The Skin Barrier

January 12, 2011 | posted by Justin Skeesuck

There is a lot of talk about skin these days, but does the average person ever really think about what is actually happening in the body’s largest organ?

The very outermost layer of the skin surface, is the skin barrier. The skin barrier is actually made up of 7-10 layers of dead skin cells – cells that began in a deeper layer of the skin and migrated to the surface. It’s a process that normally takes about 26-32 days for normal, healthy, young skin. Those dead skin cells are stacked on top of each other and held together at the skin surface with a substance called lipids, which are types of oils. The cells and lipids are then held together. To picture how they are held together think bricks (skin cells) and mortar (lipids).

Even though these skin cells in the skin barrier are technically not living cells, they do play an important role in protecting your skin from outer bacteria and viruses. Your skin barrier also holds water inside your body to protect your body from losing water. Our adult bodies are actually about 60-70% water, so if you didn’t have these outer layers of skin barrier keeping water inside your body, you would literally dry up in a few hours, like a piece of dehydrated fruit!

Why is it important to keep your skin barrier healthy?

As we age, our skin barrier breaks down and our epidermis thins after constant exposure to environmental factors. It’s not just a matter of looking good on the outside; a healthy, intact skin barrier protects you from environmental factors that contribute to visible skin aging and skin diseases. A thinner epidermis due to exposure influences the breakdown of collagen and elastin in the dermis, which causes us to sag and wrinkle. Things like sun exposure, pollution, topical prescriptions, stress and even strong ingredients such as alpha-hydroxy acids or retinols can affect the health of your skin barrier.

When you make a skin care product decision, remember to choose products that are proven to safely help repair and fortify your skin barrier, to keep your largest organ, your skin, at its healthiest. Your healthy skin barrier is your protective shield against the harsh elements of the outside world.