The skin barrier functions to protect. Understanding the role of the skin as an organ and its various functions makes it easier to nurture and nourish it for your lifetime. There are many kinds of skincare services like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and acupuncture, which focus on different aspects of the skin health. At Miiko Skin Co, our primary focus is on the health of the skin barrier (the epidermis) and building healthy tissue that will support you throughout your lifetime.
The top layer of your skin is called the epidermis. For years, scientists believed this layer of skin was dead, serving virtually no function. However, more recent research is investigating how the layering of the dead skin cells, and it’s chemistry, build a complex skin barrier.
This skin barrier plays a key function in the skin’s role in protecting the body from foreign substances. The epidermis itself is also broken down and analyzed in layers and the top layer - the stratum corneum - is the layer we focus on primarily in natural skincare.
The stratum corneum (Latin for horny layer) visually looks like a brick-and-mortar wall under a microscope. The unique stacking of dead skin cells creates an environment that is lipophilic (lipid-loving) which is a tougher environment for bacteria, fungi, and viruses to penetrate. This same lipid-loving wall also functions to keep the lower living tissues (dermis) hydrated.
On top of creating a physical barrier (the lipophilic wall of stacked dead skin cells), the stratum corneum also has an acidic pH (4.5-5.5) which creates an additional protective response to unwanted foreign substances.
Understanding the purpose of the skin barrier and the components that break it down is how we developed our four pillars to skincare.
1. Keep it Hydrated
Keeping your body and tissues hydrated by drinking lots of fluids make a huge difference in the buoyancy of the skin over time. This will make a difference in the aging process and help minimize the appearance of fine lines.
Healthy fats are also important for the maintenance of healthy skin. In order to build a strong skin barrier (inside out) your body requires essential fatty acids. Healthy fats are everywhere and they can be plant-based too! Rotate Brazil nuts, avocado, walnuts, flax-seed, hemp-seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and olive oil in your diet!
The skin barrier can easily be compromised by stress, dramatic weather changes (hot to cold), hormones, and harsh soaps and sanitizers. When the skin barrier is compromised, it is easier for various external pathogens to get under the tissue and create irritation or infection.
Support your skin barrier by moisturizing it everyday with a moisturizer that is free from junk ingredients.
2. Ingredients Matter | Read the Ingredients
It doesn’t matter how reputable the brand, or how safe the labels look, we always encourage you to read the ingredients on your skincare products. Why? Because we believe it is important to read the list of ingredients you are paying (sometimes a lot of money) for, and ask yourself what the benefits of these ingredients are for your skin.
The ingredients you want to avoid are:
- Endocrine Disruptors - these are ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, and fragrance/parfum that easily penetrate the skin barrier and go into the bloodstream or store themselves in fat tissue. They are estrogen mimicking, and can throw off hormone development in fetuses, breastfeeding babies, and even hormonal development later in life.
- Rancid Oils - this is extremely tough to know. However, one recommendation we have is to look in the ingredients listed, the reputation of the brand, and the packaging of the product. For example: flax oil, hemp oil, linseed oil, and many other oils that you must purchase or store in the fridge are more likely to go rancid if left out for a long time. Basically, if a product has ingredients that you know should be in the fridge and they are packaged in plastic and have a long shelf life, they are either packed with preservatives to keep the oils from going bad or the oils are bad. Both are a disappointing use of an otherwise awesome ingredient.
- Petroleum by-products and preservatives - Petroleum ingredients are actually easier to identify than rancid oils or endocrine disruptors because it is usually part of the ingredient name. The issue with petroleum is mainly that toxic hydrocarbons are used to derive petroleum by-products from oil. So even though petroleum jelly (yes Vaseline) could be very moisturizing for the skin, the process of making it contains a high concentration of free-radicals and toxic ingredients.
Unfortunately, the reality is that often the ingredients themselves are not dangerous, but it is the process of manufacturing these ingredients that is toxic. Not only for the people making them and the environment they are produced in, but also for the skin.
3. Pay Attention to Cycles
These are all cycles that can play a role in your skin's appearance and recurring chronic conditions. Understanding and connecting the relationship between these cycles and your skin health is a foundational exercise for our 4th and most important pillar of all.
Interested in learning more about these cycles and how they play a role in your skin's health? Sign up to receive our Face Mapping 2.0 Download!
4. Be Gentle
- Let your skin breath - it can be refreshing to keep your routine simple and stop wearing too many products for a few days
- Let go of unrealistic expectations and don't be too hard on yourself and your skin!
- Avoid extreme everyday acts like tanning and picking