The Concept of Balance. The 5 interrelated and codependent functions of the skin barrier

The Concept of Balance. The 5 interrelated and codependent functions of the skin barrier

The Concept of Balance. The 5 interrelated and codependent functions of the skin barrier

In viticulture and winemaking there is the concept of balance. Balance is where all elements are in synchronisation, harmony, equal distribution, in equilibrium. When environmental conditions in any season are ideal and vineyard management practices are sensitive to each growth stage is when vine balance is achieved and the optimum fruit quality for winemaking is the outcome.

Great winemakers strive for wine balance and to achieve this they need to start with grapes that have been grown in balance. Wine balance is achieved when structure, fruit weight, density, texture, flavour, acid, winemaking influences and every wine component is in harmony, with no element dominating. A complete sensory experience is achieved and this is referred to as wine balance.

Our skin barrier, the skin we present to the world and what protects us from the world, needs to be in balance. When one of our skin barrier functions is unbalanced this is when we show symptoms, including characteristics that we call ageing. Lines, wrinkles, loss of texture, softness, smoothness, suppleness and pigmentation are the result of loss of skin function balance.

The equilibrium between oxidative and reductive reactions is known as the Redox balance. When there is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants it is called oxidative stress. When this occurs, it damages cell membranes and the cell no longer functions correctly, or damages DNA, and the cell doesn't replicate correctly. Both outcomes of oxidative stress result in undesirable skin changes.

For skin to be functioning optimally, there needs to be balance between all 5 skin barrier functions which consist of the;

  1. Physical

  2. Chemical

  3. Microbiological

  4. Immunological

  5. Sensory neuronal system

Consider the "standard" skincare routine that has been recommended since the 1960's; Cleanse, tone, moisturise and then “updated” with the introduction of serums in the 1990’s

1/ Cleanser.

Traditionally cleansers are alkaline high pH (soap is alkaline) which disrupts the pH of the skin. Water based cleansers remove the natural moisturising factors and  introduce surfactants, detergents, foaming agents, preservatives, allergens and irritants to the skin in the form of essential oils and/or parfum/fragrance. They consist of chemicals that are not skin native and alter the redox balance, pH and skin microbiome.

2/ Toner.

Now that you have disrupted your skins natural pH by using a cleanser you now “need to correct” the pH. The pH of the skin is acidic 4.5-5.5 Most toners are water based, and acidified to neutralise the alkaline solution of the cleanser and may also contain alcohol and essential oils. So, you add a toner to your skin which further removes the natural moisturising factors and introduces more preservatives, allergens and irritants. Note, water is an irritant to skin. The toner adds more chemicals that further disrupts the redox balance, the skin pH, strip the skins natural oils and messes with the skin microbiome.

3/ Serum.

Serum is usually a liquid emulsion. An emulsion is a blend of two immiscible components water and oil, that requires a surfactant to mix. So again, you are adding more chemicals, including potentially petrochemical derived components, more preservatives and if scented, more allergens and irritants in the form of parfum/fragrance and/or essential oils. Introducing more chemicals adding further aggravation to the redox balance and compromising the skin barrier function.

4/ Moisturiser.

This can be another emulsion; a blend of water and oil with a surfactant. It is usually thicker and denser than a serum, or simply a hydrocarbon (Vaseline). It can contain mineral oils (petrochemically derived oils) hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated plant oils (trans fats), preservatives, allergens and irritants. A moisturiser is designed to be an occlusive which means it forms a film on the skin surface to stop water loss from the skin. This is required because the cleanser, toner and serum have disrupted and unbalanced the skin barrier function which is designed to prevent water loss. Common occlusives used in moisturisers are hydrocarbons, silicones, lanolin and waxes.

The "standard" recommended skincare routine disrupts all 5 skin barrier functions.

It disrupts the physical barrier through dilution of the natural moisturising factors and removal of skin lipids. The chemical function has been compromised by the modification of the skins pH. The microbiological function had been altered by the introduction of preservatives that changes the skin microbiome. The immunological function has been compromised due to the changes in the physical barrier, the changes in pH and microbiome. In addition, the application of allergens and irritants cause inflammation and sensitisation that result in free radicals and oxidative stress. The sensory neuronal system is overwhelmed by conflicting messaging and stimuli. Skin barrier balance has been assaulted, compromising the epidermis inside/outside interface. The primary function of the epidermis, the skin we can see, is to minimise passive water loss, protect against environmental aggressors (UV light, pollution) and prevent microbial infection. It does this optimally by having all 5 functions of the skin barrier interrelated, interactive and interdependent. If one of the barriers of skin function is compromised and cannot achieve balance it results in skin disorders, including atopic dermatitis and ageing.

A "standard" recommended skincare routine could not have been better designed to disrupt and compromise the integrity of the skin barrier functions. As science and scientific analytical methods have improved, we know and understand more about the interrelationship of the 5 skin barrier functions.

Skin function does equal skin appearance.

You can support the integrity of your skin barrier and assist your skin barrier to function optimally, when you choose pure, clean, nutrient rich skincare. Skincare that isn't highly processed with multiple sources of irritants which disrupts the complex interrelationship and balance between all 5 skin barrier functions including the formation of free radicals adding to unbalanced redox and causing oxidative stress that exacerbates the characteristics we refer to as ageing. Ageing is a direct result of oxidative stress.

Vitis V Face TonIQ supports your skin barrier integrity and function. It doesn't alter pH, and it doesn't contain preservatives, surfactants hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated plant oils, no petrochemicals or preservatives. It is fragrance free and unscented, eliminating potential free radical producing inflammation and photosensitivity. It contains multiple sources of antioxidants including the super antioxidant proanthocyanidins to counter balance oxidative stress to ensure you achieve your most nourished and radiant skin.

Lefèvre-Utile A, Braun C, Haftek M, Aubin F. Five Functional Aspects of the Epidermal Barrier. Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Oct 28;22(21):11676. doi: 10.3390/ijms222111676. PMID: 34769105; PMCID: PMC8583944.

Rinnerthaler M, Bischof J, Streubel MK, Trost A, Richter K. Oxidative stress in aging human skin. Biomolecules. 2015 Apr 21;5(2):545-89. doi: 10.3390/biom5020545. PMID: 25906193; PMCID: PMC4496685.

Photo credit bernies_art_page