Our Skins Immune System + Why our skins barrier is important!

Understanding the Skin's Immune System + Why barrier function is important!
We often talk about barrier impaired skin in the skincare industry and one of the key things we will look for before starting treatments and recommending products is that your skin's barrier if functioning well and if it isn't, how we can help. So lets break down why the skins barrier is important and the role it plays in the skins immune function. 

The skin, our body's largest organ, acts as the first line of defence between our internal organs and the external environment. As well as it's structural role, it is responsible for hosting a complex immune system that plays a crucial role in protecting the body against pathogens and maintaining homeostasis (a stable relatively constant environment). 
What makes up the skins immune system + what does it do?

The skin's immune system is made up of multiple components that work together including physical barriers (the layers of the skin), cellular components, and molecular mediators (think communication). Physical barriers form the first line of defense against pathogens, preventing their entry into deeper tissues. As well as this your skin has specialised immune cells that populate the skin and actively look for foreign invaders and initiate immune responses when necessary. How incredible is that!

The skins immune system works to protect the body from infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other pathogens. When the skin comes across a foreign invader, immune cells in the skin recognise and engulf pathogens through processes such as phagocytosis (ingesting and eliminating) while dendritic cells play a pivotal role in antigen presentation, capturing pathogens and presenting their antigens to T cells, to initiate specific immune responses. The skin's immune system also plays a role in regulating inflammation, ensuring a balanced response to infections while preventing excessive tissue damage!
Why is this important? 

When the skin's immune responses are not working correctly or the skins barrier is impaired, it can lead to various dermatological conditions. This might include infections, inflammatory disorders, skin diseases and sensitised skin. Sensitive skin can develop due to several interrelated factors including:
  • Increased Permeability: A compromised skin barrier allows for the penetration of irritants, allergens, and environmental pollutants into the skin. These substances can trigger inflammatory responses, leading to redness, itching, and irritation. Individuals with a compromised skin barrier may experience heightened sensitivity to various skincare products, cosmetics, and environmental factors.
  • Loss of Moisture: The skin barrier serves as a protective barrier that prevents excessive water loss from the skin. When the barrier function is compromised, moisture loss increases, leading to dryness and dehydration. Dry skin is more prone to irritation and sensitivity, as it lacks the protective lipid layer that helps maintain hydration and prevents external irritants from penetrating the skin.
  • Altered pH Balance: The skin's pH balance plays a crucial role in maintaining its barrier function and protecting against microbial colonisation. An impaired skin barrier can disrupt the skin's natural pH balance, making it more susceptible to microbial infections and inflammatory reactions. Changes in pH can also disrupt the function of enzymes and proteins involved in maintaining skin health, further increasing sensitivity.
  • Microbial Dysbiosis: The skin microbiota, consisting of beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms, plays a vital role in regulating immune responses and maintaining skin health. An impaired skin barrier can disrupt the balance of the skin microbiota, leading to dysbiosis characterised by overgrowth of harmful bacteria and depletion of beneficial commensal bacteria. Dysbiosis can trigger inflammatory responses and exacerbate skin sensitivity.
  • Impaired Immune Function: The skin barrier acts as a site for immune surveillance, where immune cells monitor for foreign invaders and maintain tolerance to self-antigens. Impaired barrier function compromises immune surveillance and may lead to dysregulated immune responses, contributing to inflammation and sensitivity. Individuals with compromised skin barriers may exhibit altered immune function, making them more susceptible to infections and allergic reactions.
This is why we often talk about ensuring that your skin barrier is functioning well and that harsh cleansers and the overuse of exfoliants is avoided. 

Ingredients we love for helping the skins barrier function and overall skin health!

Here are some of our favourite tips for supporting a healthy functioning skin:
  • Choose cleansers that effectively cleanse the skin without stripping away its natural oils. Avoid harsh cleansing agents which can further compromise the skin barrier.
  • Use moisturisers that help replenish moisture and reinforce the skin barrier. Look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and fatty acids. These ingredients help restore the skin's natural lipid barrier and improve hydration levels, reducing dryness and irritation.
  • Look for anti-inflammatory ingredients that help soothe and calm irritated skin. Ingredients such as niacinamide, panthenol (provitamin B5), and beta glucan have anti-inflammatory properties and can help reduce redness and inflammation associated with barrier impairment.
  • Incorporate antioxidants into your skincare routine to protect the skin from oxidative stress and free radical damage. Antioxidants like vitamin E, vitamin C, green tea extract, and resveratrol help neutralise free radicals and support skin barrier function.

  • Protect the skin from UV damage. UV radiation can exacerbate barrier impairment and lead to further damage and sensitivity.

  • Avoid skincare products containing potential irritants that can further compromise the skin barrier and exacerbate sensitivity and irritation.
We're passionate about long term skin health! Lets help our skin perform at its best.