Our skin is such a complicated yet sophisticated organ. It comprises many layers to keep our bodies protected from external environmental stressors or microorganism. To keep our skin healthy and function normally, our skin is armed with a barrier layer or commonly known as the “skin barrier”. Read the whole article if you want to learn more about the skin barrier, how to keep it healthy, how to prevent a damaged skin barrier, and what to do when it is unintentionally damaged.
What is the skin barrier?
Our skin barrier is part of our skin's top layer called the stratum corneum. It is made up of corneocytes (skin cells) and a lipid interface that glued them together. It is also called the “brick-mortar” structure—corneocytes as the brick and lipid interface as the mortar. The lipid interface comprises free fatty acids, cholesterol and ceramides. In their best state, the skin barrier will shed off their top layer, where our skin naturally exfoliates itself, keep our skin’s moisture intact and protect allergens from getting inside and causing irritation.
Causes of Skin Barrier Damage
Our skin barrier can be disrupted due to many possible reasons. When it’s damaged, the tight arrangement between the skin cells is lost. This allows external irritants to get in our skin a lot easier and lead to more water leaving our skin. Damaged skin barrier is characterised by easily irritated, dehydrated and flaky skin. Your skin is red, irritated, tight, yet very oily.
Does this sound familiar to you? When these happen out of the blue, your skin barrier has probably been damaged. Before we learned how to deal with it, it is better to track down their root cause since some might be caused by our own skincare mistakes that we can prevent in the future. Here are some of the most common causes of a damaged skin barrier:
Common external causes of damaged skin barrier can vary from our basic routine up to environmental factors, such as:
Overexposure to water and a harsh cleanser could cause a damaged skin barrier. It can strip away the natural lipid barrier on our skin. Instead of protecting your skin from dirt and impurities, it could damage the skin's first protective layer, which provides most of the protection.
With more varieties of exfoliating products on the market and the tendency for instant gratification in your skincare routine, over-exfoliating is more of a common thing recently. When you over-exfoliate your skin, you’re not only taking away the unwanted dead skin cells on the top layer of your skin but also the functional “skin barrier” that are present to protect you in the first place. Always be mindful while using your exfoliating products and look out for any differences on your skin; this allows you to STOP doing it when needed.
3. Pollution, bad or dry air quality
Research has shown that pollution and dry air can affect our skin barrier layer. Thus, it is very common for people to experience sensitive and itchy skin when the air quality is poor. Therefore, it is best to limit outdoor activities during pollution, wear protective masks and clothing outdoors and use an air purifier in your living space to keep the air clean. This won’t only benefit your skin but also your general health in general.
4. Stress and lack of sleep
Have you ever experienced a “bad skin” day when you lack rest and sleep? Yes, research shows research that lack of sleep or rest can damage your skin barrier and lead to increased transepidermal water loss. Get more rest, sleep and protect your skin barrier!
Some internal factors that are out of our control in general are:
While this is much beyond our control, some people (both men and women) have a genetically impaired skin barrier component. They lack the production of any components linked to one another needed for healthy skin barrier function. We commonly see this in people with atopic dermatitis or eczema. However, we can totally practice safe and healthy skin care habits to prevent them from getting even worse.
Unfortunately, as we age, our skin barrier get weaker. This is why it’s not uncommon for people to experience drier and more sensitive skin as they age.
How to repair a damaged skin barrier?
(Before and 1 week after using the AXIS-Y Artichoke Intensive Skin Barrier Ampoule)
So once it happened, what should you do next? Here we compile some tips on each step and what to do when your skin barrier is damaged.
1. Find the root cause
Yes, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but once you narrow down any possible causes (especially if it’s due to your own skincare habit) it’s a lot easier to tackle and prevent from happening in the future. Check on each of the causes point that we’ve mentioned above. Have you been over washing or over-exfoliating? How’s the air quality or your sleep quality?
2. Limit frequency and time for face washing
While water is necessary to keep our skin function normally and hydrated, it can dry out our skin even more and lead to more damage. Therefore, wash your face just once or at maximum twice a day with lukewarm water, and gentle and low pH cleansers that won’t exacerbate the loss of lipid barrier on your skin.
3. Stop exfoliating for a while
With a compromised skin barrier, stop exfoliating! This will allow your skin to regenerate it’s skin barrier. Once all the symptoms have resolved, you can slowly start incorporating exfoliation into your routine.
4. Moisturize your skin
The most essential step in your skincare routine, especially during this time point. Putting back just hydration won’t do as much as it will quickly evaporate through the damaged skin moisture barrier. Therefore, it is essential to seal it with your moisturiser; while your skin is losing more water than usual, all you want to do is keep water in your skin for as long as possible. Ingredients such as Ceramide, Niacinamide, Panthenol and Fatty Acids are the best to keep your skin barrier happy and healthy.
5. Don’t test out new skincare products
While your skin is not at its prime, it’s not the best idea to try new products since your skin is prone to irritation and may react to the new product. Ingredients have a greater chance of irritating your skin and exacerbates the inflammation; therefore, avoid trying out new products during this period.
6. Keep your skincare routine simple
Yes, always go with the basics. This reduces the chance of irritation on your already irritated skin. The steps to maintaining a healthy skin barrier when it is at its’ lowest are: Cleanse, Moisturise, and Protect. These three steps are the essential steps while your barrier is recovering. Any additional hydration from toner and/or serum is a bonus but make sure that you are familiar with the serum you’re currently using.
Skin Barrier Repairing Ingredients
|Ingredients for skin barrier restoration||Water-retaining ingredients||Skin soothing ingredients|
|Ceramides||Hyaluronic Acid||Aloe Extract|
|Free Fatty acids||Glycerin||Centella Asiatica|
|Natural moisturizing factors(NMF)||Panthenol||Calendula Extract|
Here, we will also guide you on picking the right skincare products to help accelerate your skin repair, desensitise skin, and keep your skin barrier healthy anytime. There are several ingredients that you would want to look out for to treat your irritated skin. Ingredients that help with skin barrier restoration are Ceramides, Free Fatty Acids, Natural Moisturising Factors and Niacinamide. While water-retaining ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin and panthenol will support your skin’s ability to retain moisture. Last but not least, various skin-soothing ingredients from natural plant extracts such as Aloe, Centella Asiatica, Calendula and many more can help to tone down any redness and irritation on your skin.
Skin care products to help repair skin barrier
Here are some of our skincare top picks to keep your skin barrier health intact:
Try out this set specially curated for a damaged skin barrier when you've been too heavy handed with the actives or exfoliation. Keep it in your emergency kit to have at hand when your skin is crying for help.
The 6 types of hyaluronic acid and non-foaming formula is perfect for those with sensitive skin as it cleanses without stripping skin of its lipid barrier.
A nourishing ampoule infused with Centella Asiatica, Glycerin and Aloe extract to soothe the skin and promote skin healing, strengthening the skin barrier.
What our customers thinks...
[25/01/21 | CHARLOTTE H] Artichoke Intensive Ampoule ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Excellent product. Purchased because I had damaged my skin barrier by overdoing the chemical exfoliants and was experiencing severe dry patches and acne. Skin cleared up drastically within 1 week of use and continues to make my skin feel healthy and hydrated. Now onto my second bottle!
Contains concentrated Centella Asiatica extract as well as Hyaluronic Acid, this sheet mask will help to tone down any irritation while at the same time providing moisture that your skin has been craving.
What our customers thinks...
[02/09/2021 | BIMISHA S.] A aesthetically beautiful and nourishing mask ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The masks packaging is soo beautiful and when used it felt very nourishing and gave me a dewy glow like no other. There was a lot of product left which I stored in a tiny container for another time.
Rich in Aloe Vera and containing Glycerin and Sodium Hyaluronate to soothe skin and help retain water, reinforcing the skins moisture barrier.
This cream is enriched with Niacinamide, Glycerin and Ceramide that will help your skin repair and restore the skin lipid barrier.
What our customers thinks...
[19/10/2021 | KENE'H O.] My go to night cream ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Makes the skin feel really smooth without being super oily. Plus it lasts REALLY long
Takeaway: Our skin barrier is an important component of our skin and an essential part of healthy skin. It protects us from external stressors that can damage our skin. It is made out of a lipid interface, including Ceramide, fatty acids, cholesterol, and skin cells. It works as a protective shield for our skin against external irritants. It is essential to know what causes them to take the most appropriate action to deal with it. We also included our most favourite skin-barrier friendly product for you to pick from!
- By Claudia Christin (@funskincare)
MBBS, Ph.D. (Dermatology)
Oyetakin-White, P., Suggs, A., Koo, B., Matsui, M. S., Yorosh, D., Cooper, K. D.,Baron, E. D., 2015. Does Poor Sleep Quality affect skin ageing? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25266053