So many "beliefs" we have about our skin are from insecurities we've developed from the marketing of what "beauty" is, to the chemicals that are meant to "fix" a particular skin issue. But you can throw away these ideas and look at the facts. Your skin is a genius organ: it's about as thick as a book cover, and every square inch packs in 20 blood vessels, 650 sweat glands, and more than 1000 nerve endings. We look at the skin as the window into our body since it’s the first thing you see when looking into the mirror. There’s so much you can tell from the skin alone and understanding how it functions will help you to know when your body is out of balance so you can realign yourself when you see this imbalance.
Traditionally, the beauty industry develops skincare around changing the way your skin functions, instead of looking at how to aid your skin in its overall health. We’re here to share a simple understanding of the skin, so you can know when your at-home skincare routine is a good enough remedy, or if you need some guidance from your esthetician or even a professional health care practitioner. Let’s get to learning!
What is the skin barrier?
Everyone hears the words skin barrier and microbiome and thinks they’re the same thing, but they are separate things entirely. (We’ll talk more about the microbiome and the acid mantle in another post.) The skin barrier is comprised of sweat, sebaceous secretions, and keratinized skin cells. When any of these parts are out of balance, that’s when you see the symptoms of skin conditions arise.
Your skin has two major components: the dermis (the "deep skin") where tough connective tissue houses blood vessels, sweat glands, hair follicles, sensory receptors, nerves, and oil glands. The "surface skin" is the epidermis, and it's what we see. It's essentially epithelial cells called keratinocytes that produce fibrous protection for your skin that makes it waterproof and protects you from pathogens. Think of the barrier like the clear coat of paint you use on your nails or for your car - it’s the first line of defense for protecting the exterior of the paint from chips and the harsh environment.
You also have melanocytes, which give your skin pigment, and merkel cells responsible for your skin's feeling of light touch. This is like the colorful paint underneath the clear coat to express your mood, personality, and style.
How does the skin barrier work to protect you?
Your barrier has a huge job in helping keep you healthy. Since our skin is the largest organ on our body (even though many of us don’t think of it as an organ!), its main job is to protect you from the elements: ultraviolet rays of the sun, pollution from your environment, keeping pathogens, viruses and toxins out, and helping to regulate water loss, retaining moisture and keeping you hydrated from the inside out. It’s your physical first line of defense to the outside world. Take our clear coat paint example: without the clear coat, the colored paint underneath is more susceptible to chips, scratches, fading, and wearing off over time. While you can’t see it, that clear coat helps to protect the paint over long periods of time and needs to be taken care of.
Noticing imbalances and damage to the skin barrier
When you look at your skin, what do you see and feel? What do you notice? Our deep philosophy as holistic estheticians is built around these two simple observations, not around a "skin type," which is more a marketing term than anything else. Throw away any preconceived ideas about your skin. What do you see today? Run your fingers around the perimeter of your face . . . what do you feel? Press your fingers into your cheeks and lift away. What do you notice? Are you flushed or is your skin depressed? These are clues to what's going on with your skin right now.
This is how we propose we rewrite the script on how we care for ourselves. Now when you see a pimple, think about that pimple as inflammation in a follicle—how amazing that our skin protects us from a pathogen. Even using an ice cube for an inflammatory response can be more healing than any topical solution.
Here are some of the ways your skin can express itself when you have barrier damage or imbalances:
- Dry, scaly skin
- Itchy skin
- Rough patches
- Seeing redness or inflammation in the skin
- Loss of plumpness and elasticity
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Difference in color of the skin
- Thinning skin
- Overly oily skin
- Sensitivity in the skin
- Seeing bumps or pimples
Some of these signs can be remedied simply through skincare or a change in your daily habits. If you see multiple signs, especially over a long period of time, it could mean there’s a bigger issue going on in your body and you may want to check in with a professional to dig a little deeper.
Using Botnia to help protect the skin barrier
There are so many factors that can affect one’s barrier which can cause any of the signs you see above to change in your skin:
- Change in environment including hot or cold, dry or humid, especially if sudden
- Excessive sun exposure
- Using harsh soaps
- Allergens and sensitivities
- Overwashing or over-exfoliating
- Using too hot water when cleansing the skin
- Lack of a good skincare routine
- Poor sleep
- Stress, mental or physical
- Lifestyle habits
Having a good skincare routine can be one of the ways to help to protect that precious barrier from getting out of balance. Since your skin has its own protective mechanisms to care for itself, we believe in a simple routine and anything outside of these four steps is just a bonus for your skin!
Cleansing - The main function of cleansing the skin is to wash off any physical factors that could block the function of the barrier to protect you. Using a gentle pH balanced cleanser and lukewarm water can really help to maintain the health of the skin barrier. All of our face washes are pH balanced to keep the acidity of the skin at a healthy level. You don’t want to use soaps that are high in alkalinity on your face (like a body bar soap, it’s too alkaline for the skin and will remove that precious barrier and acid mantle that helps to protect your skin). Otherwise, you may see the signs of a damaged barrier. Our Gentle Cleanser is a wonderful pH balanced gel-like face wash you can use daily that works for practically every type of skin! It can also gently remove dirt, makeup, and SPF from the skin without compromising your amazing barrier.
Toning - If you’re using a surfactant (soap) to wash your skin, it’s important to follow up with a toner to bring the pH level of your skin’s barrier into balance. Forget the harsh toners you remember from back in the day. Our toners and hydrosols are made with gentle botanicals and aid your naturally acidic barrier in protecting you against bacteria. Botnia’s Rose Water Toner is calming for even the most sensitive skin to help restore a healthy microbiome for the barrier.
Moisturizing - We’ve explained the three types of moisturizers you may see out on the market and using the right one for your unique skin can help to prevent any signs of skin barrier damage. It’s like a warm hug for your skin to protect you from changes in the environment! While our skin already has its own protective mechanism called the acid mantle (more on this in our next post!) in colder weather, a good face cream, like our Daily Face Cream, helps to protect your skin and keep it from drying out. In the summer, using a facial oil like our Wisdom Oil (sun protecting) or Replenishing Facial Oil (skin supporting) paired with our Hydrating Serum is enough to help support your barrier in the warmer days of the year.
Sun protection - A step many of us skip, sun protection is an important factor in the longevity of your skin and its barrier. Before heading outside during the day, a good SPF can help to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. While we do need some vitamin D from the sun, too much sunlight can damage your barrier and start a cascading effect of degradation to the barrier and your skin.
You can also create a healthy skin barrier in addition to your skincare routine with a healthy balanced diet, avoiding smoking, getting good sleep, and managing your stress. Together, these habits can create a happy healthy barrier and it’s never too late to start implementing any of these steps into your daily routine. If you notice that you have multiple signs of barrier damage, reach out to a holistic esthetician near you or a dermatologist/health care practitioner for more serious symptoms to get professional advice and care.
Now that you understand why protecting our skin is so important, we hope that it makes it easier to notice when your skin and barrier are out of balance and ways to prevent damage to this precious organ. If you’re seeing multiple symptoms over a long period of time, reach out to an esthetician or your health care practitioner to get support. In our next skin education post, we’ll take a closer look at the skin barrier’s own protective mechanism—the acid mantle—and its function in skin health.
If you have any questions about skin science, what products might be best for your unique skin, or just generally want to nerd out about anything skin or plants, reach out to us at email@example.com or DM us on Instagram! Cheers to healthy skin!