This tile is all about the skin barrier. You will learn how the skin barrier is damaged and what happens to the skin after that.
What is a Skin Barrier?
The skin barrier is the outer layer of the epidermis. It comprises keratinocytes, lipids, proteins, and humectants. The lipid layer of the skin barrier has cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides that help the skin barrier resist water and germs. These molecules simultaneously impart 2 types of resistance .
The lipid molecules are hydrophobic. A hydrophobic molecule fears the water and does not let water pass through it. Since the skin barrier consists of many of these hydrophobic molecules, it is water-resistant.
These lipids also give acidity to the barrier. Bacteria and other germs cannot survive in an acidic environment, so they remain at arm’s length from the skin. The acidity of the barrier helps the skin initiate a buffer system. This buffer becomes your skin’s shield to keep the germs and invaders at a distance.
Damage To the Skin Barrier
The skin barrier also hosts a protein called filaggrin, which helps the skin cells make natural moisturizers. These moisturizers are called humectants. Humectants attract water from the air and deeper layers of the skin to form a water film on the skin’s surface. This film keeps your skin plump and hydrated .
Although the skin barrier is resilient enough to keep germs and dust from entering, certain lifestyle factors can harm the skin. This problem often starts with impairment of the skin barrier. For instance, excessive sun exposure, diabetes, stress, or hormonal changes can weaken the buffer system of the skin. This makes the skin barrier less effective against germs. Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can enter and roam, creating infections. Your skin can also experience a loss of water, which leaves the skin dehydrated and flaky . When the skin barrier is damaged, the next thing your skin becomes open to is inflammation.
What is Inflammation?
Germs, dust, and other pollutants release proteins, called antigens when they enter the skin cells. Since these proteins are foreign to your skin, the skin’s immune cells – LCs become active. An LC collects the antigens and displays them to another type of immune cells, called T-cells, which release killing molecules at the skin cells invaded by the germs and dust. These molecules aim to suppress the germs and dust particles from releasing any harmful substance within the skin. But, the response of LCs, T-cells and foreign particles leads to an increased blood flow. As a result, the area of the skin experiencing the battle becomes red, hot to the touch, and swollen. This response of your skin’s immune cells against the invaders is inflammation.
Inflamed parts of the skin can also experience rashes, bumps, and pain. Mostly, inflammation goes away as soon as your skin heals, but sometimes the signs can linger for longer. If not taken care of, skin inflammation can lead to acne and other skin problems.
A Compromised Barrier also Leads to Acne
A compromised skin barrier fails to provide a necessary shield from foreign entities. This makes the skin vulnerable to acne. The skin can then experience pimples, blemishes and whiteheads .
Let’s understand how this happens! A flawed skin barrier leads to a slower regeneration of the skin cells. The dead skin cells remain lingering on the skin surface for a long time, blocking the skin pores. The blocked pores also gather up the oil from the oil glands leading to bumps and pimples on the skin’s surface. Blackheads and blemishes often accompany these bumps. Since the pimples do not get deeper and remain on the skin, this type of acne is called non-inflammatory acne.
The only good thing about non-inflammatory acne is that these pimples are not painful as they don’t have germs inside them. Non-inflammatory acne occurs on the face, back, and chest skin.
What is Inflammatory Acne?
If non-inflammatory acne is not looked after, it can turn into an inflamed one . Inflammatory acne begins with bacteria invading the skin pores and feeding on dead skin cells and oil. Over time, bacteria reproduce and release harmful substances called P.acnes. As the bacteria grow, the amount of P.acne also increases, which blocks the skin pores, resulting in painful pimples.
The continuous release of P.acne puts pressure on the skin pores to the extent that they rupture. This releases the content of the pimple, including oil, P.acne, and germs on to the skin.
Since this content is foreign to the skin cells, it activates the skin’s immune response. The immune cells assist the skin in healing the ruptured pimple by initiating an inflammatory response that may cause redness and swelling – the signs of inflammation. So, it’s pimples with inflammation on the skin!
A Damaged Barrier can also Lead to Hyperpigmentation
Sometimes, a damaged skin barrier together with inflammation might not lead to acne. Instead, it can lead to hyperpigmentation. Hyper means excess, and pigment means color. Hyperpigmentation is the excess of skin pigment, which is melanin, leading to dark spots on the skin .
Hyperpigmentation is beyond an unpleasant appearance. A lot goes on under the skin that leads to hyperpigmented skin. Inflammation, exposure to the sun, genetics and stress are a few factors that may develop hyperpigmentation .
These factors damage the melanocytes – the cells that produce melanin. As a result, these cells do not have consistent melanin. Some parts of the skin produce more melanin, and others receive less melanin . Since the amount of melanin determines the color of the skin, some parts may appear lighter and some darker. The hyperpigmented skin can also appear pink, brown, or gray. Hyperpigmented skin is also called sunspots or liver spots.
What Causes an Uneven Skin Texture?
Did you ever touch your skin and feel dry, rough patches? Or have you ever observed that some areas of your skin are smoother than the rest?
This is what an uneven skin texture is. It is caused by the deterioration of your skin proteins – elastin and collagen . The presence of these proteins provides integrity and flexibility to your skin. But exposure to sunlight, aging, and poor diet can damage the skin barrier, leading to the buildup of oil, germs, and dust particles in the skin pores, blocking them and forming bumps and pimples.
Such skin scatters the sunlight instead of evenly reflecting it, which result in UV rays piercing deeper into the skin and damaging the collagen and elastin. When collagen and elastin lose their function, the skin looks stretched, dull and less youthful.