What is a barrier function?
The barrier function refers to the outermost layer of the skin. The lipid matrix in the outer most layer of the skin is crucial in preventing water loss in the skin from the inside out and it also prevent irritant penetration from the outside in. As skin gets older the epidermal cell cycle slows down significantly. This slowing reduces the production of intercellular lipids, likely impairing the barrier function. This may result in dehydration causing wrinkles, inflammation and possible damage, as irritants are more easily able to penetrate the skin. Impaired barrier function can result in dry, flaky, dehydrated skin, as well as redness and inflammation.
How can barrier function be repaired or improved?
Barrier functions can be repaired with the use of lipid infused moisturizers and serums. It is also important to protect the skin by not using striping cleansers and using proper protectants that can guard against barrier damage. Restored barrier function can make a significant difference in the smoothness, suppleness, and hydration of the skin.
Using gentle cleansers prevents the over stripping of the skin. Also, it is important to not over cleanse or cleanse to frequently. Choose cleansers that lightly foam, which means a low level of detergent content. A cleanser designed for sensitive skin and tested for irritancy would be a good choice for most dry aging skin types. Toners should also be free of drying alcohols.
It is also beneficial to use products that are infused with lipids. It is possible to patch the barrier function by using products that contain complexes that mimic or substitute for natural barrier lipids. These products will contain a complex of sphingolipids, phospholipids, fatty acids, and cholesterol, which together comprise the natural barrier function lipid matrix. The complexes can be used in moisturizers, sunscreen, eye cream, masks, or intensive serums. Lipid infused products are a good choice for dry skin in general.
Lastly, use alpha hydroxy acids to help restore a normal cell renewal cycle. Alpha hydroxy acids work to remove dead, dry surface cells, stimulating their replacement and the production of barrier lipids. Studies have shown significant barrier repair resulting from the use of alpha hydroxy acids.