5 of the Best Products to Restore Your Skin Barrier
When scrolling through Instagram or TikTok these days, it is pretty likely (and honestly, pretty inevitable) that you’ll see an influencer or a brand referencing the products they use for their “skin barrier.” It’s also likely that while you’re taking a *leisurely* stroll through the skincare section of Sephora or Ulta, you’ll see a plethora of products with the purpose of restoring it. So why do we need to restore our skin barrier? Is it broken?
Right now, the skin barrier is having her moment! And while we are not complaining, it’s important to remember that protecting the skin barrier should be made a priority in every skincare ritual– even beyond the viral hype. Here are 5 of the best products and practices to restore yours.
- The skin barrier protects the body from external threats, keeps the body hydrated, and transfers nutrients throughout the body.
- There is a combination of avoidable and unavoidable factors that contribute to skin barrier damage; it is critical we minimize the avoidable factors to play our part in protecting our skin.
- To repair the skin barrier, treat your skin gently and nourish it with the right ingredients.
What is the skin barrier?
The skin is the largest organ in the human body– comprising nearly 15 percent of total body weight. It has the ever-so honorable role of isolating your fragile insides from the dangers of the outside world, granting it the title of being one of the most important organs in the human body. The critical organ is comprised of an intricate web of cells, fats, proteins, and ceramides. Despite the complexity, the skin barrier is incontestably the most important component.
The skin barrier’s main job is exactly what it sounds like: it shields the body from external threats posed in the form of chemicals, infectious agents, allergens, and systemic toxicity. Its other main duties are to retain water in order to keep your body hydrated and to transfer critical nutrients to your skin. As an entirety, these elements have the responsibility for maintaining homeostasis throughout the body (AKA keeping your body balanced.)
The skin barrier is also one of the primary considerations of how even, fair, and healthy your skin looks. When doing its job properly, the water retention will keep your skin elastic and hydrated. The defense against toxins and pollution also contributes to healthy-looking skin and reduces the inclination to irritation and sensitivity from these factors.
On the contrary, when your skin barrier isn’t functioning properly, your skin (and thus, your body) is more susceptible to damage in the form of trans-epidermal water loss, or dehydration. Dehydration displays itself in the form of dull, dry skin: everyone’s favorite skin mood (not!)
Additionally, your skin is less able to shield your body from external threats. Research shows that environmental factors, such as UV, pollution, and free radicals, contribute to up to 97% of visible skin aging, thus, it’s pretty likely that your skin concerns stem at least partly from a distraught skin barrier. This might be a good time to emphasize again how critical it is to protect your skin barrier!
Breaking down a broken skin barrier
There are quite a few disruptions that can damage your skin barrier. Taking all things into consideration, when asking the question of what damages it, the realistic answer is simply life. For reference, here are some of the factors that can leave your skin barrier defenseless:
- Lack of sleep
- UV Radiation
- Harsh exfoliants
- Not eating enough nutrients
Life happens. The extensive list of possible stressors to the skin barrier emphasizes the importance of doing what you can to protect it. But how do you know if your skin barrier is damaged already? Just like the list of stressors, there is a laundry list of ways that the damage can present itself. A damaged skin barrier can look like this:
- Itchy skin
- Chronically irritated skin
- Dehydrated and dull skin
- Skin infections
- Delayed healing
If you’ve fallen victim to any of the symptoms of a damaged barrier, it may be time to consider upgrading it to first-class treatment in your skincare ritual. With all of the unavoidable factors that can contribute to harm, it is critical we minimize the impacts of the avoidable ones, such as over-exfoliating and failing to eat enough nutrients. It’s time to be kind to our skin, so it is kind to us back!
How to treat your skin barrier
When experiencing skin barrier damage, your first priority should always be to treat your skin gently. I mean, think about it. Your skin has taken a beating from harmful external threats – it definitely needs a little bit of TLC! Beyond treating your skin like a gentle giant, here are some steps I’ve complied to treat your skin barrier properly.
- Get to the root cause
This may be easier said than done, but narrowing down any possible causes– especially if they’re on the list of “avoidable” causes, can prevent flare-ups from happening again in the future. And if it does happen again, it will likely be easier to manage. Go down the list and have a reality check with yourself: are you eating enough fruits and veggies? Are you depriving yourself of some much-needed Z’s?
- Stop washing your face as much
The truth is, you should be washing your face just once, or no more than twice a day. Over-cleansing your face can destroy skin barrier function and take away critical lipids. This over-stripping actually allows more harmful bacteria to enter, causing breakouts, irritation, redness, and a decreased resistance to UV rays. Thus, washing your face too much is pretty counterproductive.
When you do wash your face, however, ensure that you scout out ingredients that are chock-full of ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and petrolatum. These gentle ingredients are designed with the purpose of supporting your skin barrier. You can’t go wrong!
- Look for a dynamic moisturizer
Effective moisturizers have a combination of humectants and emollients. Humectants enhance water absorption from the top layer of skin and draw water in from the environment. Emollients soften the skin and include ingredients such as cocoa and shea butter, mineral oils, and petroleum jelly. Ceramide-rich moisturizers replace the natural ceramides that are stripped from the damaged skin.
- Keep your skincare ritual simple
When in doubt, stick to the basics! This minimizes the chance of extra irritation on already-irritated skin. The basics? Cleanse, moisturize, and protect. Ingredients to look for in skin barrier restoration include ceramides, niacinamide, free fatty acids, and natural moisturizing factors (NMF). Ingredients to help retain water include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and panthenol. Skin-soothing ingredients are Centella Asiatica, aloe extract, and calendula extract.
- Take care of yourself
These days, it seems like the fuzzy line between skincare and self-care has been incomprehensibly blurred. Using face masks and other self-proclaimed “self-care” products may or may not support your skin health in the way you think they may. Consider self-care in the form of a good night’s sleep, a nutrient-dense meal, or a stress-relieving activity such as going on a walk (with sunscreen!) Or simply double-check your skincare products to ensure they’re doing their job properly.
Remember: the skin is the largest organ of the body. Keyword? Body! This means the health of your skin is a determinant of the health of your body and vice versa. Remember that self-care is never selfish!
5 products to restore your skin barrier
The number of product options on the market that accompany the hype surrounding skin barrier-restoring is endless. Thus, to make it a little bit easier, I’ve compiled a list of five gentle products on the market that are specifically made to support the skin barrier. Happy shopping!
Remember when I said, “When in doubt, stick with the basics”? Well, CeraVe is always the perfect, basic brand to go back to if you’re ever questioning your skincare ritual. This cleanser works to restore your skin barrier, as it is jam-packed with the holy trio of ingredients: hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and glycerin. You simply can’t go wrong.
Tula is one of my personal favorite brands for a good reason: their products aim to nourish your skin with barrier-enhancing probiotics. This moisturizing cream specifically acts like a hug to your skin barrier. It is abundant in peptides, squalane, and probiotics and hydrates and calms your skin. For best results, use it as the final step in your skincare ritual.
Via TBH Skincare
As the name implies, this serum is a fantastic way to rebound from over-exfoliating or over-stripping. This serum is designed specifically for irritated, red skin, and it is loaded up with all of the previously mentioned ingredients that support skin barrier health including niacinamide, panthenol, and ceramides. This serum can be applied in between cleansing and SPF in the AM, and in between cleansing and moisturizer in the evening. This is the perfect handy serum to provide protection from the daily stressors of life.
Via Go To Skincare
This restoring mask offers “a hug in a tube” regardless of your skin mood. It contains vitamin B5, humectants, and super soothers to calm your skin down and actually allow you to practice both skincare and self-care at the same time. It is basically the total package!
The Oasis serum was designed with chronic skin stress and inflammation in mind. The creator, Dr. Hu, has studied these factors for so long that she knows exactly how to strengthen the skin barrier and minimize irritation. It is created for sensitive, dry, normal, oily, and combination skin moods. AKA it’s a fantastic option for basically anyone. This serum contains nearly every barrier-restoring ingredient we’ve mentioned, so it’s basically perfect.
Written by Morgan Taylor
- Image via Go To Skincare