When your skin is damaged, it cannot field stressors, allergens, and pathogens: “When your barrier is compromised, it’s not able to be selective and smart. So things start getting in that really shouldn’t be getting in, and then it can manifest itself in a few different ways depending on your genetic predispositions—you know acne, rosacea, or eczema,” says Bowe.
People have long known how important it is to tend to your skin, of course, but only recently have we come to understand just how vital its barrier function is and how easily it can be disrupted. “The skin barrier, we’re learning in the last several years how important it is,” she says. “There’s really beautiful science that’s showing how important it is for all of these different things—that look very different when they appear on the skin—but maintaining your barrier is critical to all of them.”
But here’s the problem: Many people aren’t necessarily predisposed to dramatic skin conditions. So when their skin is compromised, they may not have signs this is happening on and under the skin. But that doesn’t mean the damage isn’t occurring—nor will you see the effects later: “It can show up as accelerated aging,” Bowe tells us.
But it’s not just aesthetic concerns later on you need to look out for: Damaged barriers now lead to skin conditions later.
“In traditional medicine, doctors are there to put out fires, but if we take a step back and educate people on how to care for their skin in a prophylactic way, you can not only help with accelerated aging—but perhaps stop people from developing certain skin conditions later,” says Bowe. “Think about that version of you 10 years from now—what can we do today to prevent skin conditions from forming?”
And yes, even mild damage can contribute to this—especially if it’s chronic. “Even if we’re not seeing it overtly—it’s still happening with chronic low-grade inflammation. Even if the barrier is slightly compromised, the patient may go about their day, but that disruption causes a cascade of stressors and inflammatory cytokines that are creating this slow burn of damage below the surface,” she says.