The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Your Skin Barrier

Soothing & Barrier Support Serum

What is the Skin Barrier?

Our skin is the largest organ of the human body (and the most exposed, too) which means it needs to be well protected. Our skin barrier is the first line of defense against environmental stressors and irritants. It also protects against the loss of one of the most important things in the human body: water. The skin barrier owes its incredible defense to its selectively permeable nature - meaning a healthy skin barrier will keep the good things in and bad things out. For example, it will keep enough water in to allow it to function, and allows enough water out to hydrate the outermost layer of the skin. This keeps our skin flexible and soft.

How the Skin Barrier Works

The skin barrier is actually not a single thing. In fact, it’s a well organized system designed to hold enough water to maintain skin health. To understand the skin barrier structure, you can imagine it as a brick wall:
Soothing & Barrier Support Serum
Starting at the top, an organized layer of skin cells will create a protective layer against moisture loss. These are the bricks.

Next we have skin lipids- things like ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol. Organized in the right ratio these form the lipid matrix, a protective layer that fills in the gaps between cells like mortar.

To support the brick-and-mortar structure of skin cells and lipids, there are also hygroscopic (water-loving) molecules inside the skin cells that act as magnets to hold on to water and prevent further water-loss. These are known as the natural moisturizing factor (NMF).

When these essential components become compromised, your skin barrier becomes damaged.
Soothing & Barrier Support Serum

How to Recognize a Damaged Skin Barrier

The first symptom of a damaged skin barrier may be easy to miss: it’s dehydration, a.k.a. an increased loss of water from our skin’s surface. This can kick start a cycle where more water-loss, then contributes to more damage to the skin barrier.

This leads to more visible signs of distress such as the skin becoming increasingly dry, starting to flake or showing signs of redness, and an overall feeling of discomfort (such as tightness).

Experiencing barrier disruption for a prolonged period of time can also lead to other long-term skin concerns, such as areas of uneven skin tone.
Soothing & Barrier Support Serum

How to Support and Maintain Your Skin Barrier

Soothing & Barrier Support Serum

You can maintain your skin barrier through a skincare regimen that both respects and supports the key parts of the skin barrier.

To avoid stripping your skin of those essential lipids and NMFs, gentle cleansing is key.

When using products that exfoliate or encourage skin renewal, such as direct acids or retinoids, you should gradually add them into your skincare routine to avoid over-exfoliation and damage to the skin barrier. Lastly, to support your skin’s natural components, moisturizing ingredients will help to replenish your barrier, and prevent water-loss.

How to Repair and Strengthen Your Skin Barrier

If your skin barrier is damaged, or you’re looking to help strengthen your skin’s first line of defense, try some of these barrier supporting solutions.

To maintain the integrity of the skin barrier, a good routine should always start with a gentle cleanser. The Ordinary Glycolipid Cream Cleanser is a non-drying, non-stripping cleanser formulated to respect the skin barrier while maintaining hydration.

And since a healthy skin barrier does a great job of protecting your body on its own, it is no surprise that the best ingredients for skin barrier repair will be similar - or identical - to those found in your skin.

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 our original hydrating serum that contains a selection of skin-like ingredients - hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 - to smooth and plump the skin while also strengthening the skin barrier.

The Ordinary Natural Moisturising Factors + PhytoCeramides our most nourishing moisturizer which includes NMF-like ingredients and plant-derived PhytoCeramides. This rich formula helps reinforce the skin barrier and offers all-day hydration.

Additionally, ingredients that help to support key barrier components can also be a great addition to a skincare routine focused on barrier maintenance.

Niacinamide has been shown to support skin components such as ceramides and fatty acids that are integral to the outermost layer of our skin. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% hydrates the skin, and reinforces the skin barrier in as little as 7 days.

The Ordinary offers a selection of products that have been shown to maintain and reinforce the skin barrier. Find the perfect routine for your skin barrier by visiting our new Barrier Support category.
Soothing & Barrier Support Serum
20.40 EUR

Targets
Barrier Support

Suited to
All Skin Types

7.50 EUR

Targets
Dryness

Suited to
All Skin Types

Collection
67.80 EUR
About this Collection
A regimen that includes products designed to rebuild and strengthen the skin barrier
13.40 EUR

Targets
Cleansing

Suited to
All Skin Types

The Ordinary Amino Acids + B5
10.60 EUR

Targets
Dryness

Suited to
All Skin Types

16.90 EUR

Targets
Hair

Suited to
All Skin Types

24.10 EUR

Targets
Dryness

Suited to
All Skin Types

15.60 EUR

Targets
Textural Irregularities

Suited to
Dry Skin

6.00 EUR

Targets
Textural Irregularities

Suited to
All Skin Types

14.40 EUR

Targets
Dryness

Suited to
All Skin Types