What is the skin barrier? Here's 3 things you should know

Maintaining a healthy skin barrier is essential for skin that looks and feels great

A woman in a white robe spraying her face in the mirror
(Image credit: Kalos Skincare / Unsplash)

Now that the cold weather has arrived, it's important take special precautions when protecting your skin. There are certain skincare swaps you can make, or you can even follow a specialised winter skincare routine. Either way, your complexion will thank you for it. 

As the name suggests, the skin’s moisture barrier is your first line of defence against any external threats, including the cold. It consists of the epidermis, which is made up of five layers, including the stratum corneum. It consists of oils, fatty acids and ceramides, all necessary for it to function properly.

So, why is your skin barrier so important and how you can keep it healthy? We spoke to the skincare experts at Kiehl's to find out...

1. Your skin barrier can be damaged easily

Your skin barrier function is faced with a number of external and internal threats on a daily basis. Allergens, irritants and pollutants can all affect the balance of the stratum corneum, as well as cold weather, strong winds and UV exposure. 

Your lifestyle and age can also have an impact on your skin barrier function. Your skin thins with age and a thinner barrier is a weaker one. Over-exfoliation and over-cleansing, as well as using the wrong skincare products, can all strip your skin of moisture and disrupt its barrier function.

A healthy skin barrier function will retain moisture and stay hydrated, meaning your skin will look younger and more radiant. On the other hand, an impaired moisture barrier function will do the opposite, leaving you with sensitive skin and a dry and dull-looking complexion.

2. There are certain products that keep the skin barrier healthy 

To avoid weakening your skin barrier function, you must avoid harsh or stripping skincare products.  Instead, stock up on ceramide-rich products and hydrating formulas. After all, a healthy barrier is a hydrated one. Check out our list of the best moisturisers to see if yours is on there. 

One way of effectively fortifying your skin’s barrier function is by using a face mask. Look for products that contain Squalane or glacial glycoprotein which help to lock in moisture overnight, so you wake up to smooth, hydrated and strong skin.

3. Protecting your skin barrier is important (but also quite easy)

Firstly, you should keep skin protected from damage with an intensive barrier cream. This is ideal if you already need to repair damage, but it can also be used as a preventive measure. It should especially be applied if you’re heading out in cold, windy conditions.

Secondly, there’s no substitute for daily SPF. Protecting your skin from the damaging rays of the sun is key to keeping the skin moisture barrier healthy. For more details, here’s why you need to wear sunscreen daily for healthier skin.

Apply an SPF every day for advanced protection, and always ensure you remove it in the evening with a cleanser. 

Interested in more? Find out the best age to start taking collagen, according to skincare experts. 

Lizzie Wilmot
Staff Writer, Home

Lizzie is T3's Home Staff Writer, also covering style, living and wellness. She works closely with Bethan Girdler-Maslen, T3's Home Editor, ensuring all the latest news, trends and recommendations are covered. Outside of T3, Lizzie can be found mooching around Bath, attempting (or at least trying to) a new DIY project or spending time with family and friends.