The allure and instant gratification of exfoliating acids and retinols is having an unwanted impact on our skin – a damaged skin barrier.
The skin barrier, and how to repair it, is beauty’s latest obsession and it leads us to ask a very important question: How do I know if I’ve damaged my skin barrier? Keep reading to find out.
What is a skin barrier?
Your skin barrier is known as the protective shield of your complexion. Your skin is comprised of several layers and your skin barrier is the outermost one. It is a delicate but vital layer that safeguards your skin from external aggressors and keeps the good things like hydration in. Acting as a defensive barrier against pollutants, bacteria, harsh weather conditions and products, your skin barrier fights off these irritants. It does this by shielding itself with things like lipids and ceramides that help keep all the hydration in to maintain a healthy, dewy complexion.
Damaged skin barrier causes
Your skin barrier can become damaged quite easily. When its damaged, it loses vital water that keeps your skin hydrated and healthy so instead your skin becomes dry and easily irritated. Environmental conditions like extreme weather or excessive exposure to UV radiation can disrupt its integrity. Other factors like hormonal imbalances caused by stress and a poor diet can also contribute but the main culprit is what we’re putting on our skin. Harsh physical exfoliants, and chemical exfoliants and active ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid and retinols are among some of the most common skin barrier disruptors. When used in moderation and with restraint, these ingredients can deliver effective results for skin. When over-used, it could be bad news for your skin barrier.
A broken skin barrier: the 10 tell-tale signs
- Dehydrated/Dry/Flaky Skin: A damaged skin barrier usually results in increased moisture loss leading to dryness and flakiness. Your skin may look and feel scaly and itchy.
- Redness and irritation: Inflammation and heightened sensitivity are common signs of a compromised skin barrier. You may notice even gentle cleansers and moisturisers burn your skin and it may appear red and blotchy.
- Rough texture: A rough, uneven skin texture is a common indication of a weakened barrier that is unable to retain the moisture needed for a healthy complexion.
- Itching, burning, or stinging sensations: When your skin barrier is unable to keep in the moisture it needs to feel calm and healthy, it’s likely that your skin will itch due the dryness and any product applied to the damaged skin may burn or sting.
- Increased sensitivity: When the skin barrier is weakened, it becomes more reactive to external triggers, resulting in heightened sensitivity. Even gentle skincare products may upset your skin and result in a dry skin rash.
- Acne breakouts: A damaged skin barrier struggles to retain moisture effectively and when your skin becomes dehydrated, an overproduction of sebum (natural oils) kick in. This excess oil and dry, dead skin cells block the pores and result in acne breakouts and pimples.
- Excessive oiliness: In response to a damaged, dehydrated skin barrier, your sebaceous glands (which produce oil) may go into overdrive to compensate for the lack of moisture in the skin. Don’t be fooled by your greasy complexion – your skin is still dehydrated.
- Taut or tight skin: A feeling of tightness is caused by the lack of moisture being retained in the skin. When your skin becomes dry, it tightens due to the skin inability to retain water.
- Increased sun sensitivity: One of the main functions of your skin barrier is to protect your skin against external factors like UV. Once the barrier is damaged, its ability to do this becomes impaired and you can become more susceptible to sunburn and long-term skin damage. A broad-spectrum sunscreen should be applied every day, no matter what state your skin barrier is in.
- Delayed wound healing: A slow healing process for cuts, scratches, or minor injuries may indicate an impaired skin barrier. For your skin barrier to effectively heal wounds it requires a healthy, hydrated environment. When your skin is damaged, it allows things like bacteria to penetrate the skin more easily and hinder the healing process.
Repairing the skin barrier
Thankfully, a damaged skin barrier can be reversed. In fact, healing your skin barrier after it’s been damaged is pretty simple provided you adhere to the following mantra: less is more.
First, start with your skincare. Strip back your skincare regimen, it's likely you’re using too many products. While you may feel like stocking up on “damage repair” products, a stripped back, minimalist routine of gentle products is best. For at least two weeks, take a break from our active skincare (it’s only going to make the issue worse) and instead focus on hydrating, skin-nourishing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and squalene. Find a fragrance-free, gentle cleanser and moisturiser, pair this with sunscreen to protect your skin – this will allow your skin space to heal.
Once your skin has healed, the start to slowly reintroduce your active skincare, one product at a time.
While a simplified topical routine will help with skin barrier repair, topical products only penetrate the top 3% of our skin. So it’s imperative when healing a damaged skin barrier that we feed the other 97% as well. A supplement like Natural Marine Collagen provides high amounts of amino acids and peptides clinically proven to rejuvenate healthy skin by working from the inside out. By supplementing, you can ensure that you’re hydrating your skin from within and providing it with essential ingredients to heal itself.
By implementing these changes and adopting a skincare routine tailored to restore and protect the skin barrier you can gradually repair your complexion. Remember, consistency is key and will reward you with a healthier, resilient, and radiant skin barrier.
A damaged skin barrier can manifest through various factors but once you identify the cause you can begin take the necessary steps to repair and strengthen your skin barrier. With the right skincare practices, lifestyle adjustments, and a focus on nurturing your skin, you can restore its natural protective shield and go back to enjoying a healthy, vibrant complexion once again.