SKIN CARE

What is a Skin Barrier?

SKIN CARE

What is a Skin Barrier?

Last updated 01/06/20

Your skin is your body’s largest organ, and it more than pulls its weight. Every day your skin is doing so much for you, helping to regulate your temperature, synthesise vital nutrients and – most importantly - protect the rest of your body from a range of hazards.

Key to this last feature is a function of the skin called the skin barrier. The skin barrier is an anatomical feature that works to protect the body from infection, dehydration, chemicals and mechanical stresses[1] while preventing excessive water loss.

Crucial to the healthy functioning of the skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is composed of dead skin cells – also known as corneocytes – embedded in a mixture of organic compounds such as ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.[2] Keeping this barrier healthy can go a long way to ensuring that your skin is able to retain vital moisture and repel irritants. Skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis can be a sign of an underlying issue such as a compromised lipid matrix[3], so keeping an eye out for them can help you stay on top of your body’s needs.

 

What does this mean for me?

Whatever your age, your gender or your occupation, everyone needs to look after their skin barrier. But if you have a complex condition such as a chronic wound, diabetes or a stoma, keeping your skin in top condition can be that much more difficult.

Everyone’s skin is different, and everyone’s medical history is unique, so the underlying cause of a problem might not be what you suspect. However, there are certain things that can affect the strength of your skin barrier that are common to a variety of people.

If you’re required to repeatedly apply and remove adhesive dressings or appliances – such as bandaging muscular and joint injuries or skin tears , affixing an insulin pump or securing a stomal base plate – the skin underneath the adhesive can become damaged. The stratum corneum can be impacted from mechanically removal of an adhesive[4], weakening your skin barrier and potentially irritating or breaking the skin.

There are preventative steps you can take to minimise the risk of mechanical injury, stinging and stripping. Clinical studies have proven that the use of a silicon-based adhesive remover such as Niltac can make removing appliances easier and gentler, reducing the risk of trauma or irritation from daily application.[5] Prior to application, the use of a silicon-based skin barrier such as Silesse can improve your quality of life by reducing skin irritation and increasing comfort[6] without impacting adhesion of appliance[7].

Talk to your healthcare professional to determine whether these products are right for you.

 

 

 

 

[1] Del Rosso, J.Q. and Levin, J., 2011. The clinical relevance of maintaining the functional integrity of the stratum corneum in both healthy and disease-affected skin. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 4(9), p.22.

[2] van Smeden, J. and Bouwstra, J. (n.d.). Stratum Corneum Lipids: Their Role for the Skin Barrier Function in Healthy Subjects and Atopic Dermatitis Patients. Current Problems in Dermatology, pp.8-26.

[3] van Smeden, J. and Bouwstra, J. (n.d.). Stratum Corneum Lipids: Their Role for the Skin Barrier Function in Healthy Subjects and Atopic Dermatitis Patients. Current Problems in Dermatology, pp.8-26.

[4] Cutting K. The atraumatic removal of skin adhesives, dressings and tapes – essential or desirable? National Association of Primary Care Review. Spring 2010.  pg 190.

[5] Black P. Peristomal skin care: an overview of available products. British Journal of Nursing. Vol 16. No 17. 2007. Page 1054

[6] Steele N. Skin care protection for urostomates. Journal of Community Nursing. 2009; 23 (6):16-17

[7] Trio Products Test Report TR- 012. September 2010. Data on file. ConvaTec, Inc.

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