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Skin Barrier 101

What exactly is the skin barrier?

The skin barrier, (also referred to as the moisture barrier, lipid barrier or permeability barrier), is the outermost layer of our skin’s surface. You can imagine the skin barrier as a brick wall; where the cells are the bricks, and the mortar that holds the wall together contains vital lipids (ceramides, cholesterols and fatty acids). The skin barrier performs the critical function of keeping essential water and electrolytes inside the body, and as a protective barrier to keep harmful microorganisms out. The skin barrier supports the skin’s immunity and regulates inflammation.

Skinfix Barrier+ Collection from Skinfix on Vimeo.


Is my skin barrier healthy?

When the skin barrier is healthy, it is smooth, even-toned, hydrated and clear. When the skin barrier is damaged, skin will become irritated, red, inflamed, and prone to breakouts, dermatitis, broken capillaries, dryness, tightness and even burning sensations that we often attribute to having sensitive skin.

What can damage my skin barrier?

Sensitizing ingredients

Many ingredients including fragrances/dyes, lanolin, propylene glycol and certain preservatives may cause skin sensitivity. Repeated exposure to skin irritants over time can often create skin barrier damage that is imperceptible until it becomes visible irritation or inflammation.

Sulfate cleansers

Cleansers that contain sulfates can strip the vital lipids from the skin, causing barrier damage and creating redness, tightness and irritation.


Exfoliation can help the skin shed an excess of dead, dry cells that build up on the skin barrier. However, it is important to use exfoliators that don’t over-strip or damage the skin barrier – and in moderation. Exfoliation should be limited to 1-3 times/week, and only for those that tolerate it without irritation.

Cosmetic procedures

Deep laser resurfacing and peels can leave the skin barrier temporarily weak and vulnerable. It is important to support the healing process by adequately protecting the skin barrier post-procedure.


As we get older the skin barrier naturally weakens and the quantity of our natural lipids decreases.

Environmental stress

Climate changes, indoor heating/cooling systems, environmental toxins and sun damage can make the skin barrier more vulnerable.

Emotional stress

There is evidence that emotional stress caused by life experiences can negatively impact the health and function of the skin barrier.

Physical stress

Dehydration, malnourishment, fatigue and auto-immune conditions can impact the health of the skin barrier.


Certain dietary allergies have been linked to dermatitis conditions. Smoking dehydrates the skin and can slow down collagen production and cell metabolism. Alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate the skin and even dilate capillaries causing redness.


Some people are predisposed to barrier vulnerability or certain skin conditions genetically.

Do you know the importance of lipids to skin health?

Lipids may not sound very sexy. But they’re vital for the health and youthful appearance of our skin. Essentially, lipids are the skin’s natural fats – and essential components of the skin’s upper layers. Lipids in the form of fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol, support skin barrier function and fortify against Trans-Epidermal Water Loss, more commonly known as TEWL. The loss of moisture through the skin barrier is a leading cause of dehydration, dryness and weakening of skin barrier defenses.

What is the lipid layer of the skin?

The lipid layer of the skin is composed of fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol – all natural fat substances that play an important role in skin health. Although research regarding lipids is an emerging area of skin research, studies suggest optimal levels of ceramides in human skin to be approximately 50% of the skin’s lipid layer, cholesterol 25%, and other fatty acids at about 10-15%. 

You may know the lipid layer by one of its other names: the skin barrier or moisture barrier. However it’s referred to, this natural barrier serves key functions that are linked directly to skin health. 

One of these essential tasks is to act as an environmental shield against external aggressors including pollutants, free radicals and microorganisms like viruses and bacteria. Additionally, this layer of skin fats functions as a moat to hold moisture in the skin and prevent loss of water and electrolytes through the skin barrier.

In fact, optimal lipids in the barrier help all of the skin’s functions to operate more effectively. Examples of these vital functions are: immune response and wound healing; skin’s response to UV radiation and its regulation of melanin; the natural production of protective antioxidants; and the support of dermal functions, including the production of elastin and collagen in the dermis. 

How can I improve my skin lipid barrier?

So, proper lipid barrier function is the key to skin health. But did you know that we lose skin barrier lipids like ceramides and fatty acids as we age? Over the course of our lives, the skin’s lipid content steadily declines as the skin is unable to replenish depleted lipids like fatty acids and ceramides at a youthful pace.

By our 30s, we may have lost up to 40% of vital skin lipids. 

By our 40s we may have lost up to 60% of vital skin lipids.

This absence of lipids in the skin compromises skin barrier defenses and accelerates signs of skin aging. The solution? A lipid-rich moisturizer that helps replenish ceramides and fatty acids to maximize optimal functions and preserve the youthful behaviors of the skin. Even what may be considered the best face creams for dry skin can fall short of skin’s most essential needs. When it comes to skin barrier health, these needs transcend mere moisture.

Studies have shown that using a face cream with skin-similar lipids that mimic the skin barrier’s own lipids is the most effective way to replenish lipids.

As part of a Barrier+ three-step regimen, the Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Cream is a lipid filler rich in vital lipids, peptides and sodium hyaluronate and is clinically proven to help restore depleted ceramides and fatty acids and support barrier function by reversing lipid depletion.

In fact, a Barrier+ regimen is clinically proven to replenish skin lipids by 23.6% in 28 days. That's nearly 1% per day!*

 Shop Barrier+ 

Skinfix products are also available at Sephora.com.

*as part of a barrier+ 3 step regimen