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9 Ways to Improve your Skin Barrier Function - BARRIER FUNCTION PART 2


Free Water

Our Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF) consist of amino acids and derivatives such as lactic acid, PCA and Urea.  Water is incorporated and used to create  this mixture so our skin cannot properly produce our NMF when there is a lack of free water.  

Skin Lipids

The brick and mortar structure of the outermost cells of the skin, the stratum corneum, are critical to keep moisture in our skin.  A blend of ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids play a key role in maintaining barrier function and preventing water loss.  This trio is created in a balanced ratio, usually 1:1:1 to 3:1:1, of each.  Topical use of one or two of them to the exclusion of the others will result in an imbalance that will eventually lead to impairment your skin barrier.

Extrinsic Factors

The external factors that contribute to reduced skin function and lead to premature aging:   Sun Exposure, Environmental Pollution, Free Radicals, Skin Care Products.

Intrinsic Factors

The internal factors that cause a decline in skin function and premature aging:  Cellular Aging, Hormones, Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency, Nutrient Deficiencies, Skin Disorders, Medications, Medical Conditions.

Natural Moisturizing Factor vs Lipids Barrier Defense - skinVacious



  1. Strengthen your skin:  Skin rolling supports your natural biology, increases microcirculation, improves the density of skin and increases the infusion of topical active ingredients like humectants.
  2. Add Humectants to your routine:  Humectants help to bind water in the skin.  Our natural moisturizing factor responds well to HMW hyaluronic acid, amino acids, sodium PCA and glycerin.   Hyaluronic acid draws water to the surface of the skin and improves hydration and elasticity.  
  3. Skin Lipids:  Replenish lipid deficiencies in the stratum corneum with topical skin care containing ceramides, cholesterol and free fatty acids that bio-mimic the natural barrier.  Niacinamide is also helpful to nurture our natural production of ceramides.
  4. Apply an Occlusive:  The use of an occlusive moisturizer or facial oil will reduce water loss from the skin.  A happy skin is an intact skin that can direct its attention towards repair and regeneration functions.
  5. Be aware of the cumulative effects of your active ingredients:  Many skin care active ingredients perform multiple and sometimes overlapping functions, for example having exfoliating properties.  If you are using several layers of skin care from a number of different products, it is important to ensure that the sum total of these types of active ingredients is not having a negative effect on the barrier.
  6. Mind your pH:  Using pH balanced skin care and cleansers with gentle surfactants to minimize the impact on the acid mantle and barrier defense.  
  7. Incorporate an AHA:  A gentle, low percentage Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), when used at percentages under 5% , do not impair the barrier function.  Lactic and glycolic acid act as humectants.  Lactic Acid is similar to our natural moisturizing factor (NMF), leaving more moisture behind than it takes away. 
  8. Always wear an SPF:  Sunscreen is an absolute must to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays and premature aging.
  9. What’s going on in your environment?:  The relative humidity in the air around you can either help or hinder your moisture retention.  A drier environment will draw moisture out of the skin so consider adding a humidifier to your indoor environment if it feels dry.

For the skin to benefit from a humectant and to prevent water from being drawn out of the skin, don’t forget to apply an emollient or occlusive over top to seal the moisture in the skin.