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The outermost layer of the skin is referred to as the skin barrier. Its technical name is stratum corneum. It acts as a barrier and protects the rest of the skin from the external environment. It is impermeable; keeps water in while bacteria and other microorganisms out.
The dead skin cells are called keratin. A healthy skin pushes the dead skin cell up and out of the skin and the are exfoliated off naturally. They create the top layer on the skin which acts as a barrier.
There’s intercellular matrix between the dead skin cells. This matric is made of lipids i.e fatty acids which is your skin’s oil. This layer of lipids is the glue that holds them together. It helps in making the skin firm, hydrated, and soft as it traps the water in and blocks away from the irritating bacteria and chemicals.
When this lipid layer breaks down, it leaves spaces from where water escapes and bacteria enter. Once the skin loses water and gets dehydrated, it tightens on the pores and keeps the dead skin cells from getting pushed out which end up clogging the pores.
Bacteria and other harmful microorganisms enter through the broken lipid layer and start feasting the matter in the clogs. The body reacts to it and sends inflammation to these areas.
If you are experiencing some skin problems, whether it’s red, acne, sensitive, dry flakey, or rapidly ageing skin, chances are that you have damaged lipid layer.
Causes of depleted or damaged lipid later and how to deal with it:
Washing the face with soap too often strips away the oil and skin start overproducing it. Try not to wash the face twice in a day. If you wash only once, that would be enough. It is not a bad idea if you skip it or just moisturize.
Poor diet, stress, lack of sleep are some of the factors that pave way for deteriorated lipid layer. It damages the skin’s natural oil and weakens the natural, healthy function.
Switch to a healthier lifestyle and eat plenty of healthful fats as they help in building up the fatty layer.
Some chemical products damage, strip and weaken the lipid layer which lets the chemicals enter into the skin and cause irritation. Try to avoid such products and use gentler, natural non-stripping skincare products.
Hot water dries up and damages the skin. So, turn the water temp down and skip steaming for a few weeks.
Sun and pollution damage
Ultraviolet rays from the sun damage the fatty layer making the skin’s oil more comedogenic. Use sunscreen whenever you go under the sun.
Pollution clogs the pores and causes all kinds of skin problems. You can add more anti-oxidants in your skincare regimen to counter both the sun and pollution.
Too much exfoliation
Over exfoliating can make your skin thin and weaken the barrier as it scraps away most of the skin cells. Exfoliating only three or four times in a week is enough. You are advised to use enzymes like papaya instead of mechanical exfoliation such as scrubbing.