Why A Healthy Skin Moisture Barrier is Critical for Clear Skin (& How to Tell if Yours is Compromised)

is a damaged skin barrier causing your acne?This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I earn a small commission at no cost to you.

I’ve been saying for so long now that I would write a post about the skin moisture barrier. As I’ve been on my journey to heal my fungal acne and get clear skin, I’ve learned the importance of keeping skin’s natural moisture barrier healthy. In fact, if your stratum corneum is compromised – it might be preventing you from healing your acne (or other skin condition) altogether.

And we certainly want to do everything within our power to clear our skin, right?

But I’ll admit while I had some concept of the acid mantle, I didn’t give it nearly enough consideration in my pursuit of treating my acne & getting clear. At least not in the 17 long years I was suffering from every kind of acne you can name – hormonal, cystic, itchy, bacterial, and fungal.

I realize I’ve thrown out some big words. Terms like moisture barrier, stratum corneum, and acid mantle – and you may be wondering what I’m even talking about.

So what exactly is the moisture barrier? How does it get damaged in the first place, and how can you tell if yours is compromised?

And perhaps most importantly – how can you restore your moisture barrier to help treat your acne and improve your skin?

I’m going to answer all of those questions in this article! Let’s do this.

What is the Moisture Barrier?

5 Layers And Cells of the Epidermis | HubPages

When we talk about skin’s natural moisture barrier, we are actually referring to the stratum corneum and the acid mantle. The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of your skin (which has 5 layers) and your first line of defense against pollutants, bacteria, viruses, and environmental stressors.

Stratum Corneum

The stratum corneum is the outermost layer of skin, made up of layers of very resilient and specialized skin cells and keratin.

The stratum corneum consists of a series of layers of specialized skin cells that are continuously shedding. It’s also called the horny layer, as the cells are tougher than most, like an animal’s horn. The stratum corneum exists to protect the inner layers of skin.

Most areas of the stratum corneum are about 20 layers of cells thick. Areas of skin like your eyelids can be thinner, while other layers such as your hands and heels may be thicker.

If everything is working properly in the stratum corneum, the skin layer will [also] help defend you against dehydration, toxins, and bacteria.


But stratum corneum and the acid mantle are not interchangeable terms. In fact, the stratum corneum is partly comprised of the acid mantle.

Acid Mantle

The acid mantle is a thin film that sits on top of the stratum corneum and is slightly acidic – from 4.4 – 6 pH level. It’s purpose is not only to prevent moisture loss and keep your skin soft & supple, but also to act as an antimicrobial defense.

And what do we know about acne? That’s it’s primarily caused by bacteria. But in the case of fungal acne, which I talk about on this blog – it can also be caused by yeast (fungus).

So we can make the connection that a damaged stratum corneum or acid mantle plays a role in the formation of acne.

Furthermore, take a look at this excerpt from research conducted by German Scientists:

The skin pH is affected by a great number of endogenous factors, e.g. skin moisture, sweat, sebum, anatomic site, genetic predisposition and age.

In addition, exogenous factors like detergents, application of cosmetic products, occlusive dressings as well as topical antibiotics may influence the skin pH.

Changes in the pH are reported to play a role in the pathogenesis of skin diseases like irritant contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis, acne vulgaris and Candida albicans infections.

Therefore, the use of skin cleansing agents, especially synthetic detergents with a pH of about 5.5, may be of relevance in the prevention and treatment of those skin diseases.

M-H Schmid-Wendtner 1H C Korting

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How Does the Stratum Corneum Get Damaged?

Now that we’ve established what the moisture barrier is – namely, the stratum corneum and it’s containing acid mantle – and that if compromised, it can open us up to a world of skin problems such as acne – we should ask the question: How does the moisture barrier get damaged in the first place?

The Importance of pH Levels in Products

A lot of the damage to the acid mantle is a result of the skin care products we use.

Many cleansers contain detergents, surfactants, and SLS (sodium laureth sulfate, an inexpensive foaming agent in many cleansing products) that strip the skin.

What’s more – makeup, extreme temperatures, environmental factors, and the use of too many acids, and over-exfoliation (whether manual or chemical) can also disrupt the skin’s moisture barrier.

The Body Autocorrects Skin pH

Have you ever washed your face and instantly noticed it feels tight & tingly? That’s because you’ve just stripped your acid mantle.

Amazingly – your body will restore the skin to the proper pH level within 30 minutes. The body is so freaking cool, isn’t it?

But if that’s the case, what’s the big deal about moisture barrier, then? Well, although the skin can restore itself to proper pH levels in a half hour, it is still damaged. And the damage can take weeks to heal.

So if you continue to use harmful products & ingredients, you can imagine getting caught in a never-ending cycle of disrupting your moisture barrier & damaging your skin to the extent that it can never fully heal.

And therefore, you’ll be inviting all sorts of bacteria, fungus, and pollutants into your pores, which will likely result in acne, dermatitis, or other conditions of irritated skin.

I’ll tell ya – the stuff I wish I knew when I was 20 years old and struggling with terrible acne!

So what’s to be done about this?

Keep It (Skin Care) Simple, Stupid

If you haven’t read my article on The Only 4 Products You Need for Clear Skin, click here.

One thing I see (and hear) again & again from those treating their acne is their aggressive approach to clearing their skin. I’m guilty of it, too!

I think the modern world has got us all confused when it comes to skincare, and I’m here to advocate for a simpler, gentler approach!

Unlike those popular celebrity skincare videos on Youtube, you don’t actually need a 25 step nighttime skincare routine. However, if you are curious about a good routine, specifically for treating fungal acne, check out My AM Skincare Routine and My PM Skincare Routine.

Honestly – a cleanser, one active (treatment, exfoliant, or anti-aging ingredient), and a good moisturizer is really all you need, plus a solid sunscreen for daytime. And to ensure you are doing the most to protect your moisture barrier, choose good formulations by companies who have done (and proven) their research.

Feeling Stuck When It Comes to Clearing Your Fungal Acne?

from fungal acne to clear skin guide

When I first found out I had fungal acne, it took me months of research to figure out what I could & couldn’t use. And I still made mistakes!

The resources I found online didn’t have the answers I needed, so I had to be my own guinea pig.

And now that I’ve done all the work, I want to share it with you!

If you’re feeling confused and want the straightforward information, products, and skincare routines I used to treat & clear my fungal acne, I’ve created the From Fungal Acne to Clear Skin Guide just for you.

Download it now to fast-track your results to clear skin for life.

A Quick Recap of Moisture Barrier

  • The moisture barrier is the outermost layer of skin called the stratum corneum, which is topped by a thin film called the acid mantle.
  • The moisture barrier prevents moisture loss in the skin
  • The moisture barrier is antimicrobial, protecting your skin from bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants that can compromise skin health.
  • The moisture barrier can become damaged from over-exfoliation, using products that are too alkaline (and therefore strip the skin), makeup, sweat, and environmental factors like excessive heat or cold.
  • A compromised moisture barrier can result in acne, dermatitis, and other skin conditions.
  • Without a healthy moisture barrier, it’s harder for skin to heal damage or stay clear.
  • The skin will restore it’s proper pH levels within 30 minutes of being stripped, but damage can take weeks to heal
  • The best way to keep a healthy moisture barrier is with a simple skin care routine comprised of well-formulated products.

Help Me Spread the Word About Skin Moisture Barrier & Clear Skin

So what do you think of this information? What changes will you make to your skin care routine to help maintain a healthy moisture barrier?

I’m always curious to learn more about how other people have treated & cleared their acne. And when you share – it helps everyone who reads this blog or watches my Youtube Channel get clear skin faster!

Found this article helpful? Share it with the world & help me on my mission to prove that clear skin + amazing makeup can coexist.

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