Barrier cream, isn’t it about time you give your skin what it needs

A healthy barrier = quicker healing,
less environmental damage and skin that holds onto moisture longer

Put simply, the healthier your barrier, the healthier your skin

As many of you are aware, I believe that correct barrier function is the foundation of healthy skin.

This article is the culmination of years of research on components missing in some people’s skin, and the skin-identical ingredients that can replace them. I want to make sense of misinformation out there; not only for my readers, but for many of my clients who I see on a daily basis with compromised skin, be it from poorly performed treatments, incorrect product usage, environmental or systemic damage, or premature ageing.

You need only read the list below to realise that skin with a damaged barrier can lead to a lot of troubles:

  • Acne
  • Redness
  • Irritation
  • Dryness
  • Sensitivity
  • Dehydration
  • Inflammation
  • Sallowness or dullness
  • Pimples, papules, and pustules

If your barrier is out of whack, it’s bad news all around. An impaired barrier leads to dryness, irritation, and inflammation; the skin will often turn red with just light contact and may sting when any product is applied. To understand this further, we first need to look at barrier function.

What’s our skins barrier made up of?

This paper is an interesting read that shows the proportions of lipids in topical applications, and whilst there are many kinds of lipids, CERAMIDES, CHOLESTEROL, and FATTY ACIDS are the dominant forms.

However, with age, your body’s production of these lipids declines, leading to a disruption of your skin’s natural functions – really bad news for your skin’s natural self-repair. The ideal proportion for ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids in a formula is 3:1:1:1 – or, put another way, three parts of one ingredient to each one part of each of the other three.

Mistreating skin can compromise the barrier function

Generally, our skin goes through a complete renewal process within a period of about 4 to 6 weeks. We also experience a depletion of “ingredients” due to natural cellular turnover, age, or abrasive treatments used on the skin. In addition to this, the skin loses basic substances through the solvent effect of liquids.

  • Water: This can wash out protective substances, especially at a higher temperature. For example, a bath can induce a swelling effect, as the hot water affects the vasodilation of vessels in the skin and the stratum corneum becomes waterlogged
  • Surface-active substances: Soaps and cleansing agents can be a major problem for the skin, as surfactants wash away the natural fatty substances and skin acids and form holes in the structure of the barrier layers
  • Emulsifiers: These can have a “wash-out” effect on the skin. Emulsifiers are used in formulaes to stabilise a mixture of oils and water in the form of an emulsion that transports fatty acids into the skin. Emulsifiers stay in the skin and will not degrade. Upon contact with water or partial cleansing, the skin reactivates the emulsifiers which again transport natural barrier substances, this time out of the skin. This process is very harmful for sensitive skin types and has even worse effects on skin with symptoms of dermatitis. Products such as Bio Lipid Complex, which is free of mineral oils and emulsifiers, and is able to repair any gaps in the barrier layers with similar bi-layer structures, are greatly helpful.

What should be in a barrier repair cream?

The Naked Chemist uses skin science combined with skin-identical ingredients that may be missing in your skin to maintain the skin barrier in its natural and intact condition. Our products use a combination of ingredients that resemble the membrane structure of the natural skin barrier. Similar to your own skin’s barrier layers, the Naked Chemist barrier-active formulas contains the following:

  • Phosphatidylcholine from Soybean Lecithin
  • Triglycerides from Coconut Oil
  • Squalene from Olives
  • Sterols from Shea Nut
  • Humectant Urea and Hyaluronic Acid

As discussed above, a major prerequisite is that these ingredients are added in the perfect ratios. Under these circumstances, they are able to exactly copy the physical properties of your skin’s own barrier structure.

Both Fortify Barrier Repair and Bio Lipid Complex mimic the natural lipids that form the bi-layer of your skin cells with a formula containing one part ceramide, to one part cholesterol, to one part palmitic acid, to three parts linoleic acid. The results and feedback from my clients have been fantastic – simply layer Bio Lipid Complex under Fortify and watch your barrier function go through the roof. This seriously is next-level skin care at its best.

Recap on skin science

Your outermost layer of your epidermis, the stratum corneum, has a brick-and-mortar like structure; think of the bricks as skin cells (referred to as “corneocytes”) and the mortar as a fatty matrix that seals your skin, keeping the bad guys out and the good guys in. It is this fatty matrix that is crucial to barrier repair, consisting of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.

If the skin barrier is disordered, the skin has an undesirable look and feel, and is more susceptible to penetration of foreign substances due to its irritated state. Therefore, it is important to maintain the natural skin barrier preventatively, using formulas that avoid the breakdown of protective components. Additionally, when the skin’s protective layer is intact, your skin’s ability to hold its natural hydration will be balanced and barrier disorders are avoided.

The superstar ingredients

In the case with my formulae, there are four SUPERSTAR components that will help your skin’s repair mechanism to do its job:

Phosphatidylcholine otherwise referred to as soy lecithin.

Ceramides

These are essential for the healthy organisation of our tissues into structures; they are responsible for keeping the barrier repair mechanism of our skin functioning well, preventing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) and keeping bad things out. Ceramides are found in our skin at a concentration of about 50%. A decrease due to exposure to different temperatures, or the natural decline in their production as we age, decrease the efficacy of the stratum corneum’s ability to keep water in and other things out.

Cholesterol

This plays an important role in your skin – it is one of the most common lipids in our body, giving our cells structure and fluidity, and is an integral component of the “mortar” that sits between our cells. Young and healthy skin has a thick “mortar”, with no cracks. As we age, cholesterol levels in our skin decrease, by as much as 40% by the time we reach the age of 40. The result is a thinner mortar and a dilapidated brick wall, which leads to premature ageing.

Fatty Acids

I just love fatty acids, as there are so many different benefits they bring to the skin. How do they work for barrier function? Our skin’s lipid matrix is composed of about 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 15% free fatty acids, so they are absolutely crucial to the proper function of your stratum corneum. Let’s take a look at each one in detail, and how they help in a formula to create that all-important barrier cream.

Linoleic Acid: Studies have shown this is super important when it comes to normal barrier function, and people with atopic dermatitis and acne show reduced levels of linoleic acid in their skin. Without it, you can expect to experience serious essential fatty acid deficiency, which leads to increased water loss, dryness, inflammation, and breakouts.

Linoleic Acid is one of the fatty acids that are crucial to cellular function but cannot be biologically synthesised by our bodies. We have to get it from outside sources, which is why it is called an “essential” fatty acid.

I find what many manufacturers don’t realise is that Linoleic Acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, so most of the oils in their formulations have short shelf lives and go rancid – this includes sunflower oil and, sadly, rosehip seed oil.

Oils I recommend for speeding up the skin’s barrier mechanisms

Soy Bean Oil: It has a tonne of linoleic acid, and because it is abundant with Vitamin E, all of those lovely antioxidants significantly extend the shelf life of the oil.

Sesame Oil: This contains about 40% linoleic acid with almost equal amounts of oleic acid at 45.5%, which also helps with shelf life. It is incredibly high in phytosterols and resembles some of the fatty acids found in human sebum. It offers great moisture regulation and significantly reduces inflammation in the skin.

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA)

Another essential fatty acid, our body uses GLA to manufacture prostaglandins, the hormone-like substances that balance and regulate cellular activity. It can increase ceramide synthesis and also reduces inflammation.

Evening Primrose Oil: I’m a huge fan – with its high amounts of linoleic acid, coupled with gamma-linoleic acid, it helps our skin’s repair mechanism do its job correctly.

Marula Oil: This oil deserves its own little mention as it is rich in oleic acid (at around 70%) and works to support the natural build-up of the skin’s lipid layer. Marula oil possesses anti-inflammatory properties, reduces trans-epidermal water loss, and contains high levels of important antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E. These offer advanced protection against photo-ageing by neutralising free radicals whilst building healthy collagen.

Palmitic Acid

This is found in our skin’s fatty acid profile and is a building block of the skin, helping to protect against burns, wounds, and scratches. It is also the most active anti-microbial substance in our sebum.

Sea Buckthorn Oil: This oil is rich in palmitic acid at around 7.2%. It is a great source of essential fatty acids, phytosterols, and vitamins A, C, B, and E, making it an amazing antioxidant.

Oleic Acid

This won’t help with barrier function because it isn’t part of our skin’s normal ingredients, so applying it topically doesn’t change the make-up of our skin’s barrier lipids. However, because many oils mimic our natural sebum, they are absorbed really well by our skin, and have wonderful moisturising, anti-inflammatory, and regenerating effects.

he following are a list of oils containing oleic acid:

  • Camellia Seed oil 80%
  • Avocado oil 80%
  • Almond oil 61%
  • Macadamia nut oil 50%
  • Shea butter 50%
  • Sesame oil 45%
  • Mango butter 46%
  • Sea buckthorn oil 20%

What’s not in the Naked Chemist

Equally as important when it comes to barrier repair ingredients are those that will disrupt the barrier:

  • Perfumes and some essential oils: These can cause serious irritation of the skin.
  • Mineral oils: These can affect the natural production of the skin’s own protective substances.
  • Emulsifiers: Many emulsifiers influence the integrity of the skin barrier and can cause the loss of natural protective factors.
  • Amines: These can stress the skin.
  • Silicones: Again, they affect the skin’s ability to make its own protective substances.
  • Alcohols and actives: They will strip the barrier and alter the pH, causing inflammation and sensitivity.

Being free of these ingredients allows the products to have a proactive and positive effect on the skin, preventing a breakdown of the skin’s natural defence system by protecting the acid mantle, regenerating skin cells, and improving hydration.

The Naked Truth

The real point here is that traditionally, the focus of skin care products has been about adding new ingredients to the skin and still is.
But I feel that instead, we should turn our attention to replenishing what should naturally be there, with ingredients that match the composition of our skin. Read more about skin-identical ingredients here.

Compared to ingredients that are too active or harsh and have no place on the skin, as they only lead to irritation and a compromised barrier, I have seen some really wonderful results in my clients with my formulae – especially in terms of skin penetration, repair, and regeneration. So, why not treat your skin using “like with like”, and give your skin a dose of what it really needs.

27 thoughts on “Barrier cream, isn’t it about time you give your skin what it needs

  1. Josephine says:

    Hi Samantha,
    I have a compromised barrier, extremely dry, thin skin which is prone to irritation and Rosacea. The dryness is now so advanced it feels like an extra 3 layers of skin on my face!
    I have spent tens of thousands on products and treatments and feel it’s only made my condition worse. Can you please recommend a treatment plan using your products? I am 27 years old and have been having issues since the age of 12.
    Kind regards
    Jo xx

  2. Heidi says:

    Hello, I have been frustrated with very dry skin problens for years and I am very intrigued by your blog. I have been using natural and organic skincare products for years but am just now coming to the conclusion that my skin barrier is completely ruined and I think it’s from what I have been using on it. One of the biggest problems I think has caused this is using 100% olive oil castile liquid soap with added essential oils to cleanse in the shower. I dont know what else I could use instead. I have had dry itchy skin for years that lead me to the natural stuff in the first place, which helped alot, especially on my dry red cracked hands, but now I realize that my skin is just dry, itchy and flaky all the time and natural moisturizers do little to help it. My skin is chemically sensitive and I am also sensitive to smells and would like to use the most natural cleanser I can find. With everything I have been reading about soaps I am so confused and have no idea what to do. What else is there besides soap that one would use to cleanse the whole body? Is there something you can recommend?

    • Samantha Miller says:

      Hi Heidi

      Thank you for reaching out. My products are designed for these skin problems. Olive oil can have negative results long term as can essential oils. So you want to be looking for fragrance free, strip your routine back to basics and check out some of my range like savior and miracle cleanse, bio lipid and fortify, which will help to restore your barrier and balance your pH which is what your skin obviously requires.

  3. Heidi Burnham says:

    Resending:

    Hi Samantha, thanks for the reply. I should have worded the part about me being sensitive to smells a little differently. I am sensitive to chemical smells. Essential oil fragrances don’t tend to be a problem. What might be a problem with them is my over use of them. I used them too much for too long in high concentrations. I think they would be fine in products that use them more sparingly. Also, your product recommendations look great for my face and neck but do you know of any products I can use for the whole body to repair the skin barrier? It would be very expensive to use small jars for body moisturizer? Also would you have any recommendations on what to use for whole body washing and hand washing? I use my olive oil castile liquid soap for all of that. I did always dilute it with distilled water so I wasn’t using it super concentrated but I still feel like it has been really drying to my skin. Thanks for your help.

    • Samantha Miller says:

      Hi Heidi
      I do formulate a similar product as Fortify for a couple of customers for the body, please email me directly through the contact page if you would like more information. Kind regards Samantha

  4. Sania says:

    Hi Samantha,

    I have an extremely dehydrated skin which is patchy and tight most of the times.
    However, after couple of hours, it becomes super oily (No matter I apply moisturiser, makeup or nothing).

    On top of all this, I am breaking out pretty much everywhere on my face White and red pimples are popping out and it was never the case before. I have had all my tests done and nothing abnormal. I have been to a dermatologist who suggested peels and infact did two chemical peels on me which has worsened and thus, it is red, inflamed, dry, oily and breaking out all at the same time.
    Please advise !

  5. Armida Martinez says:

    Hi, I am very excited to have stumbled upon your website. I have been dealing with dry red and sensitive skin for 2 years now. I have always had oily tough skin so this change threw me off. It all started after i did a serious of Derma pen procedures for acne scarring. After the last treatment, I developed a rash and without even thinking about it, I started to use Hydrocortisone. I used hydrocortisone on my face for almost a year not realizing how bad this was for my skin. I went to numerous dermatologist without any luck so i just kept treating my self with the hydrocortisone. My skin will get unbearable every time that i would stop it. I finally stopped using the hydrocortisone and went through a rough time which was soothed by using Cerave moisture cream but that kept clogging my pores but, everything else would make my skin angry. After some research i found out that my skin barrier was compromised as long term use of hydrocortisone on skin actually destroys your skin barrier and my barrier was already compromised from the Derma pen procedure to begin with. Anyways, I will be ordering your products today and i look forward to having healed amazing skin once again.

  6. evelinasmagacz says:

    I call Bio Lipid Complex Liquid Gold… its the most amazing product ever. This product is literally saving my skin. I’m on roaccutane for my inflammed skin which is helping with the excessive oil production due to the extreme dehydration my skin is suffering from however my skin still didn’t feel normal. I knew something was missing, my skin was inflexible, felt tight & uncomfortable. That was until I tried Bio Lipid, mind you I had tried other creams that contain lipids, cholesterol & fatty acids but nothing even slightly compares to Bio Lipid. I was having terrible skin issues & seeing 2 dermatologists who were perplexed as to what was going on with my skin. They denied that your skin over produces oil when it’s dehydrated & called that “rubbish”. They also do not believe in a damaged skin barrier from over exfoliation & stated it only happens from the sun… Samantha on the other hand understands skin more than any dermatologist, & I have seen one of the best in Australia who jst said I had rosacea. Samantha’s knowledge & expertise of how our skin functions is out of this world, words cannot explain it. Her products are amazing. I also love Fortify for a damaged skin barrier it doesn’t jst sink into the skin in 5 mins then leaves your skin dry, it leaves my skin moisturised for the whole day. Saviour is another excellent product as is Eye Lift and Miracle Clranse. Nxt I’m going to try PH Acid Mantle. Thank you Samantha you are truly the Queen of Skincare 🙏 wish you were in Aus so I could come & see you in person!

    • Samantha Miller says:

      Hello Eve and thankyou for this absolutely fantastic review i really appreciate it. Bio lipid is all about re-building the integrity of the barrier and Fortify like the name suggests backs that up, replenishing ingredient that are missing because of a compromised barrier. I am so pleased that my products are going some way to help repair your skin – all the best of luck Samantha

    • Samantha Miller says:

      Hi Nini After reading your email I recommend purchasing H20 to combat dehydration and possibly pH for a thin fragile skin that requires strenghtening. I would next layer with fortify to lock humectants against your skin. At night I would use Bio lipid alone or layered over H20 which really makes the skin smooth, plump and re texturised. Naturlene is also a great option for added moisture – any further questions please do not hesitate to reach out. All the best Samantha

  7. Julia Middleton says:

    Hi Samantha

    I had four IPL treatments a seven years ago for some rosacea on my cheeks and acne scarring on my chin. Unfortunately, the treatments worsened my condition and I had full rosacea and seborrrheic dermatitis with swelling. My skin has not been the same since and I worry I have caused irreparable damage to my skin. My skin has been dehydrated for a long time since then, but I have recently had a reaction to Rozex for Rosacea and now my skin on my cheeks is very tight, sore, inflamed and fine lines are much more noticeable, especially when smiling. I am acne-prone on my chin and forehead, but also very sensitive on my face – which products would you recommend to heal the damaged barrier? I am 40 years old. Thank you.

  8. Beatris Gamboa Vasquez says:

    Hello, i just order some of your products which i am excited to try, how long does shipping and delivery take?

  9. Nicole says:

    Hi Samantha- I am hoping you can recommend products from your line for me. I have persistent all around facial redness, very sensitive and flaky skin where anything I apply seems to sting and cause dryness. I have been to multiple derms, ipl treatments, allergy testing etc and have been unable to find treatment for years now (I’m 29 and had no skin problems until early 20’s). I highly believe my skin barrier could be damaged. Can you please reply or email me with any ideas. Thank you

  10. Chad says:

    Hi, I love your outlook on ingredients and the barrier! So I’m not sure exactly what messed my barrier up… I have a hunch but regardless I get so down when it’s like this….

    Anyway could I get away with just using your repair cream and not the lipid serum?

    Right now I do rose water then apply hyaluronic acid then jojoba oil which helps but I need something to really knock this out.

    Please help!! You will be my savior!!

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