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You want to get that glow, but sometimes your skin doesn’t cooperate. It could be because your skin barrier is damaged. Because your skin is your biggest organ, it’s essential for this first layer of protection to be in good shape.

In this article, we’ll walk you through what your skin barrier is and why it’s so important. We’ll also give you tips on how to protect it and, if it’s damaged, how to repair it. Your skin will thank you!

Table Of Contents

What Is Your Skin Barrier?

Taking care of your skin barrier is good advice for everyone in the family: mom, dad, and baby included. But before we talk about how to protect and repair your skin barrier, it’s essential to know what it is and why it’s so important.

Mom protecting skin barrier on baby

Its Purpose And Why It’s Important

Your skin has three layers: the epidermis or outer layer, the dermis or middle layer, and the subcutaneous fatty layer. The outermost layer of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum, a.k.a. the skin barrier.

Your skin barrier serves as your body’s first line of defense, staving off “bad guys” like environmental toxins and pathogens. It also keeps water inside your body so that it can function properly. Suffice it to say, the stronger your skin barrier, the better.

How It Works

Your skin barrier is made up of skin cells called corneocytes that are held together with lipids, sort of like a brick wall. When it’s healthy, skin cells are neatly lined up and bound with the lipids that serve as your skin’s “mortar,” holding it all together.

When this wall is well-built, nothing can penetrate it. The tightly bound cells and lipids are doing their job of maintaining homeostasis, protecting from dehydration, and shutting out allergens, chemicals, and other irritants.

However, if the barrier is damaged, the cells — or in our analogy, bricks — are more disorganized, leaving way for gaps where the bad stuff can get in and the good stuff can get out.

What Can Hurt It

Many things can hurt your skin barrier. Some common offenders include:

  • Pollutants, allergens, or other irritants
  • Environmental conditions like hot, humid, dry, or cold weather
  • Sun exposure
  • Harsh soaps and detergents
  • Hot baths or showers
  • Over-exfoliation
  • Medicines like steroids
  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Aging
  • Over-processed foods, alcohol, and caffeine
  • Conditions like eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis
Mustela baby care products to protect skin barrier

For babies, skin barrier problems can often be seen in the diaper area, thanks to overhydration and irritants like urine and poop that can affect the skin’s pH. On top of that, little ones also have thinner skin than adults until about two years old.

It’s particularly important to change your baby often and use specifically formulated diapers and wipes that minimize irritating ingredients for delicate baby skin. Our ultra-mild Certified Organic Water Wipes with Cotton and Aloe are particularly soothing.

Signs Of A Damaged Skin Barrier

If your skin barrier is damaged, your skin is going to show it. A damaged skin barrier can present as red, flaky, dry, scaly, or any combination of these. You can also have rough or discolored patches of skin, heightened sensitivity, or inflammation.

In addition, skin infections or acne can be a sign of a damaged skin barrier. Signs of aging can be more pronounced, and your skin may appear dull, with more apparent fine lines or wrinkles, too.

How To Protect Your Skin Barrier

The good news is that if you’re worried about your skin barrier, there are lots of things you can do to strengthen and protect it.

Focus On Hydration

The best thing to do to protect your and your little one’s skin barrier is to hydrate often.

This means you’ll want to have a good daily moisturizer. Ingredients to look out for include hyaluronic acid, which locks water into the skin, and barrier-building ingredients, like ceramides, niacinamide, and fatty acids.

Applying your moisturizer on damp skin makes it most effective, so moisturize right after washing your face or taking a shower.

Cut Down On Products

It’s fun to get the latest product with the “it” ingredient, but there’s such a thing as too much. A shelf-full of active ingredients can be downright overwhelming to your skin.

Instead, the new trend, especially when you are talking about skin barrier health, is skinimalism. That’s right, less is more. Stick to a pared-down routine of cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF.

Stop Smoking

In addition to hydrating your skin, you want to avoid things that will dry it out, too. While this point is more for you than your little one, smoking wreaks havoc on your skin. So if you want to get that glow, it’s best to stop.

Tobacco smoke is toxic to cells and causes premature aging, dry skin, and decreased collagen and elastin. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor.

Minimize Stress

Stress has negative effects on all of your body’s systems as well. When you’re stressed, it’s easier for things to break down. Manage your stress the best you can through activities such as yoga and meditation. And also be sure you’re getting enough sleep.

Eat Healthy

It’s not only what you’re putting onto your body, but also what you’re putting into it. Focus on whole foods and healthy fats, and skip the processed foods. Minimize your alcohol and caffeine and dial up the water!

Some foods that make skin sing include green leafy vegetables, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, nuts, beans, berries, and carrots, to name a few.

Mustela sunscreen

Don’t Forget The Sunscreen

UV rays are your skin barrier’s enemy. You’ll want to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day and avoid peak hours in the sun with or without your little one.

Wearing long sleeves, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat can help protect your skin barrier as well, not to mention help avoid dark spots, wrinkles, and skin cancer. So get into the habit of protecting your baby’s skin from a young age to give them a leg-up in the skin department.

How To Repair Your Skin Barrier

Stop Whatever Damaged Your Skin Barrier

This is pretty obvious, but the first thing you want to do is stop damaging your skin barrier in the first place. If you were using a particular soap or were over-zealous in your exfoliating habits in the past, switch up your routine.

Mom protecting skin barrier on daughter

Be Gentle

The name of the game to restore and repair your skin barrier is to be as gentle as possible. This means gentle products and a light touch. Don’t scrub with a washcloth or pull or tug on your skin.

You also might consider finding a cleanser close to the natural pH of your skin. Steer clear of retinoids, AHAs, or other irritating ingredients in all of the products you use, including your sunscreen.

Simplifying your routine is a good idea, but once you do, don’t change it up too much. It’s going to take a few weeks to get your skin barrier back on track.

Keep Up Good Habits

You’re going to want to do all of those things that we talked about to protect your skin barrier. That means no smoking, wearing sunscreen, and eating good, healthy food. Your skin barrier is working to protect both the inside and outside of your body, and so will your good habits!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

The biggest thing when you're trying to repair your skin barrier is to focus on hydration. As we said earlier, you want a moisturizer with ingredients that will lock water into your skin as well as build your skin barrier.

Again, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, niacinamide, and fatty acids, are some good ingredients to look out for when choosing a moisturizer. Mustela Nourishing Cream with Cold Cream and Stelatopia+ Lipid-Replenishing Cream are just a couple of our products that might fit the bill.

Happy, Healthy Skin

 Mom holding baby

When your skin isn’t looking its best, it may be a sign that you have a damaged skin barrier. But as we said, there are things you can do to protect and repair that essential layer. And the good news is, much of our advice helps your body in all sorts of ways.

If you want your skin barrier to be strong, good lifestyle habits are key. Eat healthily, don’t smoke, and try to minimize stress. Then, pare down your skincare routine to a good cleanser, moisturizer, and SPF, and focus on the right ingredients.

To strengthen your skin barrier, try Mustela favorites, like the Stelatopia Lipid-Replenishing Cream, Nourishing Cream with Cold Cream, Nourishing Stick with Cold Cream, and Nourishing Lotion with Cold Cream. Top it all off with SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion.

Our maternity, baby and child, suncare, and family essentials products will help everyone in your family keep their skin barrier strong and healthy — which means a house full of very happy skin!

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