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By understanding the skin anatomy, taking care of our natural biome, and finding the best antioxidants to prevent and delay skin ageing, we can fight skin concerns in ways that not only care for the skin, but retroactively correct signs of ageing.
The skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin’s surface, and it consists of cells and lipids. If you’re familiar with this term, you’ll know the barrier function is an extremely important concept in skincare. Describing the strength and ability of our skin, the barrier is our protection against our external environment. A highly functioning and healthy skin barrier will ultimately allow topical products and ingredients to effectively treat and maintain the skin.

Understanding the Skin Barrier

I love the wall analogy developed by Dr. Peter M. Elias. He suggested that we look at the structure of the skin barrier as a wall. The cells (corneocytes) are the bricks of the wall, and the lipid bilayer would be the mortar.



Corneocytes are dried-out, non-living skin cells that are ready to shed. However, the mortar, or the stacked lipid bilayers that surround the corneocytes, is responsible for acting as an impermeable membrane that prevents the loss of water from the skin and prevents the entrance of harmful microorganisms or irritants.

This is why we must protect our skin barrier.

However, environmental changes, the products and ingredients we use, and our diet can all contribute to its optimal function.

The skin barrier has numerous essential protective functions:

  1. Prevents water and electrolytes from evaporating through the skin.
  2. Produces antimicrobial peptides and proteins which serves as a protective shieldagainst harmful microorganisms.
  3. Helps to maintain the skin’s immunity.
  4. Regulates inflammation.
  5. Regulates the absorption of topical ingredients.

A damaged barrier

Are you aware that air pollution can have a damaging effect on your skin? When it comes to environmental stressors the term “free radicals” gets thrown around quite a bit. Unfortunately, many don’t actually know what it means.

Free radicals are responsible for breaking down our skin’s collagen, which leads to dark spots, fine lines, wrinkles and sagging skin.

aesthetic treatments | Longevity LIVE


When our skin barrier is healthy, we typically experience a smooth, clear, even-toned complexion with a naturally healthy glow. If our skin barrier is damaged, we tend to experience redness, irritation, breakouts, rashes, burning sensations, broken capillaries, dryness, and even tightness.

The best way to look after your skin barrier is to take a holistic approach. A generally healthy lifestyle will ensure a healthy skin barrier that functions optimally.

I recommend taking these 10 steps to move toward a strong, effective barrier:

  1. Exercise regularly.
  2. Limit the amount of carbohydrates and fat intake in your diet. You should also increase fruit and leafy greens, consumed at least daily.
  3. Quit smoking.
  4. Practice sun avoidance.
  5. Use a topical regime that contains ingredients that protect, repair and maintain the skin barrier.
  6. Use an SPF 30 or higher that contains zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide several times daily.
  7. Avoid potential irritants and allergens, such as synthetic fragrances added to a topical product; formaldehyde-based preservatives; or high concentrations of alcohol.
  8. Avoid harsh cleansers.
  9. Try not to exfoliate with granular scrubs, brushes, and harsh washcloths.
  10. Avoid environmental conditions that cause sensitivity, such as high heat, dry air, bitter cold or strong wind.

The following ingredients can also be used to strengthen your skin barrier: hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides and topical antioxidants like vitamin C and E.

Here are some of my product suggestions:

  • marvel | hydro shot
  • SKINCEUTICALS Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
  • YOUTH LAB Thirst Relief Mask
  • SVR [CERA] Biotic
  • LA ROCHE-POSAY Toleriane Sensitive Rich

Bottom line

As a medical professional, I understand innately that we all have a compromised skin barrier to one degree or another. To allow our skin barrier to function at its best, a topical skin care regime must be tailored with ingredients that repair and heal your skin. Even if we’re using the best products available, a damaged skin barrier will always prevent these products from optimally benefitting the skin.

Visit Skinmiles and sign up for a free Face2Face Assessment. You will receive personal recommendations from me for your skin type or skin concern.


Dr Alek Nikolic

Dr Alek Nikolic is a renowned specialist in aesthetic medicine and is at the forefront of the latest developments in his field. With a focus on skin care, skin ingredients and cosmetic dermatology treatments such as lasers, chemical peels, Botox, and Dermal Fillers, he has performed over 20 000 procedures to date and is responsible for training many medical practitioners both locally and internationally. After receiving his MBBCh from the University of the Witwatersrand (1992) he went on to do an MBA at University of Cape Town (2000). With over 24 year in private practice, he has lectured and performed live demonstrations across the globe, including Bangkok, Rome, Paris, Monte Carlo, Prague, and Warsaw.  Some of his achievements include: Owner of Aesthetic Facial Enhancement Owner of online skincare store, com. Founding member of the South African Allergan Medical Aesthetic Academy Advisor to Allergan Local Country Mentor in Facial Aesthetics   Vice President of the Aesthetic and Anti-Aging Medicine Society of South Africa(AAMSSA) Associate Member of the American Society of Laser Medicine and Surgery(ASLMS).

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.