Last Updated on April 27, 2022
There has been a sudden influx of damaged skin barrier repair creams in the market by various skincare brands. But this trend is highly worrying. Why is everyone suffering from a damaged skin barrier all of a sudden?
Almost every person is complaining about dehydrated skin, redness, irritation, and sensitivity- all signs of skin barrier damage. Well, to be honest, we should have seen it coming.
The layering of actives and complicated skincare routines were bound to cause trouble sometimes. So no wonder the brands saw an opportunity to launch creams that repair damaged skin barrier to make up for the damage their products inflicted in the first place.
While these creams are definitely effective, there are other ways to repair your damaged skin barrier and even prevent it without spending money on yet another skincare product.
But What Exactly Is Skin Barrier Damage?
Well, our skin is made up of different layers and has its own defence mechanism to protect itself from harm. The outermost layer of our skin known as the stratum corneum takes care of this crucial task.
This layer is made up of skin cells(bricks) which are held together by moisturizing lipids(cement) made by our body. Together, this layer keeps out the bad stuff that can damage your skin(harsh weather, and germs) and retains moisture within the skin to keep it hydrated.
Now, if the layer is damaged, our skin is no longer able to protect itself and is left vulnerable. The moisture from the skin evaporates easily leaves it dry and harmful germs and skincare ingredients can easily enter the skin causing inflammation, infections, and damage.
4 Signs Your Have Damaged Skin Barrier.
- Dehydrated, dry skin: Your skin feels flaky, and dry and loses its radiance.
- Irritation: Your skin looks red, gets itchy, and can sting on applying skincare.
- Sensitivity: The ingredients and products that worked well for years are no longer tolerated by your skin.
- Infections: Your skin is suddenly facing more pimples and other bacterial and fungal infections.
While this barrier protects our skin, it needs to be protected by us to keep our skin healthy.
Top Causes of Damaged Skin Barrier
Skin barrier damage is quite common these days and many people suffer from it. It can happen due to skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, or simply by using harsh products that strip the skin of its natural oils.
Here are some of the most common factors that can damage your skin barrier.
- Using a cleanser or exfoliant that is too strong for your skin or overusing it.
- Applying too much pressure while scrubbing.
- Keeping chemicals peels for longer periods.
- Allergens or skin irritants like artificial fragrances, colourants, drying alcohols, etc.
- Using essentials oil over their dermal limits.
- Products that have either too high or too low pH. Examples include saponified oil soaps, lemon juice and baking soda.
- Combining strong actives (eg. retinoids+AHA), applying them too often, or using higher concentrations.
- Not using the right moisturizer for your skin type or skipping it completely.
- Using hot water which can strip away moisture from the skin.
- Environmental factors like prolonged exposure to pollutants, sun rays, and even dry climate.
All these factors can dehydrate your skin, cause inflammation and leave you with irritated, damaged skin that pays heed to no one.
How to Repair Damaged Skin Barrier
If you have ended up with a damaged skin barrier, the first thing to do is Don’t blame yourself!.
Even the best of us end up making mistakes that have bad consequences. You may be tempted into overhauling your skincare routine, but here’s what to do instead.
Step 1: Ask Yourself- What Needs to Change?
The first thing you need to figure out is what caused the damage? In case you are unsure or the damage is severe, it may be worth visiting a dermatologist first.
In fact, a good dermat will guide you on the best skincare practices and help repair your skincare barrier better than OTC products.
Once you spot the mistake, you can learn from it and protect your skin from future damage. Here are some examples.
- Were you overusing your actives? Time to slow down and use them sparingly.
- Was it your cleansing or exfoliation routine? Its time to switch to gentler alternatives.
- Was your skin dehydrated? Create a routine that prevents moisture loss and add humectants.
- Was your pH disrupted? Use products with a skin-friendly pH(≈4.5-6.5).
Step 2: Strip Down to Basics
Less is always more when it comes to skincare. And there is no better opportunity than a damaged skin barrier to put this philosophy into practice.
Stay clear of all actives for a while and allow your skin to heal. Even avoid exfoliating until your skin has recovered fully as it can irritate it further.
Just cleanse your skin with a mild cleanser, replenish the lost moisture and lipids with moisturizer and protect your skin from the sun with a broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen.
The focus should be on keeping your skin hydrated, calm, and protected.
P.s Make sure the products you are using don’t have any ingredients known as skin irritants or allergens. This includes citrus essential oils, artificial fragrances, dyes, sulfates, alcohol, and certain preservatives.
Step:3 Help Your Skin Heal
When your skin barrier is damaged, it is time to show it some love and care by introducing some soothing ingredients to your routine. Skin barrier creams can help you out here.
But there are plenty of natural ingredients that possess remarkable anti-inflammatory properties. They calm down the redness and pain and will help your skin return to its former healthy state.
Here are my top 3 picks-
1. Aloe Vera
There are a great many humectants that help hold moisture within your skin- glycerin, panthenol, hyaluronic acid etc. But pure aloe vera gel is my personal favourite. Because it is cheap, easily available and extremely soothing too.
If you have an aloe plant at home, simply scoop the transparent gel from the leaf and apply it to your skin as a cooling face mask. Or you can use aloe vera gel available in the market as a moisturizer. It works well both ways.
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Another wonderful ingredient for restoring your damaged barrier is oatmeal. It is one of the mildest natural cleansers which hydrates your skin as well.
Oatmeal is well known for reducing itching and moisturizing your skin as well. So it will help restore your skin barrier with its lipid and protein content. Grind it into a powder and mix it with water to form a soothing cleanser cum face mask.
3. Plant oils
Since the damaged barrier is unable to hold moisture, the fatty acids from carrier oils will help protect and repair your skin from drying out by replacing the lost lipids.
Most carrier oils have anti-inflammatory properties too which will soothe your skin and will help repair it. Coldpressed jojoba oil, grapeseed and olive oil are the best choices but hemp, rosehip, almond and other oils may work well too.
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Other Ingredients That Help Repair And Soothe Damaged Skin Barrier
The above 3 ingredients are probably present in your vanity/kitchen so you need not spend more money. But in case you are willing to do so, here are some ingredients you can include in your routine to soothe and repair your skin.
Niacinamide aka Vitamin B3 can help stimulate the production of ceramides that are part of the skin’s barrier function. So you can use serum or moisturizer with at least 5% to help rebuild your barrier.
Ceramides are a component of our skin’s protective lipids. Since these lipids play an integral role in protecting your skin, using a moisturizer with ceramides can also be helpful in restoring your skin.
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Calendula, chamomile, gotu kola, vetiver, rose water, honey and green tea. These are a few natural herbs that can soothe and heal your skin with their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Incorporate them into your skincare routine to keep your skin calm and happy.
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Olive derived squalane is similar to squalene present in our skin. It is thus easily tolerated by our skin and can be used to hydrate and soothe the skin, and repair damaged skin barrier without irritating it further.
Apart from aloe vera gel, other humectants like glycerin, panthenol, hyaluronic acid, etc. can attract and hold moisture in the top layers of your skin. If your skin is feeling dehydrated due to damaged barrier, these humectants can help prevent moisture loss from the skin to repair it.
Repairing your damaged skin barrier can take several weeks or even months. Hence patience and consistency are key to success on your road to recovery.
Even when your skin is healthy again, keeping using these nourishing and soothing ingredients in your routine to keep your barrier intact. So try out these ingredients and let me know which one worked best in keeping your skin calm, healthy and happy.
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