Your skin encounters a lot on any given day. From environmental pollutants in the air to rays from the sun, to makeup and masks, damage seems to be lurking around every corner waiting to get in. This isn’t to mention all of the times we unconsciously touch our face and transfer whatever bacteria our fingertips have picked up to our skin. Eek. Thankfully, though, our skin has a powerful skin barrier that functions to keep the bad stuff out and the good stuff in.
However, when our skin barrier works overtime for too long, constantly fighting the environments we put it in and the formulas we subject it to, it can break apart and lose its power. We want to do everything we can to keep this from happening. Why? Well, when the skin barrier falls apart, our skin is more prone to blemishes, irritation, and dryness. Plus, all of these effects make the appearance of our skin visibly duller. When the skin barrier is intact, though, the skin retains hydration and appears clearer, smoother, and more vibrant.
We are all on a mission together: protect the skin barrier. REN Clean Skincare products help smooth skin by encouraging surface cell renewal.
To accomplish this mission, we have put together this helpful guide. Read on to uncover the magic that is the skin barrier, and the simple steps we can all take to protect it.
What Is The Skin Barrier
The skin barrier, or the stratum corneum, is the outermost layer of your skin. True to its name, it's the “barrier” between your inner skin and the outer world. It is to you what mesh armor is to a knight; it deflects anything bad that comes at it. Environmental pollution—blocked. Bacteria—no, thank you. Allergens—not welcome here. It can do this because it is made up of tightly bound cells called corneocytes. Corneocytes are interwoven with a strong combination of lipids, which together create an almost impenetrable wall.
As strong as it is, this shield can’t withstand all the harsh chemicals, UV rays, and environmental pollutants we throw at it over and over again. It can, and will, break down if we don’t take care to protect it. If that happens, all those unwanted things can penetrate your skin and cause irritation, redness, dryness, and blemishes. Yep, that’s bad. The breakdown of the skin barrier is also bad because it can’t perform its other main function: keeping moisture in. When your skin’s armor becomes penetrable, moisture can easily escape, leaving your skin not only vulnerable to unwanted particles but also to dehydration, which can cause a whole slew of otter problems.
If you think you’re already dealing with skin barrier damage, you’ll want to learn how you can help support it’s natural repair. See our blog for more on how to help support the natural repairing process of your skin barrier. Everyone, though, can benefit from learning how to protect the skin barrier in the first place.
Ways to Protect Your Skin Barrier
Keep your skin barrier strong and protect the inner layers from harmful irritants and allergens that threaten its function with these simple steps.
1. Use a Hydrating Cleanser
A lot of us grew up with the idea that we had to wash our face with super hot water (you know, to open up the pores), scrub with an abrasive sponge, washcloth, or device, and use a cleanser that left our skin feeling taut and “squeaky clean”. This is an idea we need to demolish. Even reading it gives us chills, knowing what we know now.
All of these actions strip your skin of moisture and can damage the precious skin barrier. Cleansing is something most of us do to our face at least 2 times a day, so imagine how much havoc we could wreak on our skin barrier with these harsh practices over time. Yikes is right.
There is a better way. First, wash with lukewarm water; it will still feel just as nice and you won’t burn yourself in the process. Then, use your hands (or a gentle cleansing tool) to apply a hydrating cleanser such as our Evercalm™ Gentle Cleansing Milk. This cleanser will soften and soothe the skin with omegas (a lipid critical to skin barrier structure) and protect against environmental pollution damage with fennel seed extract. Your skin will feel refreshed, soothed, hydrated, and yes, clean—without the “squeaky”.
2. Add Antioxidants
Antioxidants help prevent environmental damage that can cause damage to the skin barrier, so, naturally, they should be a part of your skincare routine. V-Cense™ Youth Vitality Day Cream is chock full of antioxidants and vitamins such as orange stem cell extract and vitamin A that not only helps prevent environmental damage but also visibly reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
At night, reach for the V-Cense™ Revitalising Night Cream, which also offers antioxidant care to help combat the signs of premature aging and protect your skin barrier.
3. Exfoliate Gently
Exfoliation is an important part of any skincare regimen, but over-exfoliating or exfoliating with harsh chemicals can majorly disrupt the skin barrier, especially on sensitive skin, and can lead to skin irritation. We like to use a gentle exfoliant to rid the skin of dead skin cells without compromising the healthy skin cells. Ready Steady Glow AHA Tonic does this marvelously. It exfoliates, brightens, tightens, and hydrates for a smooth and even complexion.
By sticking to a gentle formula such as this one, you can avoid unnecessary damage to the skin barrier that can be hard to come back from. Pro tip: Just to be extra-safe, use the product only two to three times a week at first, and damp the cotton pad with water to help dilute the lotion
Want to learn more about exfoliating? Read our blog on how to exfoliate properly.
4. Moisturize Thoroughly
When it comes to protecting the skin barrier, moisturizer is your best friend. A good moisturizing cream reinforces the bonds between skin cells, and thus the strength of your skin barrier and thus strength, of your skin barrier.
We’re serious about moisture here at REN, and we know everyone needs (or likes) something a little different, so we offer a couple of wonderfully effective options. The important part is not which one you choose to use but that you use it—moisturizer is critical to your skin barrier function.
For a multi-use product that you can use all over your face as well as other sensitive-to-dryness areas such as your lips, hands, and knees, reach for Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm. This rich night balm feeds your skin while you sleep thanks to ultra-nourishing lipids, including olive, almond, borage, and linseed oil, so you can wake up with nourished skin.
For a creamy moisturizer you can use both morning and night, or whenever you need it, try our Vita Mineral™ Daily Supplement Moisturising Cream. Formulated with cranberry seed oil, which is a rich source of omegas (the fatty acids your skin barrier needs), this cream helps support your skin’s protective barrier and lock moisture in.
At least once a week, use a hydrating mask as well such as Evercalm™ Ultra Comforting Rescue Mask. This mask is formulated with REN's exclusive active complex, which strengthens the skin barrier to reveal brighter, healthier-looking skin and increases the skin's ability to cope with stress, which can also break down the skin moisture barrier.
5. Use Sun Protection
The UV rays from the sun are one of the most common disruptors of the skin barrier. So, your best protection? Sunscreen. Adding this one product to your skincare routine not only helps protect you from signs of aging (think wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, sagging, etc.) but also protects your skin barrier. The benefits of sunscreen are magical!
So, don’t go another day without applying Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen to your face. This formula provides a nice matte finish that makeup will glide easily over while providing the broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection you need. It’s simple to apply too. Just swipe it on and rub it in at the end of your routine and reapply throughout the day to keep rays at bay.
See more on our blog for educational and informational info on SPF skincare for beginners.
6. Stay The Course
As we, the environment around us, and the products we use change, so does our skin type. You may have to adapt your routine accordingly and revisit these ways to protect the skin barrier over and over again, but your skin will thank you for it. Protecting the skin barrier is a lifelong process, but if you make habits of following these steps regularly, it can become second nature, and healthy-looking, vibrant skin can become your norm.
About the Author
Camille Poggi is a doctor in Pharmacy (PharmD.) and is passionate about skincare and how the skin works in general. She specializes in the cosmetic industry and worked for renowned companies in France like L’Oréal and Chanel before moving to London. After being a training manager for 4 years, Camille is at ease with explaining how products work in the skin and how to adapt her speech according to the audience.
She joined REN in January 2020 as International Training Manager and moved to the Research & Development team earlier this year to be the new Scientific Education Manager. A tailored-made role where she assesses and leads all technical communication and ensures scientific compliance is always met. She’s also involved in new product development from the earliest stages. Finding a way to create sustainable skincare products and making sure the message is properly delivered and understood is definitely a big challenge but also her favorite part working for REN.