How to repair and strengthen a weakened skin barrier: What to use, do, and skip

How to repair and strengthen a weakened skin barrier: What to use, do, and skip

Bulk up

Text: Cheryl Lai-Lim

Editor: Emily Heng

If dry, irritated skin has been your norm, as of late, or once-effective products deemed inept, we've got some news for ya — both good and bad. The not-so-great: well, your skin barrier might be damaged. Think of it as the outermost layer of your skin; a shield of sorts. It's there to protect what lies beneath your complexion, like moisture levels and what contributes to essential hydration. Once it is weakened, it can't work as well as to defend your skin from irritants and toxins, which causes your skin to become sensitised and sensitive in equal measure. Now, on to the good: it's not too late to improve upon and restore even the most incapacitated of skin barriers. Here's all you got to know about getting it back in fighting shape.

Back to basics

If you have a complicated 12-step routine, it's time to take a step back and tone it down. Cut out any excessively harsh products you have within your regime, such as astringents. Whilst it may be helpful in preventing acne, your witch hazel toner isn't going to help you restore your skin barrier. Opt for gentle, soothing formulas that won't further irritate your skin. You'll want to simplify and minimise your skincare routine as much as possible so your skin can recover.

No scrubs

As TLC sings it, you don't want no scrubs — and definitely not in your skincare routine either. Your skin is at its vulnerable stage, so you'll want to cut out as much aggressiveness as possible. Pull back on any physical exfoliators in the vein of brushes, cleansing cloths and face scrubs. We don't recommend using chemical exfoliants as well whilst your skin is compromised. Once your skin feels repaired and back to normal, you can slowly introduce exfoliators back to your routine.


The right one(s)

Because your skin barrier is compromised, you want to make sure you're choosing products with the right ingredients for your skin. Avoid certain detergents (like sodium lauryl sulfate), strong acids (like salicylic acid) and fragrances. These can be too harsh and irritating on your sensitive skin. Instead, choose products with niacinamide — which increases ceramide production and restores skin barrier function — or gentle face oils (safflower, sunflower oil) which contain linoleic acid to help provide moisture and fortify the skin barrier.

Not too hot

Your skin barrier being damaged will lead to extra sensitivity in your skin. To avoid provoking your skin further, avoid washing your skin with hot water. Instead, wash your skin with lukewarm water. Hot water expands your skin capillaries and raises the internal temperature, which only serves to strip your skin of much-needed moisture. Make sure not to over-wash your face either. You'll want to be cleansing maximum twice a day.


Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Hydration is key! Beyond a simple moisturiser, you'll want to look for a cream that's rich and contains moisture-binding ingredients such as hyaluronic acid. A hydrating, barrier-boosting moisturiser will help nourish and lock moisture into the skin by forming a protective layer over the surface of your skin.


Wear sunscreen

This is a given. Even if your skin barrier is fighting fit, you know you should be wearing sunscreen on the daily. When your skin barrier is weakened, protecting your complexion from environmental damage is more important than ever. Harmful UV rays will weaken and further damage your skin, hindering any progress you've made to restore your skin barrier. As all the SPF saavy would know: choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF30 and above to shield your skin.