Have you ever felt like everything on your skin burns? Or perhaps your skin is having a hard time tolerating your favorite cleanser or moisturizer? If you have a damaged skin barrier, you might have noticed areas of dryness, flaking, or waxiness. So, how are you supposed to repair it? We are going to talk about why the barrier gets damaged, the anatomy of skin, and practices to avoid and also follow when your skin barrier has been damaged.
In order to repair a damaged skin barrier, we have to know what a skin barrier is. Think of your skin like a fence. The skin keeps the viruses, bacteria, and infections out, but it also keeps the good stuff such as the water inside of your body within. Good things such as immune cells, ceramides, and blood are kept in by the skin. However, like a fence, sometimes the outer layer of the skin gets leaky. In turn, good things get out and bad things get in. This leads to burning, redness, patchy skin, and irritation. When this happens, you need to calm your skin down and avoid makeup. The best way to calm your skin down is to realize what’s causing this issue in the first place.
What is causing my skin to be so permeable?
Damaged barriers could be caused by the products we’re using or how we’re using them. If you’re overusing products or using them along with an incompatible product (Ex. Glycolic acid and L ascorbic acid at the same time), this could cause damage. Furthermore, people often over-exfoliate by using too many products in a routine that exfoliate. Additionally, they may be using an exfoliant along with a physical scrub like a loofah or a rough face towel.
Next, skin conditions such as sunburns, contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis can compromise your skin barrier. Specifically, genetic conditions can deeply impact how the skin’s barrier is formed. If it is eczema or psoriasis, you can get it treated by a doctor or a dermatologist. They may give you some steroid creams or look for some alternate therapies.
Lastly, if your skin barrier is being compromised by an allergen, you need to remove that allergen. But ultimately, whatever the cause of your damaged skin barrier is, your skin needs a reset, and it needs hydration. You need to go back to basics. The big goal is to avoid ingredients that can further irritate a damaged skin barrier. Here are some ingredients to avoid.
Retinol increases cell turnover, and it is a heavy exfoliant. However, if the outermost layer of your skin is damaged, let’s try to build it back. Although this is a common treatment for acne and removing sebum as it exposes a new layer of skin, it’s better to use retinol sparingly if you have acne and a
damaged skin barrier.
L ascorbic acid can be irritating to the PH of your skin because it’s very acidic. Also, it has the potential to oxidize on your skin if it is not properly stabilized. In any case, a sunscreen should also be used over it.
Sulfates can be abrasive and drying to the skin.
SD alcohol can be drying to the skin.
Fragrance can be irritating if used along with other ingredients that have small molecules and sink deeply into the skin (ie salicylic acid, glycolic acid). Ingredients like these can drag fragrance deeply into the skin when it’s only supposed to be applied topically.
Chemical sunscreens can be irritating, especially for sensitive skin, and it does not protect against visible light which can damage keratin-producing cells. Keratin is a building block for a healthy skin barrier.
Azelaic acid is a powerful tyrosinase inhibitor which means that it prevents and overproduction of melanin/hyperpigmentation. However, it can be irritating to sensitive skin. Moreover, melanin production can be an essential and natural part of barrier repair although dark spots, a normal stage of healing, may be considered unsightly.
Essential oils are very unstable. They are water-insoluble or poorly soluble, and they are prone to degradation upon exposure to high temperatures, oxygen, and light. These have very unfavorable characteristics for a damaged skin barrier.
Because essential oils are highly reactive to oxygen and light, they can degrade on your skin, cause photosensitivity (light sensitivity), sensitization, inflammatory responses, and further damage.
This is a safe ingredient, but it is a common allergen among people with sensitivities.
Benzoyl peroxide has the potential to be drying for drier skin types.
AHAs are very exfoliating, and they can work against dry skin. Oftentimes, damaged skin barriers are dry. AHAs also have very small molecules and are meant to penetrate the skin deeply so they can drag other ingredients within your skincare routine further down than they’re supposed to go.
BHAs like salicylic acid dissolves oil, but if your skin barrier is damaged, it might need that oil.
Ingredients to include:
Peptides are like legos for the skin because they help repair and connect polypeptide chains within the skin barrier. They also build collagen.
PDGFgel is an effective occlusive for healing wounds
Emollients hydrate and moisturize. Hydration can give the skin water, and moisturization can help build the skin back by repairing bonds and elasticity.
Petrolatum is a non-irritating ingredient that locks in water/hydration within your skin and keeps air from evaporating it.
Green tea is a protective antioxidant that soothes irritation.
Glycerin is a great, common emollient that hydrates. It is also a humectant meaning it draws water into the skin.
Dimethicone is an emollient that seals in moisture
Shea butter has a high concentration of fatty acids and vitamins. Shea butter softens and soothes the skin.
Cocoa butter is packed with vitamin K, vitamin E, and choline to enhance skin health. Vitamin E is very nourishing to the skin and repairs damage caused by free radicals.
Amino acids are the building blocks of all proteins, including the most abundant fibrous proteins in the skin, as keratins, collagen, and elastin. They can also increase water retention.
Beta-glucan can be even more hydrating than hyaluronic acid at the same concentration. Beta-glucan is a powerful humectant, which means it not only provides intense hydration for the skin but It also helps to prevent moisture loss. It imparts water and pulls water from the outside which decreases the risk for transepidermal water (lower layers of skin losing water) loss.
This is a common ingredient in moisturizers. It smoothes over and soothes the skin.
The antimicrobial effects of HOCl make it useful for fighting acne and skin infections. It's also anti-inflammatory, soothing, repairing, and speeds up wound healing.
Hyaluronic acid will draw moisture from wherever it can find it to hydrate the surface of your face. But, it will also draw water from the deeper layers of your skin. This is known as transepidermal water loss. However, it can also speed up wound healing.
Ceramides are created naturally by your skin to hold in water, plumpness, and moisture.
Once again, when we’re looking at a damaged skin barrier, the goal is always to find a moisturizer that hydrates and soothes. When it comes to moisturizers, Cleure, Skinfix, the Inkey List, and the Ordinary are wonderfully simple hydrating, and soothing.
Here are a few moisturizers known to help a damaged skin barrier.
Cleure Day Cream - $25
The InkeyList Peptide Moisturizer -$14.99
Skinfix Barrier + Triple Lipid-peptide Face Cream - $50
The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors -$5.80
This one has phenoxyethanol so tread caution or use within the later stages of barrier repair.
Purito Cica Barrier Sleeping Pack –$16.28
This has a high level of ceramides and will help repair the skin barrier.
You need to use sunscreen along with moisturizers, but do not use chemical or organic sunscreens. With a damaged skin barrier, only use physical sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Cleure is the one that I recommend for the base is safe for damaged and irritated skin, and it is formulated by dermatologists.
Cleure Sunscreen - $39
While there are many fun choices on the skincare market, especially mask and exfoliants. It's generally best to exfoliate as little as you can and stick to the basics when you have a damaged skin barrier.