Skin Intel is a new series in which we break down the science behind skincare issues in an approachable way to help you tune in, better understand your own needs and concerns, and treat them accordingly.
Barrier Breakthrough: Why the Lipid Barrier Matters
Our skin is a barrier between the environment and our internal organs, and lipids play a critical role in keeping that barrier functioning at its highest level. Comprised of non-water soluble chemical molecules like fatty acids, ceramides, and phospholipids, lipids act as an “intercellular matrix”—basically a glue—that holds the corneocytes (a sexier term for dead skin cells) together.
The reason this lipid barrier is important is that, if healthy and intact, it prevents toxins, bacteria, and irritants from penetrating the layers of your epidermis, while trapping water molecules to lock moisture into your skin. Both of these things are essential to a healthy, glowing complexion.
Even among skin enthusiasts, an out-of-balance lipid barrier is very common—partially due to diet (some lipids can only be absorbed internally through food), but also because we’re often too aggressive with our skincare. Overzealous stripping, peeling, and exfoliation, which most us are guilty of at one time or another, break down the lipid barrier and can lead to a host of unpleasant skin reactions, like inflammation, redness, itchiness, dermatitis, and eczema. Throw an aggressive mix of bitter cold and dry heat into the mix and these conditions are exacerbated.
Unfortunately, we can’t just slap on any old heavy moisturizer and expect the lipid barrier to heal itself. A product must contain ‘skin identical ingredients’ for lipids to truly penetrate and replenish. Grape seed oil, our foundational oil, is one of the highest nutritional oils, with ceramides at 73%. Safflower, which we use for our macerations, is 78%. So, by nature, our products are heavy-hitters in this department. The process of layering product (which we are huge proponents of—see our guide, here) is also very beneficial in healing and protecting, as it increases circulation, moves lymph, and encourages collagen production.
3 Steps to a Healthier Lipid Barrier
Swap your foaming cleanser for a gentler oil, or cream cleanser, or try the 4-2-4 Method for the ultimate skin-strengthening indulgence.
Seal your oils, toners, serums, and creams with a final swipe of our Fleur Vibrante Balm, which forms an occlusive layer on top of the skin to lock in moisture and protect against the elements.
Trade your body lotion for a rich balm, and apply to warm, damp skin following your bath, steam, or sauna.