising with a combination of nutrients, vitamins and superstar antioxidants both internally and externally. Antioxidants, which consist of enzymes, minerals, and vitamins help to repair and prevent damage to our skin by slowing free radical damage, an oxidation process that leads to tissue and cell dysfunction. Antioxidants work by neutralising free radicals and inhibiting cell damage by preventing the oxidation of other molecules. They themselves are oxidised, which is what allows them to effectively eradicate oxidation chain reactions. Antioxidants are one of the main first line defenders against free radicals.
Antioxidants are not stored by the body and therefore they routinely need to be replenished both internally and externally. When it comes to antioxidants, the body and skin cannot get enough of a good thing. They are important in protection and prevention and are vital for fighting ageing. The first step is getting nutrients for internal use (Vitamin C – brussels sprouts, guava, citrus, and broccoli. Vitamin A – Spinach, liver, pumpkin, kale and carrots. Vitamin E – carrots, tomato, oats, wheat germ oil, walnut oil, and olive oil. Polyphenols – walnuts, dark chocolate, berries, and green tea.) naturally from superfoods. Bioflavonoids – sea-buckthorn, tea, citrus, onions and berries.
Applying antioxidants topically is also crucial for the external health, wellbeing and rebuilding the barrier of our skin. There are some specific antioxidants that will speed the healing and strengthening of the skin topically. These antioxidants focus on strengthening and nourishing the mitochondria to fight against the reactive oxygen species (ROS) that contribute to a compromised barrier.
These include spin trap, L-glutathione, superoxide dismutase (SOD), CoQ10, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C and heart of green tea. Compromised barriers also suffer from trans1 epidermal water loss (TEWL), which can be remedied with specialised lipid and hydration support with various humectants, hyaluronic acid, organic oils and omegas all of which will bind and seal moisture into depleted skin.
Each skin and the level of damage to the barrier is very individual and requires a customised approach to the restoration of the skin. The skin must go through several cycles to shed the compromised cells, making way for the new, healthy cells to come to the surface revealing healthy hydrated and radiant skin.