One of the most mind-blowing facts of skincare is that without a strong and healthy skin barrier—you can never truly fix anything else. All that acne and redness and any other skin issues you can think of? It’ll keep coming back unless you address your barrier first. So, how to repair skin barrier?
Don’t worry—we’ll explain it all!
First: You’ve likely heard about your skin’s barrier before, but what exactly is it?
Also called the epidermal barrier, this essential layer of your skin is located in the top layer of your skin, the stratum corneum. It’s essentially made of lipids, or fats, and skin cells called corneocytes. In case you became interested, corneocytes are also the skin cells that come off when you exfoliate.
The epidermal barrier has a few jobs, all of them super important. It’s helpful for your skin to retain water, keeping it hydrated and looking younger. It helps prevent skin damage and keeps out harmful bacteria. It even helps reduce damage from the sun and oxidative stress, both of which can accelerate the appearance of aging.
Essentially, YOUR skin’s barrier makes it possible for you to have smooth, plump, healthy skin. There’s even evidence that the epidermal barrier can reduce chronic inflammation in the body by keeping out bacteria.
Signs That Show You Have Damaged Skin Barrier
Noticeable changes in your skin can indicate that you have got your skin’s barrier damage. Your skin may be:
When your skin’s barrier is compromised, you see increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL) in the skin. This essentially means that your skin cannot retain water as well as it should, leading to dry and tight skin.
YOUR skin may also be more prone to breakouts and reactivity if the barrier isn’t functioning as it should. As a result, you may find your skin is more sensitive, reacting to products it usually wouldn’t, or even experiencing rashes.
Some people who have a compromised skin barrier also experience dermatitis, psoriasis, increased aging of the skin (via fine lines and wrinkles), and acne.
Ok, But How Does Your Skin Barrier Get Damaged?
Anything that strips your skin’s natural protective oil, called sebum, can damage the skin barrier. This could mean using too harsh products for your skin, such as the wrong cleansers, exfoliators, or toners.
Using hot water while washing your face is also a big no-no: this habit can quickly dry out your skin and lead to tight, dry, and sensitive skin. Too much sun exposure, alcohol in skincare products, certain skin irritants, low humidity, and even stress are other ways your skin barrier can become damaged.
A big part of avoiding damage to your skin barrier is knowing YOUR skin type and using the right products to protect the barrier instead of damaging it!
Active Ingredients That Help Repair Your Skin Barrier
The truth is that your skin is constantly exposed to things that can potentially jeopardize its barrier. So your body is continually working to keep your skin barrier healthy.
For example, if the transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is increased, the barrier will release what is called precursor lipids. This lipid is converted to physiologic lipids, such as ceramides, which can help recover 20% of the barrier’s function.
However, in many instances, the skin barrier can’t act alone to repair itself—and this is where you come in! So what are some active ingredients you can use when it comes to how to repair your skin barrier?
Research shows phytoceramides—plant-based ceramides—can help repair the skin’s barrier. Ceramides are a type of fat molecule present in the skin’s structure and are necessary for smooth, plump, and moisturized skin. You’ll often find ceramides in moisturizers, serums, and eye cream.
Being a humectant, hyaluronic acid can help the skin retain its moisture and is naturally present in the skin. It enables the skin to prevent skin moisture barrier generation and prevent damage. Hyaluronic acid is a must for those with dry skin, as it can restore the skin’s moisture-retaining properties and help protect the skin barrier’s function. You’ll find it most commonly in moisturizers but can also in serums and face masks.
People have been using colloidal oatmeal for centuries to help in the skin barrier repair and reduce skin dryness, irritation, and itchiness to soothe skin and encourage natural healing of the skin barrier. Colloidal oatmeal is particularly nourishing and soothing for those with skin conditions such as dermatitis and is anti-inflammatory. You can find colloidal oatmeal in cleansers, moisturizers, and face masks.
Honey is an excellent humectant and may help the skin barrier to repair itself. It is also naturally antibacterial and contains antioxidants. However, when using honey for skin, it’s best to use raw honey (with Manuka honey, people praise it as the best raw honey to use). It’s because raw honey contains more of its natural goodness for your skin to absorb!
A form of vitamin B, niacinamide is popular for being soothing and anti-inflammatory for the skin. And it can be a great skincare ingredient for those with acne. Moisturizers with niacinamide also helps improve the skin barrier in people with rosacea, a skin condition in which skin reacts easily to changes in temperature.
Plant oils can help nourish and protect skin in addition to helping heal the skin’s barrier and often act as a natural alternative to using petroleum on the skin. These essential oils include jojoba, coconut, almond, argan, and rosehip. Ideally, use organic oils to avoid any pesticides that may worsen skin damage or irritate sensitive skin!
Antimicrobial peptides, which are a type of amino acid, improve skin barrier function in people with atopic dermatitis. In fact, your skin naturally contains over 100 antimicrobial peptides. Peptides, in general, are touted as being suitable for skin, helping to reduce wrinkles, lower inflammation and even improve acne.
Grab Your Free Checklist on the Skincare Ingredients to Avoid
Since the wrong skincare ingredients are one of the things that can disrupt YOUR skin barrier, grab your free checklist on the skincare ingredients you should avoid that can hurt your skin! What are your favorite techniques to use when it comes to how to repair the skin barriers? Let us know in the comments below!