How to Maintain a Skin Barrier

Although it's easy to take it for granted, your skin acts as an important barrier between your insides and the outside world. See more pictures of beautiful skin.

Advertisements for skin care products can be overwhelming. Turn on your television or open a magazine, and the odds are there will be a multitude of advertisements for creams and lotions. Every brand seems to be touted as the next best thing to help your skin look young and fresh. But is all this fussing really necessary?

While skin may seem uncomplicated compared to other parts of the human body, it is actually a sophisticated and complex human organ. Understanding and appreciating this organ means more than just tending to it after a sunburn, acne breakout, cut or scrape. To help keep your skin at its best, you need to understand a crucial function of this vital organ -- the skin barrier.

To understand the skin barrier, start by taking a closer look at the structure of the skin itself. The skin consists of three main layers, each with own unique function and purpose. The subcutaneous layer is the innermost layer. It is made up of fat, which is used as a fuel reserve and for insulating the body. Next, the dermis contains tiny blood vessels, hair follicles and nerve endings that detect pain and pressure. The dermis is very flexible and can detect changes in temperature.

The outermost layer, the epidermis, is the key to the skin barrier. Made up of overlapping layers of dry cells, the epidermis keeps vital nutrients in and damaging substances and elements out. It also helps keep moisture in the body [source: National Geographic].

This article focuses on the skin barrier provided by the epidermis and discusses ways you can maintain the health of the skin barrier. You'll also learn how beauty products such as creams, lotions and moisturizers can support this vital skin function. When you're finished reading, you'll understand how to choose the best skin product for you and what you need to do to keep your skin looking and feeling healthy. Start by reading the next page to learn how the skin barrier functions.