Your skin works really hard all day, every day. After all, protecting your insides from external toxins, bad bacteria and viruses is no easy feat. At the front line of all that protection is your skin barrier, or stratum corneum, which is basically your external layer of skin.
Working together with the acid mantle (or moisture barrier) and the microbiome of bacteria living in your skin, the skin barrier keeps moisture in and irritants like UV rays, pollution and toxins out. Ahead, we break down the environmental and lifestyle skin stressors that threaten your glowy complexion on a typical day.
1. UV rays
By now, you know the basics of how ultraviolet rays can harm skin: sunburns, skin cancer and wrinkles. One of our skin's biggest aggressors, UV rays not only lead to a damaged skin barrier, but also reach the deeper layers of skin, where they can damage or kill skin cells.
How to protect skin: Wear sunscreen every day. Store a tube on your vanity or in your cosmetic bag, so you remember that it should always be the final step in your routine.
Too much exposure to strong winds can actually cause the skin barrier to dry out, weaken and eventually shed its fragmented cells. The loss of some of your outer layer of skin in this manner also reduces the sun-protective power of the skin barrier.
How to protect skin: A prebiotic moisturizer can help support a balanced skin microbiome that works together with your moisture barrier to protect skin from outdoor stressors.
RELATED READ: The Skin Barrier, Acid Mantle & Microbiome
Whether from dirt, dust or ozone gases, pollution and urban skin stressors can generate free radicals on your skin. When free radicals try to grab an extra electron from atoms in the skin, they are stealing energy from healthy skin cells. This action causes oxidative stress and activates the enzymes that break down collagen and damage the skin’s defensive layer.
How to protect skin: Start the day with a serum that contains powerful antioxidants for all-day protection from pollution and environmental aggressors.
One skin term many of us have become familiar with over the past year is maskne (breakouts resulting from your face mask). A form of acne mechanica, maskne is triggered by the combo of irritation from friction on the skin and dirt and oil building up underneath a mask.
How to protect skin: After unmasking, spritz on a clarifying mist like the Supercharged Reset Mist to balance bacteria and reset skin with a hydrating cloud of skin-purifying botanicals.
Whether a result of excessive alcohol and/or caffeine intake or simply not drinking enough water (or any combination of all three), a lack of moisture can hinder skin’s ability to turn over dead cells. Dehydrated skin is more prone to inflammatory conditions (like acne) and often appears dry, dull and generally meh.
How to protect skin: Drink more water. If it’s not typically your beverage of choice, adding lemons or cucumbers can add to the enjoyment. Try low-sugar electrolyte drinks to help you rehydrate after a night of partying or a hot day in the sun.
6. Harsh exfoliants and cleansers
Exfoliants with large, rough particles (think ground-up shells, pits or rocks) can cause micro-tears in the skin’s surface. Cleansers with surfactants and harsh ingredients can strip the skin's natural oils, damaging the moisture barrier and leading to dryness and irritation.
How to protect skin: Opt for a gentle cleanser that unclogs pores with chemical exfoliants (AHAs, BHAs or PHAs) and/or super-gentle physical exfoliants like konjac jellies.
When you feel stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. This hormonal fluctuation triggers an overproduction of oil that can lead to clogged pores and acne breakouts.
How to protect skin: Find a way to destress every day, whether it’s going for a run, meditating for five minutes or squeezing in time to meet a friend for coffee.
8. Hormonal changes
Similar to stress breakouts, hormonal fluctuations related to puberty, menstruation and pregnancy can leave your skin in a constant state of flux. Thanks to hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, skin can get super sensitive, dry and prone to acne breakouts.
How to protect skin: Get to know your skin and what it needs at different times of the month. Add a serum boost to calm angry skin or a reset mist to clarify and degrease.