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Dermatology Center for Skin Health, PLLC Blog

What is the Skin Barrier?

[fa icon="calendar"] Nov 18, 2020 9:51:23 AM / by Dr. Michele Maouad

Dr. Michele Maouad

The skin barrier is what protects us daily from environmental allergens, irritants, harsh products and germs. It also protects the skin from dehydration by holding on to water. 

Continue reading to learn more. 

WHERE IS THE SKIN BARRIER LOCATED? 

The skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin called the epidermis. Therefore, it is your skin’s first defense against the environment.

 

HOW DOES THE SKIN BARRIER PROTECT YOU?

Think of your skin as a brick and mortar model. The mortar is what holds the skin cells together.  The mortar is composed of lipids (oils) that hold the skin cells (brick) together. If the mortar is compromised, the skin will lose water, a process called transepidermal water loss. And that is when the skin appears dry, scaly and inflamed.

 

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THE SKIN BARRIER IS DAMAGED? 

You can tell that your skin barrier is damaged or weakened if your skin is itchy, dry, scaly, sensitive and or inflamed. Eczema and atopic dermatitis are examples of skin barrier compromise. If you think that you may be experiencing a breakdown of your skin barrier, you can take steps to help repair it. 

 

WHAT ARE THE FACTORS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO SKIN BARRIER DYSFUNCTION? 

The environment, genetics, diet and lifestyle habits all contribute to skin barrier dysfunction. For example, hot water strips the skin for the lipids in your skin, allowing water to evaporate from the skin. It can lead to dryness, itching, redness and skin sensitivity. 

 

HOW DO YOU PROTECT YOUR SKIN BARRIER?

Choosing the right moisturizer can be confusing. It is best to look for the right ingredients in your moisturizer. Here is a breakdown of some of the elements that may be listed in moisturizers:

  • Glycerin is a humectant that draws water to the skin keeping it hydrated.
  • Hyaluronic acid is another humectant that holds water 1000 times its weight in the skin.
  • Ceramide is a natural lipid (oil) found in the “mortar” of the skin barrier. Its function is to seal and protect the skin. Ceramides can become depleted with hot water, harsh soaps, environmental and genetic factors.
  • Petrolatum acts as an occlusive barrier to reduce water loss from the skin; however, it is too occlusive for oily skin. It is best used on dry, cracked, irritated skin.
  • Squalene is a natural compound made by the skin and acts as an emollient. It is a versatile ingredient because not only does it maintain the skin's moisture barrier, it acts as an antioxidant that has anti-aging properties for neutralizing environmental damage. Squalene is a compound naturally made by the skin and acts as an emollient.
  • Lactic acid usually is present in the skin and increases the skin’s ability to absorb and retain water. Also, lactic acid provides exfoliation to remove dry, flaky skin.

 

WHAT MOISTURIZER SHOULD YOU USE FOR YOUR SKIN TYPE? 

It is essential to choose the right moisturizer for your skin type.

 

CARE FOR ATOPIC ECZEMA / DERMATITIS SYMPTOMS

Eczema/dermatitis is a rash-like skin condition that can show symptoms anywhere on the body. This condition can cause the skin to be red and itchy. If scratched, the skin will become inflamed. There are many different types of this condition. Still, if you suffer from atopic eczema/dermatitis, in particular, you may notice worsened symptoms when you are having problems with your skin barrier.

Your dermatologist may recommend any of the following courses of treatment to help alleviate your symptoms and heal your skin:

  • Reduce the number of times you bathe; use lukewarm water
  • Wear breathable clothing
  • Replace your detergents if they are too harsh on your skin
  • Apply products that aid in water loss recovery; avoid fragrant products
  • Take dermatologist-prescribed medications
  • Participate in dermatologist-recommended treatments

 

VISIT YOUR DERMATOLOGIST | THE DERMATOLOGY CENTER FOR SKIN HEALTH, PLLC

Keeping your skin barrier healthy is essential for more than just cosmetic reasons. If you have concerns about any signs of weakened or damaged skin or notice flared symptoms of atopic eczema/dermatitis, give us a call at (304) 598-3888 or click here. We're currently accepting new patients and encourage you to make your appointment soon. We look forward to hearing from you!

Topics: Preventive

Dr. Michele Maouad

Written by Dr. Michele Maouad

Board-Certified Dermatologist Dr. Michele Maouad is a highly skilled and experienced American board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. She completed medical school at West Virginia University and dermatology residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Dr. Maouad established her private practice, the Dermatology Center for Skin Health PLLC, in 2005. Dr. Maouad is an advocate for her patients and insures they receive the best dermatologic care. She continually updates her knowledge and skills at national medical conferences to ensure her patients receive only the most current and advanced care.