Wonder Balm from Vemel

Like most of us online, you may have heard of the importance of keeping your gut healthy in order to improve your overall health. Ensuring you have a balanced gut microbiome means your body is able to fight off bad bacteria that finds its way inside, meaning you can reduce infections and illness, have better digestion and energy, the benefits are endless! So we try and make sure we’re eating the right things, taking the right supplements and reducing stress to give our gut the very best fighting chance. But did you know, just like the gut, our skin has an entire microsystem designed to protect us? Our skin is not only the body’s largest organ, it is a precious one, so the more we know, the better protected we can be.

Our Shield; The Skin
At its healthiest, our skin barrier can shield us against environmental pollutants, allergens, bacteria and irritants. As well as keeping out the bad stuff, it can retain the good stuff. Our founder Agi describes it best when explaining that ‘our skin is more than just a covering for our bodies; it’s a living, dynamic organ with the most fascinating feature being its remarkable capacity to heal itself after injury’. A healthy skin barrier will keep the skin hydrated by preventing transepidermal water loss – keeping in our skins hydration is what gives us that plump youthful look. But what actually is our skin barrier? Our skin is made up of multiple layers, each with a specific function to protect the body. The Stratum Corneum, the outer most layer of the skin is described by Del Rosso in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology (2016) as ‘bricks and mortar’ with regards to it’s structure. The ‘bricks’ are strong skin cells called corneocytes made up of keratin and natural moisturisers, whilst the ‘mortar’ holding together the structure is made up of lipids, primarily ceramics, cholesterol and fatty acids. It’s fair to say, this intricately designed structure within our skin plays a significant role in keeping us alive!

Conditions Affecting the Skin
Each and every day our skin protects us against a wave of threats, most of which are external but some coming from within the body. These factors can range from anything like sun exposure, humidity or a dry environment, over exfoliation, exposure to harsh chemicals and even factors like stress can throw off the balance of our skin microbiome. When these factors affect our skin, it creates a ripple effect which results in some unpleasant symptoms including red, inflamed, dry or itchy skin, as well as acne or bacterial/fungal skin infections.
Once our skin barrier has become compromised, it is no longer able to properly perform it’s protective functions and therefore allows everything in, whether that is external pollutants or even irritants in our make up, skincare or SPF. But, how do irritants pass through the layers of the skin? Our Stratum Corneum (the outer layer of the skin) is specifically designed to keep out irritants and pathogens, but once it has been compromised the ‘mortar’ that holds our skin cells together creates gaps which more easily allows irritants in, therefore weakening every other layer of the skin. These reactions aren’t always immediate, in fact one of the most common causes of skin barrier disruption is a slow prolonged exposure to chemicals in products we apply everyday – irritants like synthetic perfume, essential oils, sulphates and parabens, all culminating in the overall breakdown of the Stratum Corneum creating these gaps which allow unwanted substances in via the skin. Fortunately, the damage isn’t permanent and your skin can be built back up to strength!

A Self Healing Hero
Our skin by nature is designed to heal itself, so in order to allow it to do so we must first get out of its way – this means removing any irritants we are constantly and continuously applying to the skin, at the detriment of it’s overall health. Avoid the harsh cleansers, the drying serums, water filled skincare products (that leave you dryer than you started!) and the chemical filled make up. Removing these irritants is half the battle. It means your skin isn’t fighting a constant battle to heal itself when it is already 10 steps behind the start line.

Next we want to introduce skincare that aligns with our skins natural healing abilities. Rosso (2016) explains ‘there is a body of evidence to show that optimal management of many skin diseases, including eczema, dermatitis, acne vulgaris, rosacea, psoriasis  includes appropriate skin care. Incorporation of a gentle (non-irritating) skin cleanser and a well-designed moisturizer/barrier repair formulation can contribute to improvement of disease-associated signs and symptoms’. Making the right choice of skincare is where things really matter. To see a real improvement in the skin, opt for waterless, nature based skincare, full of antioxidants, ceramides and essential fatty acids – it’s important to note that not all skincare, specifically moisturisers will contain these ingredients, so the ingredient list will be our best friend. This distinction is made in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology; ‘Conventional moisturizers, available over-the-counter (OTC), can be purely occlusive (i.e., petrolatum, lanolin) designed primarily to reduce transepidermal water loss and increase Stratum Corneum hydration … Barrier repair formulations contain the fundamental ingredients of a conventional moisturizer along with specific “physiologic” ingredients (i.e., ceramides, essential fatty acids) and formulation design characteristics that directly target barrier repair’. This is significant because these are the ingredients which help to rebuild the lipid layer. As we are able to build back up the ‘bricks and mortar’ that is our Stratum Corneum, we will then find the other layers of our skin are able to heal and strengthen too, creating a resilient armour, and giving us the healthy looking glow we love.

Our skin can go through a lot as we journey through life, but knowing it has the incredible capacity to heal and protect itself means our role is just to guide it in that very direction when needs be.

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