Your skin barrier is your natural defense against the outside world. It protects and keeps your skin healthy, but over-exfoliating, hot showers, harsh cleansers, and more can easily damage it.
If your skin barrier is compromised, your complexion will look and feel irritated. But don’t worry—there are plenty of ways to repair it.
Invest in a good moisturizer
Like a brick wall protecting a building, the skin barrier keeps irritants out and moisture in. The more damage there is to it, the more susceptible you are to things like dryness, sensitivity, rashes, and breakouts.
A strong barrier means healthy, nourished skin that looks smooth and plump. Dr. Clark-Loeser says it also reduces chronic inflammation and helps your complexion hold onto water, so it’s not as prone to dehydration.
To keep your barrier strong, moisturizers with humectants such as glycerin and sorbitol and skin-protecting ingredients like ceramides and shea butter. It would help if you also avoided overly harsh, dry cleansers or had a high pH that can deplete your barrier of its essential lipids. And remember, your body’s barrier is just as significant as your face, so don’t neglect your chest and legs. Also, go barefaced with an adequate SPF 30+ sunscreen. Exposure to sunlight is one of the biggest culprits for a damaged barrier. Other triggers include over-exfoliation, hot showers, and overuse of abrasive exfoliating acids or gritty scrubs.
Drink plenty of water
While many things can damage the skin barrier (such as aging, pollution, extreme temperatures, and harsh products), most are preventable. “Simplifying your routine with fewer products and less frequent washing is a great way to avoid over-washing or over-exfoliating, which can strip the barrier,” says Aguilar. And it’s always best to use gentle formulas containing soothing ingredients and hydrating ceramides, shea butter, fatty acids, hyaluronic acid, and other lipids.
A chemical exfoliant is much safer than an abrasive scrub if you need to exfoliate. “Look for exfoliants that contain glycolic or lactic acid, and stay away from physical brushes and rough buffing tools,” says Facialist Shane Cooper.
GH Beauty Lab has tested and approved plenty of skincare products designed explicitly with barrier strength in mind. Look for formulas with nourishing ingredients like ceramides, shea butter, antioxidants, and hydrates like niacinamide, resveratrol, and green tea polyphenols. It’s also wise to look for barrier-boosting ingredients like squalane, cholesterol, and plant-based ceramides. This combination mimics the “mortar” of the stratum corneum and helps your skin retain its natural lipids.
Eat a healthy diet
The skin barrier is like your armor, protecting your complexion from harmful bacteria, chemicals, irritants, and allergens. But a damaged or broken fence can leave your skin feeling and looking dry, flaky, and itchy. So if you notice the signs, which include redness, scaly skin, itchiness, and burning sensations when you apply skincare products, take steps to repair it.
So, how to repair the skin barrier naturally? Eating a balanced diet is the best way to support a healthy barrier. The key is to avoid fatty or sugary foods and excess alcohol, which can all contribute to a weak skin barrier.
Getting enough sleep and using broad-spectrum sunscreen are also important, as these can prevent sun damage and help your barrier stay intact. You can also help replenish the lipids that make up your skin barrier by using cleansers and moisturizers that contain ingredients that boost ceramide levels, like glycerin, shea butter, sunflower oil, or safflower oil. And finally, avoid harsh or abrasive exfoliation tools or scrubs, as these can break down your barrier and cause irritation. Instead, try a gentle chemical exfoliant or a physical exfoliator that uses fine-grain, non-abrasive particles to buff away dead cells without damaging your skin.
A healthy skin barrier helps to keep your complexion clear and reduce breakouts. It also helps to prevent future blemishes by unclogging pores and keeping dead skin cells away from the face. Regular exfoliation can also help prevent blackheads and whiteheads by removing excess oil trapped in the sebum glands.
A damaged barrier leaves you susceptible to all kinds of skin problems, including breakouts, rashes, and itchy, flaky skin. It can make you more sensitive to skincare products like cleansers and serums.
The skin barrier is a protective layer of corneocytes (rigid, flat cells that form the outermost layer of your skin) and lipids (natural fats that act as a kind of “mortar” between them). When this barrier is impaired, it leads to trans-epidermal water loss, which means that all the water and nutrients inside of your skin can escape, making you prone to dryness and irritation.
You can help strengthen your skin barrier by using skincare specially formulated with the job in mind. Look for nourishing ingredients that support it, like ceramides and cholesterol, as well as soothing and hydrating ones, like glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
Your skin’s barrier protects the underlying living cells by keeping damaging elements out and balanced hydration in. While some factors that cause barrier weakening, like age and genetics, are out of your control, you can take steps to repair your skin barrier.
A healthy skin barrier consists of a layer known as the stratum corneum, which Dr. Stern likens to a brick wall, “with the ‘bricks’ being cells called corneocytes and the mortar being a mixture of lipids including fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides,” she says. The ‘bricks’ help prevent harmful bacteria, chemicals, irritants, and allergens from entering the underlying living cells while locking in vital hydration.
The best way to preserve your barrier is by staying hydrated and using gentle, non-drying skincare products that don’t strip natural oils. An excellent way to do that is by using a hydrating serum with added hyaluronic acid and three essential ceramides, like our Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer. This helps strengthen your skin and maintain moisture, improving elasticity and helping your face look brighter and refreshed.