How to Get Your Skin Barrier Back to its Best – Tips For Repairing & Restoring

By Tara | Updated: 26/08/2023

In this blog post, we’ll be looking at how to repair your damaged skin barrier. 

Though it might be hard to believe when you’re bombarded with airbrushed celebrity images across social media, skin barrier damage is extremely common and easily occurring. 

To learn how to avoid skin barrier damage– and how to repair it– we’re looking to science. Keep reading to find out:

Let’s get straight into it! 

What Is a Skin Barrier?

A skin barrier is composed of the uppermost layers of the skin. It works to protect your deeper layers of skin from damage due to allergens, infectious agents, and other external elements.

A healthy functioning skin barrier is permeable, meaning it protects from external nasties and locks in essential moisture. 

The skin barrier is made up of millions of skin cells that are held together with a complex of lipids including ceramides, fatty acids, and cholesterol.

Why Is It Important?

Your skin barrier is hugely important to not just your skin’s functioning but to your entire bodily functioning. 

By trapping in moisture, your skin barrier saves you from dehydration. Additionally, due to its permeability, it decides what unwanted toxins it can release.

Your skin barrier also acts as a fortress against free radicals. However, even great fortresses can get worn down…

What Damages the Skin Barrier?

There are many factors that can contribute to a compromised skin barrier. External elements such as UV rays and free radicals, as well as excessive skin routines that do more harm than good. 

Over-exfoliation is a common culprit, as well as the use of too many products which contain actives that are harsh on the skin. 

The Signs of a Damaged Skin Barrier 

There are a few signs to indicate that your skin barrier is damaged:

This last point may surprise you, as acne is commonly associated with excessively oily skin, while the rest of these points indicate severe dryness. 

However, a damaged skin barrier makes your skin vulnerable to pollutants and infection as it is unable to function to its best ability.

How to Repair Your Skin Barrier

Simplify Your Skin Care Routine

With all the skincare products being pushed on the market today, it’s common to overdo it on the product application. 

People often end up using products that they don’t need but think that they should be using. 

Instead, you might like to start your journey of repair by simplifying your skincare routine down to only a few steps. 

In the morning, try simply using warm water, moisturiser, and sunscreen. You might also choose to add a gentle moisturising serum before your moisturiser.  

I’d like to stress the key importance of using an SPF 50+ sunscreen — all the time — as this is the best protection you have against skin barrier damage!

Apply it in the morning before you step outside for the day, and re-apply as required. 

In the evening, you can do a more intensive cleanse to rid your skin of the day’s makeup, grime, and pollutants. 

Apply a greater amount of the same moisturiser or, alternatively, a heavier product specially formulated for nighttime use. 

Limit Face Washing Time and Frequency

As described in the previous step, having one intensive cleanse per day is one way to begin repairing your skin barrier. 

Skin cleansers can be harsh and damaging in their efforts to remove excessive oil, grime, and bacteria. 

Cleansing only at the end of the day, after you have been sweating and exposed to pollutants, will keep your skin clean without stripping it of its necessary natural oils. 

Wash Your Face With Luke Warm Water

Speaking of cleansing, washing your face with hot water can actually strip the skin of its natural oils and protective barrier, leading to dryness and irritation.

Wash with lukewarm to cold water instead to not exacerbate a damaged skin barrier.

Limit Exfoliation

Exfoliation is a great tool to have in your skincare arsenal. However, over-exfoliation can pose a serious threat to your skin barrier.

There are two types of exfoliation: Chemical and physical. Depending on your skin type, you might be better suited to one of these options. 

For example, if you have sensitive skin, acne lesions, or sunburn, you should definitely avoid physical exfoliation!

Know About pH Levels

The acid mantle of the skin barrier fosters an environment that is inhospitable to harmful bacteria and other such growth that can be damaging to your skin and overall health.

Most skin pH levels sit at an average of 4.7, though certain skin types can range between 3.7 and 8.2. 

Looking for cleansers that have a pH level between 4.0 and 5.0 will help to regulate your skin’s acid mantle, and promote the normal functioning of your skin barrier. 

Some cleansers advertise their pH level on their label, while others do not. 

Look for Formulations That Include Ceramides

Cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides are all a part of the lipid layer of your skin barrier, that bind together the skin cells. 

If your skin barrier is damaged, you are likely lacking in ceramide levels.

Cleansers and creams that contain ceramides will enhance the health of the lipid layer and help to repair the skin barrier back to health. 

Moisturise

Moisturiser replenishes the skin and is a humectant, in that it acts as a film that protects from water loss through the permeable barrier. 

If you are suffering from the symptoms of a damaged skin barrier, moisturiser will nourish and soothe your irritation and dryness. 

Moisturiser also fights against acne by making the skin less vulnerable to pollutants.  

Incorporate Barrier-Friendly Ingredients 

There are a number of ingredients that you should look for when choosing your skincare products, as they will aid the repair of your skin barrier:

An essential part of the lipid complex that binds the skin barrier’s structure, ceramides can reduce in number over time and particularly if damage to the skin barrier occurs. 

Therefore, make sure to seek out cleansers and creams containing ceramides when planning your skin routine. 

Paula’s Choice Barrier Repair Moisturiser is an excellent product, which as the title suggests, is specifically formulated to repair damaged skin barriers. 

Glycerin penetrates the skin barrier to provide deep and long-lasting hydration. This ingredient is known for its power to heal wounds and soothe damage to the skin barrier. 

A well-loved product that contains this ingredient is the Aquaphor Healing Ointment, endorsed by none other than the glowy goddess herself, Hailey Bieber

Plant oils are natural ingredients that are clinically proven to be deeply nourishing, as well as kind and gentle on skin. Some recommended plant oils for topical use are Rosehip oil, Avocado oil, and Jojoba oil. Check out our recommendations for the best face oils here.

These oils restore hydration while also providing certain healing effects such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (though such powers are oil-specific). 

One thing to keep in mind when using plant oils is to avoid products that contain fragrance or essential oils as they can prove to be a nightmare for already stressed skin.

The Bottom Line

Your skin barrier is of immense importance not just to your skin’s appearance, but to your overall health.

If you want to achieve a more even, plump, and glowing complexion, then that journey starts with repairing your skin barrier by following the advice listed here! 

Remember to keep it simple: Don’t get carried away by the huge amount of products on the market. Just because they are highly endorsed doesn’t mean that they’re right for your needs. 

Along with the tips above, what is possibly most important is to stay hydrated by drinking water– and a lot of it, too!

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Tara Lusk is the founder and creator of Beauty Space
Tara Lusk is a Sydney-based beauty enthusiast and the founder of Beauty Space. She launched the blog in 2018 to showcase the best beauty and skincare brands emerging from Australia, while also providing insider tips and tricks for hair and skincare. With a focus on tried-and-true products, Tara puts the latest cult products to the test to separate hype from substance.

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