What is the skin barrier and why does it play an important role in my sensitive skin?

August 08, 2023

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This week, we’re going to talk about your skin barrier. What exactly is the skin barrier and why should you care about it?
Simply put, the skin barrier is one of the most important gate keepers for the body. It’s a superficial layer of skin that lets good things in and make sure bad things stay out.

The skin is the largest organ in the body and has many functions including:

1) Temperature and body hydration regulation - The skin can help regulate your body temperature. The skin also helps to keep moisture inside the body when you need it.
2) Helps to prevent infection/allergies: The immune system in your skin is robust and helps to keep bugs/viruses and allergens out.
3) UV protection: Skin protects us from harmful UV radiation that can damage our DNA.
4) Vitamin D production: Vitamin D is an essential vitamin needed for our bodies.
When your skin barrier is impaired, many of the above functions are at risk. I also want to point out that from the allergist perspective, we are concerned that a damaged skin barrier could potentially lead to new allergies forming!

It’s quite likely that your skin barrier is disrupted if you have sensitive skin. More importantly, you may have sensitive skin BECAUSE your skin barrier is damaged.

We consider the skin barrier to be damaged if the outer skin layer, the epidermis (particularly the top layer - the Stratum Corneum), is not functioning properly.
When the skin barrier is damaged, allergens are able to penetrate the skin easier and can trigger the immune system to develop allergies. Skin exposure of allergens (also called epicutaneous sensitization) is a special route of exposure that has been shown to facilitate new allergies (particularly skin allergies and food allergies).
So how did your skin barrier get damaged in the first place?  Is there something you can do to make your skin less sensitive?
There are some skin conditions that are known to cause issues with skin barrier integrity, such as eczema and psoriasis. With these conditions, if you are able to keep the underlying eczema or psoriasis under control, there will be less damage to the skin barrier. I know this is often easier said than done, but there are a ton of strategies you can discuss with your doctor to help get these conditions under control.
There are also a variety of other factors that can lead to skin barrier damage, even if you don’t suffer from eczema or psoriasis.

Major external factors that can impair your skin barrier:

  • Other disorders that cause skin inflammation (acne, rosacea, autoimmune disorders, contact dermatitis, etc.)
  • Mechanical Stress (scratching, extreme exfoliation, peels, laser treatments)
  • Chemicals: Organic solvents/detergents, other irritating chemicals
  • Allergens
  • Too much sun exposure
  • Pollution/Smoke
  • Temperature fluctuations
  • Aging
I know what you’re thinking. We are not able to control most of these things. Are we doomed? No, thankfully!

What can we do to restore our skin barrier and keep its integrity intact?

-Control what you can: avoid using harsh chemicals on the skin and avoid over exfoliation or other mechanical stress to the skin. Avoid allergen exposure as much as possible.
-Soothe your skin with ingredients that can help RESTORE your skin barrier. Yes, you can work on repairing your skin barrier. First of all, it takes time. It can take upwards of 2-3 months to rehab your skin barrier once you’ve made changes in your exposures. Research has shown that certain ingredients can be helpful in this process including squalane, glycerin, sunscreen, hyaluronic acid/sodium hyaluronate, probiotics/prebiotics, ceramides, and antioxidants, like Vitamin C (but choose a gentle version!).

Evme products help to restore the skin barrier

Evme was built to not only soothe and prevent skin reactions, but also to support and help restore a healthy skin barrier. Evme products contain several ingredients that are helpful with rehabilitating the skin barrier including glycerin, squalane, various antioxidants, and several humectants (ingredients that draw water into the skin) including sodium hyaluronate. Learn more about our carefully vetted ingredients here.

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