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WHAT IS THE SKIN BARRIER?
Skin is the largest organ in the body, making up around one-seventh—or nearly 15 percent—of your total body weight. It is what separates your delicate insides from the harsh outside world, making it one of the most important organs in your body. Skin is composed of a vast, complex network of various cells, proteins, ceramides, and lipids—but arguably, the most vital component of all is the skin barrier.
If you’re a Kiehl’s fan, you’ve undoubtedly heard us talk about the skin barrier at some point—more than anything else, the skin barrier is what keeps your skin looking (and feeling) healthy. Keeping it nourished and hydrated so it can do its job well is essential for fresh, radiant-looking skin. Ahead, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to caring for this vital system. You’ll learn what the skin barrier is made of, how it works, and what you can do to keep it healthy and strong. Plus, we’ll provide recommendations on the best Kiehl’s products to use to keep your skin looking and feeling its very best. Read on for your comprehensive crash course on the skin barrier
What Is The Skin Barrier?
In order to understand what the skin barrier does, you need to know how the skin is structured. You’ve probably heard that the skin is made up of three individual layers. That’s not entirely true—while there are three main layers of skin, each has several
sublayers, most of which perform unique, specialized functions (skin is incredibly complex). For this article, however, we’ll be sticking to the three main layers: The topmost layer (epidermis), the middle layer (dermis), and the bottom layer (hypodermis).
The outermost part of the epidermis is the stratum corneum, or the skin barrier. Scientists often liken the stratum corneum’s structure to being like a brick wall. In this analogy, the skin cells are the bricks. Everything else—including the skin barrier—is the mortar that holds it all together. This mortar contains essential nutrients, like cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids. Together, these compounds are referred to as skin’s ""natural moisturizing factor,"" because they help keep the deeper layers of skin hydrated and nourished.
What Does The Skin Barrier Do?
The skin barrier has several jobs, many of which are vital for your overall health. Of all of the skin barrier’s duties, researchers generally agree that it has three essential roles: Protecting your body from external stressors, like pollution and UV radiation, retaining water to keep your body and skin hydrated, and transporting vital nutrients to your skin.I As a whole, these combined factors are responsible for maintaining homeostasis—in other words, keeping your body’s various systems balanced.
Your skin barrier is also the primary determinant of how healthy and even your skin looks. If it’s working properly, your skin barrier will retain water to keep your skin hydrated, smooth, and elastic. It’ll also fend off environmental aggressors, like pollution, and be less prone to sensitivity and irritation.
On the flip side, if your skin barrier isn’t working as it should, your skin will be vulnerable to damage. It’ll be more prone to dehydration, or trans-epidermal water loss, resulting in a dull, dry appearance. You’ll also be less able to fend off damaging aggressors, like free radicals, that can result in physical changes such as discoloration, laxity, and premature wrinkles. In fact, experts estimate that environmental influences are responsible for up to 97 percent of visible skin aging.II In other words, any skin concerns you may have are almost certainly due, at least in part, to a poorly-functioning skin barrier.
What Causes Skin Barrier Dysfunction?
It would be nearly impossible to list every potential source of skin barrier impairment; everything from your genetic makeup to your lifestyle can affect your skin barrier’s health. The most significant factors that can impair barrier function are those you likely already know, like UV radiation, smoking, and chronic exposure to pollution. Physical damage—like that incurred from over-exfoliating—can also affect your skin barrier’s health, as can lifestyle factors, like your stress levels and how much sleep you get. Think of it this way: Any internal or external stressor that results in visible skin changes is likely capable of disrupting or damaging your skin barrier.
How To Keep Your Skin Barrier Healthy: Your 6-Step Routine
Now that you know what the skin barrier is and how it works, we can get into the fun stuff: Specifically, skincare. While skincare alone won’t prevent barrier damage, the right routine can have a dramatic impact on your skin’s texture, resilience, and overall appearance. Read on for a complete six-step routine designed to keep your skin barrier strong and healthy.
Step 1: Cleanse To Remove Impurities
The first step in your healthy skin barrier routine is cleansing. Washing your face helps remove the dirt, oil, and pollutants that accumulate on your skin throughout the day and helps prevent them from damaging your skin barrier.
Start your routine off with our customer favorite Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash. Formulated with Calendula Extract, this creamy gel cleanser activates with water to create a dense foam and cleanse away dirt, oil and impurities.
· Deeply cleanses, lifting away dirt, oil and impurities
· Instantly refreshes and revitalizes skin
· Formulated with Calendula and Glycerin
· Helps skin look and feel clean and refreshed
Apply small amount to clean fingertips. Gently massage into damp facial areas in upward, circular motions. Avoid immediate eye area. Rinse thoroughly or remove excess with damp face wash.
Step 2: Soothe Skin With Toner
Next, swipe on a gentle, alcohol-free toner, like Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner. This best-selling formula—a Kiehl’s favorite for nearly 60 years—helps remove any
remaining dirt, oil, or cleanser residue without over-drying the skin. The soothing toner is infused with calendula petals to help refresh your skin after cleansing and prepare it for the remainder of your skincare routine.
To use it, soak a clean cotton pad in the toning liquid and swipe it over your face, taking care to avoid the eye area. Let the formula absorb into your skin for a moment before continuing on to your next step.
Step 3: Apply a Skin Clarity Serum
After cleansing and toning your skin, reach for the Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution for clearer and brighter skin, It helps to prevent the formation of future dark spots and other skin discolorations with continued daily usage. The lightweight, fast-absorbing formula stars a stabilized form of vitamin C, known as activated C, along with buffered salicylic acid. It also contains a carefully selected blend of plant extracts, including willow bark extract and peony extract.
Dispense a few drops of the lightweight formula into your clean palms and pat the serum over your face.
Step 4: Reach For a Potent Daily Retinol Serum
After correcting your skin, reach for the Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum, a potent retinol serum in a daily-strength micro-dose that visibly reduces wrinkles, firms skin, evens skin tone, and smoothes texture with minimal discomfort.
Expertly calibrated into a perfect daily-strength dose, our skin-gentle Retinol serum delivers powerful visible results with minimal skin discomfort.
The Retinol serum is precisely formulated with:
· Pure Retinol, an ingredient known to support skin surface renewal
· Peptides, to complement the skin’s elastic reserves
· Ceramides, to fortify the skin to help tolerate Retinol
After cleansing, apply our serum with retinol over the entire face, including the under eye and crow’s feet area, carefully avoiding contact with the eye, eye lid area, and lips
Our retinol serum is formulated for morning or nightly use. If applied during the day, our serum with retinol should always be used with SPF.
Step 5: Lock In Hydration
Face oil alone isn’t enough to keep your skin barrier well-hydrated. For proper hydration, moisturizer is vital. We recommend the cult-classic Ultra Facial Cream, Kiehl’s best-selling moisturizer. This top-rated face cream stars olive-derived squalane and glacial glycoprotein to nourish skin with lasting, 24-hour hydration**. The unique formula is lightweight, fast absorbing and clinically-demonstrated to smooth and soften skin.*** It’s suitable for all skin types and absorbs into the skin easily to leave skin hydrated and visibly healthier with regular use.
Apply the Ultra Facial Cream after the Retinol Micro-Dose Serum to lock in moisture. Use it day and night as the ultimate complement to your skincare routine.
Step 6: Protect Your Skin With SPF
Last but not least is the most important step in keeping your skin both physically healthy and healthy-looking: Ultra Light Daily UV Defense Sunscreen SPF50 PA++++. Hydrate and help protect skin from the early signs of aging with our lightweight facial sunscreen with broad spectrum SPF 50 PA++++. With advanced UVA/UVB technology and pollution protection, our formula helps defend against UV rays, pollution and free radicals. Our daily, non-comedogenic sunscreen provides all-day hydration, absorbs quickly and leaves a matte finish.
Apply it in the day after the Ultra Facial Cream and be sure to apply your sunscreen
generously, and follow other sun protection guidelines like avoiding direct sunlight
between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm.
*Based on a four-week clinical study of 58 subjects tested in urban and polluted environments. Based on the Skin Strength Index, a composite average score of skin suppleness, plumpness, and resiliency.
** based on an instrumental evaluation of 25 panelists in a controlled environment of 21 ± 1°C and 45 ± 5% relative
*** based on an expert grading in a clinical study of 55 multi-ethnic panelists after 7 days
I.Rosso, James Del et al. ""Understanding the Epidermal Barrier in Healthy and Compromised Skin: Clinically Relevant Information for the Dermatology Practitioner: Proceedings of an Expert Panel Roundtable Meeting."" The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 9,4 Suppl 1 (2016): S2-S8.
II.Zhang, Shoubing, and Enkui Duan. ""Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside."" Cell transplantation vol. 27,5 (2018): 729-738. doi:10.1177/0963689717725755