What Is Your Skin Barrier?
If you think of your body like your home, your skin’s moisture barrier is like the front door. When the door is strong, it gets to do its job and let in only what you want it too. But if the door breaks, it’s easier for unwanted visitors to come and go.
In essence, a healthy skin barrier keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. As the outer surface of the skin, it protects the body from the outside world, while keeping water and hydration trapped in the skin. When the skin barrier is weakened, it becomes more susceptible to pathogens coming in and water going out.
A key protective function of the skin barrier is the acid mantle barrier. Its slightly acidic nature helps to fend off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that might try to penetrate the skin. How you treat (or don’t treat) your skin can subsequently compromise this barrier, leading to inflammation and irritation.
How Do You Know If You Have A Damaged Skin Barrier?
If you check one or more of these boxes, there’s a chance your skin's moisture barrier has been compromised:
- Your skin is irritated — it’s dry, red, tight, itchy, sensitive, stinging, hot to the touch, or inflamed
- Your normal skincare routine starts to irritate your skin
- Your skin keeps breaking out and/or is constantly congested; your usual acne treatments just aren’t cutting it anymore
What Damages Your Skin Barrier?
Basically, doing too much.
Overdoing skincare, or using products that aren’t suitable for your skin type are common culprits of a damaged barrier. The step most of us probably need to cool it on? Exfoliation. “The number one thing we see disrupt the skin barrier is when people over-exfoliate,” advises Heyday Skin Educator Alex Serron.
Other common skin barrier breakers include:
- Harsh products with ingredients that sensitize your skin
- Washing skin too often, or with too hot or too cold of water
- Incorporating too many treatments too quickly
- Not washing off makeup before you go to bed
- Exposure to pollution, the sun, and environmental factors (i.e. overly dry or humid climates)
- Changing of the seasons, especially when the weather gets colder and drier
- Internal factors like genetics and stress
When you break down your skin’s outermost protection, it becomes easier for outside irritants (think: pollution, allergens) to permeate and inflame the skin. “An impaired barrier can be irritated by something as simple as water,” says Heyday Skincare Educator Shea Amirduddin. If this is the case for your skin, a cleanser that can be used without water (like Pai’s Gentle Cream Cleanser) will be ideal during this time.
A damaged barrier also increases water loss in your skin and decreases your skin’s ability to collect moisture as well. If you want a fancy term to go along with that phenomena, this heighted rate of water loss is known as st
In essence, a healthy skin barrier keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.
How Can You Strengthen Your Barrier?
Considering it’s called the moisture barrier, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that moisturizing will be a main focal point when healing and reinforcing your skin. Regular moisturizing is essential for every skin type. In fact, it’s particularly helpful for acneic and oily skin types—It’s just a matter of finding products that are suitable for your unique skin. If you’re looking for specific, hydrating ingredients to repair your skin barrier, squalane, fatty acids, probiotics, manuka honey, and ceramides are all incredible for barrier soothing.
Establish Better, Simpler Habits
Now’s the time to drop any complicated routines, in favor of a simplified regimen. While your skin is healing, you’ll want to just use a simple cleanser, a hydrating moisturizer, and sunscreen every morning (reapplying throughout the day). Put any exfoliating products on pause until your barrier is healed, and wash your face only with lukewarm water 1-2 times per day. It may take weeks or even months for your skin to heal, so be patient until your inflammation, sensitivity, etc. subsides.
Don’t Forget Lifestyle Habits, Too
Give your epidermis a helping hand by taking care from the outside in. This means getting some good sleep, drinking plenty of water, and eating skin-healthy foods (your skin loves omega fatty acids).
Add Products Back, Slowly
Once your skin is healed, you may want to start building your routine up again. We recommend working with a professional to thoughtfully add skincare products back into your routine, one-by-one; consult with one of our estheticians at your next facial.
The Skin Barrier Support Team:
The Barrier Builder
This supercharged balm is a powerful anti-inflammatory that creates a protective shield-like layer to repair and soothe skin.
The Nourishing Shield
Let your barrier focus on rebuilding with this sunscreen that works overtime, thanks to zinc oxide that both blocks UVA and UVB rays while soothing and healing the skin.
The Overnight Healer
Pat this gorgeous facial oil blend over your moisturizer to infuse your skin with high concentrations of essential nutrients, fueling its vital overnight regeneration process.
What To Do Going Forward
As you can see by now, your skin barrier, while magical and hardworking on its own, can be pretty easily disrupted—whether by our own hands, or by factors out of our control. So it’s somewhat inevitable that from time-to-time, we’ll all experience some degree of barrier breakage. No need to panic. With a simplified, expert-informed routine, your moisture barrier can stay strong so it can continue keeping you safe—and moisturized, too.