Have you ever wondered what keeps your skin healthy and supple? It is the moisture barrier of your skin that gives you 24*7 protection. But a hectic lifestyle, daily exposure to extreme sunlight and pollution can weaken and damage your skin’s moisture barrier. Fortunately, there are ways to repair it and protect your skin’s health.
Read on to know what damages the moisture barrier of your skin and how you can repair it by following a few easy steps. Begin your new year by taking care of the most important layer of your skin.
What Is Your Skin's Moisture Barrier & How Does It Work?
Your skin has multiple layers dedicated to carrying out different functions. The topmost layer of your skin is the epidermis. This is made up of around 5 inner layers, of which the Stratum corneum  is the uppermost. It is made of skin cells known as anucleate squamous cells, which are held together by lipids.
While these skin cells contain natural moisturizer and keratin, the lipids have cholesterol, ceramides and fatty acid. This layer contains dead keratinocytes that produce defensins to provide immunity against toxins. This enables the stratum corneum to work as a protective shield for your skin.
According to a report,  your moisture barrier provides a buffer whenever your skin is under threat. The stratum corneum layer is slightly acidic in nature. When your skin comes in contact with any pathogen, this acidity creates a buffer to stop its growth. This stops the harmful pathogen from causing any skin disease.
Without the protective layer, the natural moisture and water inside your body would dry up, making your skin dull and dehydrated.
What Causes A Damaged Moisture Barrier?
The increasing level of pollution leads to threats like pathogens and toxins almost everyday. Directly or indirectly, this affects the health of your skin. Even though the moisture barrier can protect up to a certain level, regular contact with toxins can damage the layer itself. Few other reasons that can damage your skin’s moisture layer are:
1. Genetic factors
3. Extreme weather conditions like too hot or too cold
4. Contact with allergens, pollutants, irritants
5.Extreme level of UVA and UVB exposure
6. Using too many detergents and harsh soaps
7. Over washing your skin
8. Over exfoliation
9. Encounter with harsh chemicals. Ex: people working at chemical plants
11. Stress issues
Symptoms Of A Damaged Moisture Barrier
1. Constant Dryness
Dry skin is the basic symptom of a damaged skin barrier. You may feel constant dryness on your skin even after applying moisturizer. This happens when the outer layer of your skin has been stripped of its natural oil and moisture. The lipid layer fails to lock the moisture inside your skin, and the moisturizer gets evaporated.
2. Flaky Patches
When the barrier of your skin is compromised, it technically opens the door for bacteria, viruses, pollutants and radiation. Your skin tries to fight against these pathogens and creates inflammation. But due to the damaged moisture barrier, this becomes an ongoing process and your skin becomes red, flaky and tender.
Skin sensitivity is a vital sign of a damaged and broken moisture barrier. When the skin’s barrier is healthy, any product applied to your skin gets absorbed proportionately. A damaged skin barrier can make your skin sensitive. A simple product application becomes painful, leading to a stinging sensation or irritation.
You may feel an itchy sensation on your skin due to a damaged moisture barrier. This happens mostly when you come in contact with any allergens and your skin fails to fight against them. Fortunately, itching is temporary, and does not stay forever.
5. Dull Appearance
Moisture loss affects your all-over appearance. Since your skin becomes dry, flaky and sensitive, it looks dull. While many try to hide dullness with makeup, this isn’t a permanent solution. Repairing the moisture barrier is required.
8 Ways To Repair A Damaged Moisture Barrier
A damaged skin barrier may take anywhere between 2 weeks to 1 month to become healthy again. Following the given steps can help repair a damaged moisture barrier more effectively.
1. Maintain Your pH Balance
The pH level ranges between 1 to 14 of which pH 7 is considered to be neutral. A lower level of pH is acid and a number higher than 7 is a base.  The acidic nature of our human skin is due to a pH level of around 5.7. This acidity provides protection from outside threats like bacteria, viruses, germs or any kind of pollutants. Thus, maintaining the skin’s pH balance is necessary.
A study suggests  that the ideal pH level of your skin is below 5. Over-the-counter skincare products offer pH level between 3.7 to 8.2. Experts recommend using a product that offers a pH matching the skin’s natural range.
2. Use Natural Oils
Natural oils have always proven to be the miracle worker for skin. Many naturally-derived oils effectively repair the damaged moisture barrier of skin. A 2018 research article  established the effectiveness of a few plant oils on skin’s moisture barrier.
Plant oils like jojoba oil, coconut oil, argan oil, rosehip oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, borage oil, olive oil etc have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Natural oils help retain skin’s moisture and also protect from skin conditions like dermatitis, psoriasis etc.
3. Use Ceramides
Ceramides are lipids that are usually found in the stratum corneum. They play an important role in maintaining your skin’s moisture barrier. A 2019 research  proves that skincare products with ceramides are efficient in improving skin conditions such as dryness, roughness and scaling.
You can use ceramide-enriched moisturizers regularly to repair the structure of your skin’s moisture barrier. This is effective on acne as well. As the moisture barrier of acne-prone skin is compromised, even chemical acne treatments can harm the protective layer and cause dryness. Ceramides can solve this issue with minimal fuss.
4. Apply Sunscreen
The most convenient way to protect and repair your skin’s moisture barrier is to keep it away from the scorching sun. Use sunscreen whenever you are under the sun, swimming or working-out. Your sunscreen should contain antioxidants to protect you from sun damage. This also protects against pollutants and pathogens.
5. Wear Protective Clothing
Just like sunscreen, your clothes can also protect you from UVA and UVB. If you are planning to go out in the sun, wear something that covers your legs and arms. Use a stole to cover your face as well. Protecting your skin from sunlight will reduce the risk of further moisture-barrier damage. Sun protection also decreases the chances of free radicals.
6. Stop Stressing
Stress may sound like a part of life, but it can affect the level of glucocorticoid and influence your autonomic nervous system. It eventually affects the moisture barrier of your skin and reduces its immunity. Stress management is important to enhance your mood and also protect your skin barrier. 
7. Maintain A Healthy Diet
Your health depends majorly on your meals and regular food intake. Maintain a healthy diet. Reduce eating junk food and add vegetables and fruits that have antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, protein and lots of minerals. Try to eat food enriched with essential fatty acids. If your regular food is not providing enough nutrients, take supplements.
8. Build A Skincare Routine
Using multiple skincare products does not guarantee a healthy skincare routine. Every product has a certain time and way of application. You need to know the sequence of product application. You also need to choose products that will suit your skin.
First, know your skin type and then build a regular skincare regimen that consists of cleansing, exfoliation and moisturization. Avoid using too many products. You can also consult a dermatologist to build your skincare routine.
Quick Tips To Protect Your Moisture Barrier
1. Pay close attention to your skin everyday. Noting changes immediately, can help you stop skin damage at the beginning itself.
2. Do not skip a shower for many days. Also, do not over shower.
3. Exfoliate your skin once a week, but be gentle. Do not over scrub.
4. Never forget to moisturize your skin after a shower or a face wash. For hands, you can use hand creams.
5. Do not forget to apply sunscreen when you are going out in the sun.
6. Always clean your makeup before bedtime.
7. If you are going to a dusty or extremely polluted area, cover your skin as much as you can. This will also offer sun protection.
8. Do not use shampoo, detergents or any harsh soap on your body or face.
The topmost layer of your skin protects you from bacteria, viruses, allergens and other pathogens. When this protective layer gets damaged due to sun exposure, chemical exposure, ageing, stress etc, your skin becomes vulnerable. The damaged moisture barrier needs to be repaired, to make your skin healthy and supple again.
Follow the ways mentioned to repair your skin’s moisture barrier. It may take 2-4 weeks, but if your skin condition does not improve, consult a dermatologist.
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