What Is the Skin Barrier?

The words “skin barrier” are often used incorrectly. In dermatology, the correct use of the term skin barrier means the skin’s ability to hold onto water and keep out allergens, irritants and microbes. 

How Does Your Skin Protect Itself from the Environment?

Your skin has many different protective functions besides the skin barrier. This article will discuss the skin barrier whose role is to prevent dehydration of the skin and build a fortress around the epidermal skin cells to protect them. The proper function of this skin barrier is a vital aspect of your skin’s overall health and appearance. While everyone naturally has a skin barrier, some skin types are more susceptible to barrier damage than others. 

Why Does the Skin Barrer Get Damaged?

A properly functioning skin barrier requires many components to be produced by the skin.  Genetics defects, aging, stress, medications and environmental issues such as UV light, friction and heat can all damage the skin barrier. The most common things that damage the skin barrier are soap and detergents, also known as surfactants.

Read on to learn more about how the skin barrier works, what it is made of, and what you can do to restore proper barrier function in the case of an impaired barrier.

What Is the Function of the Skin’s Protective Barrier?

The skin barrier acts as a protective shield for your skin, with two primary functions:

  1. To keep water from evaporating from your skin into the atmosphere, which would cause dehydration and dryness.
  2. To keep allergens, irritants, and bacteria from being able to penetrate your skin. 

When the skin barrier is impaired, it is unable to hold onto water and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) occurs. Additionally, pathogens are able to more easily enter the skin when the barrier is impaired, which can lead to many different skin problems. Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is one of the most common skin concerns related to improper barrier function. 

Where Is the Skin Barrier Located?

The skin barrier is located in the stratum corneum, which is the topmost layer of the epidermis and is therefore exposed to the atmosphere. The stratum corneum is made up of about 15 to 30 layers of keratinocyte cells, which are arranged together like a brick wall. Lipids act as the “mortar” that holds them together.

You can learn more about the five layers of skin in this blog.

What Is the Skin Barrier Made Of?

These lipid bilayers that hold keratinocytes (skin cells in the epidermis) together make up the skin barrier. These lipids have what are called “hydrophilic” heads, meaning that they are attracted to water, and “hydrophobic” tails, meaning that they repel water. A bilayer is formed with the hydrophobic tails in the center and the hydrophilic heads at both outer ends. This forms a hydrophobic center in what is called a lamellar (disc-like) shape. These tails prevent the movement of water across the membrane to prevent transepidermal water loss. Each keratinocyte skin cell is surrounded by this protective lipid bilayer. 

The lipid bilayer itself is made up of three specific types of lipids, all arranged in a 1:1:1 ratio and fitting together like puzzle pieces. These lipids are ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol. All are needed in order to create a healthy, strong skin barrier. 

What Factors Affect the Skin Barrier?

A number of factors can affect the form and function of the skin barrier, including genetics, environment, lifestyle habits, and even diet. As mentioned earlier, some skin conditions with a genetic component such as eczema are caused by an impaired skin barrier. On the other hand, using the wrong skincare products and ingredients for your Baumann Skin Type is an example of a lifestyle factor that can damage your skin’s barrier. A poor diet, stress and over-exfoliation can also damage the skin barrier. Understanding the proper skincare products to use on your skin is a vital component of maintaining a healthy skin barrier and achieving hydrated skin.

How to Repair an Impaired Barrier

A healthy skin barrier is arranged in the lamellar structure described above, with all hydrophobic lipid tails pointing toward the center. However, the skin barrier becomes impaired when this structure is broken, allowing water to cross the membrane and escape out of the skin, as well as creating a hole for allergens and irritants to enter the skin. 

This will create dehydration and irritation. Dehydration is the first barrier to skin health and needs to be corrected in order to have healthy skin.

To repair an impaired skin barrier, you must restore the lipid bilayer using a barrier repair moisturizer that utilizes a scientifically proven technology such as multi-lamellar emulsion or MLE technology. MLE technology uses the same 1:1:1 ratio of ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol that is naturally found in the skin barrier. Studies have shown that using a proper MLE barrier repair cream can effectively treat eczema symptoms by restoring the function of the skin barrier.

How to Know If a Moisturizer Repairs the Skin Barrier

In order to repair the skin barrier, moisturizers must form the same puzzle piece shape that occurs naturally to form the skin barrier.  When visualized under a cross polarized microscope, the 3 lipids- when in the correct 1:1:1 ration- form a Maltrese Cross type structure.

Maltese Cross Structure – named this because it resembles the shield worn by the Knights of Malta.

What Is the Best Barrier Repair Moisturizer?

The best barrier repair creams use a 1:1:1 ratio of lipids that form a maltese cross structure when viewed under a cross polarized microscope. MLE technology shows these maltese cross patterns because it contains the ingredient Myristoyl/palmitoyl oxostearamide/arachamide MEA to restore barrier function. This is the image of the MLE technology under a cross polarizing microscope showing the maltese cross pattern.

MLE technology continuing moisturizers have been shown to reduce inflammatory factors in the blood when used consistently.

What Skincare Products Contain MLE Technology?

All of the Zerafite products contain MLE Technology.  Zerafite Barrier Repair Moisturizer and Zerafite Ultra Rich Body Cream are the best moisturizers for extremely sensitive skin. You have to purchase them through a physician, or you can go to and use the code STSMD.

In Summary

A healthy skin barrier is crucial for healthy skin. Telltale signs of an impaired barrier are dryness, itching, and irritation. To restore proper barrier function and eliminate these symptoms, use a barrier repair moisturizer such as Zerafite that uses MLE technology.

©2020 Metabeauty, Inc.

May 22, 2020 Eczema/Dry Skin, Skincare