Given that the peelings and retinoids trend has been going for some years, many people are now facing skin barrier damages that make the skin feel tight, uncomfortable, and prone to acne breakouts and rosacea flares. Stick with us to find all about skin barrier repair, how it can get compromised, and how you can handle a damaged skin barrier by changing your routine and using the right products.
What is the moisture barrier?
The skin acts as the first defense barrier against external aggressors. That being said, it only works when the skin is normal and intact, making it perfect for keeping all the allergens and pathogens at bay. If your skin becomes disrupted, you then start to lose moisture, and all the things that had been previously kept at bay now have a wide-open door to come into your body.
So, how does the skin barrier become disrupted? It can be due to several different factors:
- Overuse of active or harsh ingredients (intense peelings, retinoids, over-exfoliating, drying alcohols, etc);
- Harsh or over-cleansing the skin;
- Using harsh materials on your skin (rubbing a towel, using clothes made of rough fabrics, etc);
- Low-humidity environments that dry out the skin (air conditioning, heating systems, frequent airplane travels, low-humidity areas);
- Extremely hot water and/or long baths.
All these factors, alone or mixed, can disrupt the integrity of the skin, leading to several signs that are easily identifiable. A disrupted skin will frequently be easily irritated, with redness and tightening, will be more reactive to active ingredients or any products in general, and will be more prone to acne breakouts or rosacea flares.
How to repair the skin barrier
The first thing you should do, as soon as you notice that you have a damaged skin barrier, is to step back, pare down your skincare routine, and treat your skin like you would a baby’s skin. Begin by removing all actives for a short amount of time while you let your skin heal itself. This means no exfoliating acids or microbeads, no retinoids, no depigmenting actives, and no harsh cleansers. Additionally, you should also remove all fragranced products and keep an eye on drying alcohols and essential oils. For some people, mineral-only sunscreens are extremely drying due to their composition, so if your skin feels tight even after you’ve removed all of the usual suspects, take a closer look at your daily facial sunscreen.
Now that you’ve removed some potential irritants, consider adding some ingredients that actually help the skin heal:
- Moisture promoters such as glycerin, low-concentration urea (5%), or high molecular weight hyaluronic acid;
- Repairing ingredients like ceramides, panthenol, cholesterol, and fatty acids;
- Soothing ingredients like niacinamide and Centella asiatica.
There are some other measures you can take to help your skin heal. For instance, take short showers with tepid water, pat your skin dry instead of rubbing it dry, use a humidifier in the rooms you use the most, and consider increasing your omega-3 intake.
The best products for skin barrier repair
Let’s look back: you know you’ve got a damaged skin barrier, you know which ingredients to avoid and which ingredients to add to your routine, you know about new habits that may help your skin heal… but you don’t quite know which products to pick up to help repair your skin barrier. For situations like this, we tend to recommend some specific products:
One frequently asked question is for how long you should maintain the skin repair regime. There is no right answer to this, because the damage level will be different in each case. However, we recommend that you keep using it while the skin barrier disruption signs are still showing, and keep using it for at least one more week after they have vanished.
As shown above, there are some changes that you can make to your routine that will improve your skin and the recovery time. Pick up a barrier repair cream and don’t let your skin lose this simple battle, it will thank you for it in no time!
Pharmacy Technician & Beauty Writer