Our knowledge of skincare has improved massively from the days when we’d use harsh, gritty scrubs and try to dry our spots out to get rid of them.
Now, we know that the best way to tackle texture, blackheads, and spots is to use treatments with acids, like BHAs (salicylic acid), AHAs (glycolic and lactic acid), and PHAs. We’ve incorporated these exfoliating ingredients into multiple stages of our skincare routine to banish blemishes forever.
But could we be doing more harm than good?
Overusing these effective but potent ingredients can do more damage than good and could seriously damage your skin’s moisture barrier. You might have heard about the skin barrier – something our favourite TikTok dermatologists are always talking about – but what is it, and how do you take care of it?
Here, barrier-boosting skincare expert BYOMA discusses everything you need to know.
What is your skin barrier?
The moisture barrier is the outer protective layer that does its best to keep your skin happy, healthy, and hydrated. It’s made up of lipids, the natural fats in our skin including ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol, that keep it moisturised and keep nasties out. These lipids bind your tough skin cells together. It’s an essential element of a clear, moisturised complexion.
A healthy skin barrier will keep things like dirt, pollutants, and bacteria out of the deeper layers of your skin. As a result, your skin will look and feel soft, smooth, and bright. But a damaged barrier spells bad news for your complexion.
What happens if my skin barrier is damaged?
A damaged moisture barrier can’t protect your skin from outside factors. This means bacteria and dirt can penetrate your skin and cause damage, including acne and texture. This leads to rough-feeling skin that is dull and prone to blemishes.
Your moisture barrier is also essential to keeping hydration and water in your skin, so damage to your skin barrier will result in water loss. This leaves your skin dehydrated, so it might overproduce oil to compensate for a lack of hydration. What’s more, the inability to keep moisture in your skin means it’s more prone to signs of ageing like fine lines, dullness, and wrinkles.
How can I tell if my skin barrier is damaged?
As well as your skin not looking its best, you’ll be able to tell your moisture barrier has been damaged by how it feels. Damaged skin is red and sensitive to the touch. You might find that your usual skincare products start to sting or feel uncomfortable, even if you’ve invested in nourishing products.
As more of us got into skincare as a result of COVID lockdowns, we were drawn to acids and retinols that promised clearer, younger skin. But it’s safe to say we got a bit obsessed with them and this has left a lot of us with sensitive skin that is prone to breakouts. This led Future Beauty Labs founder Marc Elrick to create a brand-new skincare line based on boosting your skin’s barrier.
Marc says: “In 2020, when we were all confined to our homes, we started getting into skincare and before we knew it, we were experimenting with super-strong actives. We were effectively playing chemists without understanding that these ingredients need to be used with care, and a lot of people ended up with red, angry skin.
“I began developing BYOMA the same year after learning more about skin science and the importance of our moisture barrier. BYOMA is all about boosting your skin barrier, which is essential before you begin to address any issues like texture or acne.”
How can I protect my skin barrier?
So now that you know why looking after your skin’s moisture barrier is so important, how do you do it? BYOMA founder Marc shares his top tips for protecting that precious skin barrier.
Go easy on the acids
BYOMA was borne out of people going too hard on their skin with exfoliating acids and skin-renewing retinols. Ingredients like salicylic acid and lactic acid are fantastic as part of a proper skincare routine, but their use should be limited. Don’t use these types of acid daily – instead, use them every other day at most. PHAs are a gentler option if these acids irritate your skin. If your barrier is already disrupted, stop using them immediately until your skin has calmed down.
Use gentle cleansers
Who amongst us didn’t use rough scrubs or harsh astringents on their face in their teenage years? But we’ve learnt from our mistakes – for the most part. Cleansers that are too harsh will strip moisture from your skin, damaging the barrier. Modern facial cleansers are powerful enough to deeply cleanse your skin but are also creamy and hydrating to keep your moisture barrier intact.
Keep the heat and UV rays at bay
Has your skin ever felt dry, tight, or sensitive after washing it with hot water? While it can be tempting to use hot water to wash our faces because it feels good at the time, make sure you stick to lukewarm water. Hot water can further dry out our skin and leave it feeling tight and uncomfortable.
As for the sun, wear SPF every day – yes, even in the winter. The sun’s rays are the biggest cause of skin ageing and damage. And this damage applies to your moisture barrier too.
A simplified skincare routine is best both for a moisture barrier that’s already been upset or for long-term barrier protection. You can incorporate multiple steps, like toners and serums, but a deeply hydrating moisturiser is essential. For dry skin, choose a moisturiser with a rich texture. Oily skin will benefit most from a gel moisturiser that hydrates without overwhelming the skin. Build your routine around this – you can add in serums that target specific concerns like blackheads, or hydration-boosting serums that add even more moisture to thirsty skin.
In our quest for perfect skin, many of us have gone a little overboard with the actives and compromised our skin barrier. If this is damaged, we can expect red, sensitive skin that is dry, acne-prone, and rough. And that’s not the look or the feel we’re going for. By prioritising your moisture barrier in your skincare routine, you’ll have clear, plump, glowing skin – and that’s the vibe we’re going for.