Every thought of the fundamental importance our skin has as an interface with the outside world? A true barrier which is far from inert. Here’s how to preserve its functionality.

The skin is the body’s largest organ, and the headquarters of some of its most indispensable functions. Just think of burn victims, who need extreme intensive care in order to survive. What makes the skin so important and fundamental? Its twofold function as a barrier: on one hand it keeps water and precious mineral salts in, and on the other it keeps environmental chemical and physical pollutants out.

The epidermis and especially its most superficial layer, the stratum corneum, is the most specialized of the skin’s layers when it comes to acting as a barrier. This is why it has been compared to a wall, made of bricks and cement. The more superficial cells, i.e. dead, desquamating cells, make up the bricks of this wall, while the lipids (fatty substances) packed between the cells make up the cement. For a wall to be solid, the bricks must overlap properly, and the cement must be meticulously interposed; any disintegration in the components would be enough to destroy the wall. When this magical, far from inert wall falls apart, the skin becomes dry, cracked, desquamating and hyper-reactive. Vice versa, when the wall is reinforced with fresh cement, similar to the existent one, the aforementioned conditions are adequately cured.

The factors which can cause damage to the cutaneous barrier are either intrinsic, such as aging or diseases like eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, or extrinsic like the cold, wind, aggressive detergents and solvents. How does one cure an altered cutaneous barrier? By using hydrating and/or soothing products which can restore our “wall”’s functionality.

Hydration can be defined as a process by which the skin’s water content is restored to its physiological levels. Hyaluronic acid, or – better still – its precursor, N-Acetyl Glucosamine, are the most effective naturally hydrating substances.

Emollience, on the other hand, is a cosmetic characteristic which gives the skin surface its desirable softness and smoothness. It is usually connected to the lipid component of cosmetic formulations. So, based on what we’ve just said, for optimal hydration and softness, the lipids in the formulations we use on our skin should be epidermis-compatible, that is in all ways similar to those we naturally find in this layer.

The best lipids for this aim are plant-derived: ceramides and sphingolipids. When used on the skin, their benefits surpass the cosmetic and enter the realm of the medical: their soothing, regularizing properties cure several inflammatory conditions, with a general improvement not only of the smoothness but also of the colour and softness of the skin.

On the contrary, attacking our skin with exfoliants, scrubs and breaching products, using silicones or petroleum-derived oils such as paraffin or Vaseline as emollients, will make your skin go rough, irritated and blotchy. Merlin’s magical wall needs a special alchemy of ingredients for it to work at its best, so you must learn to know the components of cosmetic formulations. This goes not only for creams, serums and lotions, but also for detergent products and even make-up.

Article of  Dr Adele Sparavigna for https://4me.styl