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.
My clinical advice
Many of you are aware, that I believe correct barrier function is the foundation of skin health.
So this article is the culmination of years of research on skin identical ingredients that are missing.
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; whether that be from poorly performed treatments, incorrect products, environmental or systemic damage or premature ageing.
You only need to read the list below, to realise that skin with a damaged barrier gets into a lot of trouble:
- Sallow, lax and dull
- Pimples, Papules and Pustules
If your barrier is out of whack its bad news all-round I’m afraid.
Impaired barrier leads to dryness, irritation and inflammation; it will often turn red with just light contact and may sting when anything is applied:
To understand this further, we first need to look at barrier function.
Recap on skin science
Your outermost layer of your skin, the stratum corneum has a brick and mortar like structure; think of the bricks as skin cells referred to as corneocytes, and the mortar a fatty matrix that seals your skin, it keeps the bad guys out and the good guys in.
It is this fatty matrix that is crucial to barrier repair, which consists of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.
What’s our barrier made up of?
This paper is an interesting read, it shows the proportions in topical applications of lipids, and whilst there are many kinds of lipids, CERAMIDES, CHOLESTEROL, and FATTY ACIDS are the dominant forms.
But with age this lipid production declines, and as a consequence, you’re skin’s natural functions is disrupted; which is 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, 3 parts of one ingredient to 1 part of each of the other three.
Both Fortify barrier repair and Bio lipid complex, mimic the natural lipids of your bilayers, my formulas contain 1 part ceramide, to 1 part cholesterol, to 1 part palmitic acid, to 3 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 god damn roof, this seriously is next-level skincare at its best.
So what should be in a barrier repair cream?
There is some skin science behind the barrier repairers (is there such a word?).
In the case with my formulas there are THREE SUPERSTAR components, that will help you’re skin’s repair mechanism do its job:
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, like preventing water loss (TEWL) and keeping things out.
Ceramides are found in our skin at about 50%, a decrease in them due to ageing, exposure to different temperatures, can lead to dry skin and itchiness, due to a decrease in the efficacy of the stratum corneum’s ability to keep water in and other things out.
Cholesterol plays an important role in your skin; it is one of the most common lipids in our body that gives our cells structure and fluidity, an integral component of the mortar that sits between our cells.
A young, healthy skin has thick mortar, with no cracks, as we age cholesterol levels in our skin decrease, this can be as much as 40% by the time we reach the age of 40.
The result is thinner mortar and a dilapidated brick wall, which leads to premature ageing.
I just love fatty acids, because of the different benefits they bring to the skin.
How do they work for barrier function? Our skins 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, keeping the outside on the outside and well your insides in.
Let’s take a look at each one in detail, and how they help in a formula, to create that all important barrier cream.
Studies have shown this is super important when it comes to normal barrier function, 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, skin dryness, inflammation and breakouts; which is why it is considered an essential fatty acid.
Because we can’t construct it ourselves in our body, we have to get it from outside sources.
I find what many manufacturers don’t realise, is that linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid, so most of the oils in their formulas have short shelf lives and go rancid; this includes sunflower and sadly rose hip seed oil.
Oils I recommend for speeding up the skin’s barrier mechanisms
Soy bean oil: It has a ton of linoleic acid, and because it is abundant with vitamin E, all those lovely antioxidants significantly extend the shelf life of the oil.
Sesame oil: This contains about 40% linoleic with almost equal amounts of oleic acid 45.4%, 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.
Evening primrose oil: I’m a huge fan, with its high amounts of linoleic acid, coupled with gamma linoleic acid, which helps our skin’s repair mechanism do its job correctly.
Marula Oil: This oil almost deserves its own little mention, it is rich in oleic around 70%, and works to support the natural buildup of the skin’s lipid layer, it also possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Marula reduces transepidermal water loss and contains high levels of important antioxidants including Vitamin C and E, so it offers advanced protection against photo-aging – neutralising free radicals, whilst building healthy collagen.
Palmitic acid is found in our skin’s fatty acid profile and is a building block of the skin, helping to prevent burns, wounds, and scratches and it is the most active anti-microbial in our sebum.
Sea Buckthorn oil: This oil is rich in palmitic acid around 7.2%. It is a great source of many of the essential fatty acids and phytosterols and vitamins A, C, B and E, thus making it an amazing antioxidant.
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 of the oils like squalane and jojoba mimic our natural sebum, they are absorbed really well by our skin and have wonderful moisturising and regenerating effects, and are extremely anti-inflammatory.
- Camellia seed oil 80%
- Avocado oil 80%
- Almond oil 61%
- Macadamia nut 50%
- Shea butter 50%
- Sesame oil 45%
- Mango butter 46%
- Sea buckthorn 20%
The Naked Truth
The real point here is that traditionally, the focus of skincare products has been about adding new ingredients to the skin and it still is.
But I feel 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.
Through my formulas I have seen some really wonderful results in my clients in terms of skin penetration, repair and regeneration, compared to ingredients that are too active, or harsh, that have no place on the skin and only leads to irritation and a compromised barrier.
So why not treat your skin using ‘like with like’ and give your skin a dose of what it really needs.