Hello from the side of Damaged Skin Barriers. It’s actually a lot more common than you’d think, and there are tons of different ways that your skin’s barrier can be under stress. It’s not always visible (unlike mine), in the sense that you can see peeling or flaking skin (gross, I know, but hey), and it’s not a problem that is exclusively for sensitive skin. It can happen for a multitude of reasons, at any time of year, so it’a good idea to know how to spot the signs, and what to do if (when, really) it strikes.
What is the skin’s barrier?
Also referred to as a ‘moisture barrier’, ‘permeability barrier’, or ‘lipid barrier’, it is the outermost layer of the surface of your skin.
It is made up of skin cells and lipids (fats), and has a couple of really important jobs. One is to ensure that things don’t evaporate from the deeper skin layers, such as essential water and electrolytes, another is to create antimicrobial peptides and proteins to act as a shield against harmful microorganisms. It also helps to keep the skin’s immunity and keeps things like inflammation in check. The skin is one of your biggest organs, after all, so looking after your skin’s barrier is kind of important.
How can I tell if my skin’s barrier is damaged?
Some skin conditions are inherited, such as rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis – so if you suffer from these, you’ve likely had them a while and know the signs of flareups. If you don’t however, then spotting the signs of a barrier that is impaired might be a bit harder.
I will stress, that for any sudden changes in your skin you should go and see a dermatologist. Seeking a professionals opinion is much more beneficial than spending a lot of money on skincare that can exacerbate problems.
Skin looks looser/thinner (crepey); more pronounced fine lines
Increase in breakouts
There are some really common mistakes you could be making in your skincare routine that can damage your skin’s barrier, such as:
exfoliating too often
using products in a cleansing routine that are drying and harsh – ie bar soaps and super foamy cleansers.
not using sun screen!!!!!
very frequent / daily use of acids in a skincare routine
high concentrations of essential oils
washing your face with water that is too hot (there’s a reason every skincare product says ‘rinse with luke-warm water’
synthetic fragrances used in skincare products
not using moisturiser!!
home skin devices – dermarollers
having chemical peels too often
There are also some things that are not necessarily within your control that may be contributing to the damage of your skin’s barrier:
topical prescription acne medication
medication with dryness as a listed side effect
allergic reactions to products
aging (the vulnerability of the skin’s barrier increases after 45)
living in dry climates – either seasonally, or year round
long flights, generally more than 5 hours – aeroplane air is recycled and very dry
stress – be it emotional, physical, or environmental
And finally, lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol, smoking, failure to properly hydrate (seriously, you NEED TO DRINK WATER), and diet can damage the skin’s barrier, too.
I’m really lucky with my skin, I rarely get breakouts, and although I do have some texture issues and redness here and there, for the most part my skin is pretty good.
Until it isn’t. See, I was also blessed with eczema from pretty much the minute I exited my mum’s womb, despite doctors repeatedly telling me I would grow out of it soon / by the time I was a teen / once I finished school / finished uni / was in a less stressful period of time (aka not University Finals), and I get the most random flare-ups from random triggers and it’s all around Not A Fun Time.
I have been dealing with four really stubborn patches on my cheek, the bridge of my nose (underneath where my glasses sit), on my left eye’s eyelid, and under my left eye. Sidenote: yes I have seen a dermatologist, but there are limitations to the length of time you can use topical steroid creams. It has been a point of serious discomfort, frustration, and embarrassment for the best part of 4 months now. Nothing I tried seem to work.
So, I sat on the internet and did some research into how to repair my skin’s barrier. What ingredients should I look out for, and can I find any that are affordable near me.
Need to repair your skin’s barrier? Try these
CosRX – Honey Ceramide Full Moisture Cream
Get yourself some ceramide action if your skin’s barrier is looking a little weak. Ceramides are lipids (fats), and are what over 50% of your skin is made up of, they hold the skin cells together. So you’re basically adding back to what you have lost when you incorporate products with them as ingredients into your routine.
This cosRXHoney Ceramide Full Moisture Cream combines the ceramides with honey – a natural antibacterial with anti-inflammatory properties – in a lightweight textured cream that aims to hydrate and calm the skin. It has minimal ingredients so can be used for all skin types, and has a pH of 6.
I can personally attest to how well this works. It has done wonders for the patches of eczema I suffer from, especially in smoothing out the broken skin and removing the tight, itchy feeling. I use it as a daytime moisturiser after my morning skincare, and it lasts throughout the day.
Etude House Soon Jung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream
Another great ingredient to look out for to restore your skin’s barrier is madecassoside. It’s a derivative of Centella asiatica and it helps to repair skin damage.
The Soon Jung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream contains madecassoside, as well as Panthenol, a close relative of vitamin B5 that helps with hydration. Its formula is minimal, and uses 93% natural ingredients to make sure that it really helps soothe and hydrate the skin. Sunflower seed oil and shea butter round out the skin smoothing arsenal, and it’s a low pH to boot.
I used to be pretty against skincare from Etude House. They seemed to use pretty abrasive ingredients, and almost everything was fragranced which I just knew would irritate my skin. The Soon Jung line was a wonderful release, though, and really changed my opinion of the direction of Etude House’s skincare. Minimal ingredients, low pH products, no fragrances, and a decent range of items for a full routine.
I really like this 2x Barrier intensive cream. It doesn’t feel heavy or sticky after application, and it does really hydrate. This whole range was created to target highly reactive, sensitive skin – so it’s perfect if you’re looking to repair your skin’s barrier. Don’t be put off by the thickness of the cream, it sinks in really well, and after massaging and patting into the skin (seriously, if you’re not patting/tapping in your skincare after application you’re missing A Trick) it gets to work immediately, cooling and soothing. The finish is film free, and hardly noticeable.
A’pieu Madecassoside Cream
A’peiu is one of those brands that I really love for skincare, and they produce some really underrated and underhyped products. This Madecassoside Cream is one of them, in my opinion. It’s hardly spoken about in the Kbeauty world, but it’s wonderful.
Containing 40% Centella asiatica leaf water and 0.1% madecassoside, it soothes irritated skin and repair damage to the skin’s barrier. It also contains niancinamide to brighten, adenosine and lactic acid smooth and plump, while witch hazel and pathenol work together to keep skin hydrated and soft.
This cream can feel a little bit thicker than the others, but it is really hydrating and sinks into the skin well. It has a very rich, almost mid-weight lotion formulation, but doesn’t leave sticky residue once it’s absorbed. It does exactly what it says on the tin (tube), it soothes, it heals and repairs. I use it in the evening as it is a thicker product, but it’s great to seal all the moisture into my skin, and get to work building those skin cells back up and repairing everything I need it to while I sleep.
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I will reiterate that if you have any skin concerns that have developed quickly and you’re not sure how to treat them or what the cause is, please please pleasego and see a dermatologist. Please.
Let me know if you have tried these creams and what you think of them! If you’ve tried all three, which is your favourite? (It’s probably the cosRX for me, but the a’pieu is a close second.) Or, if you have any other suggestions leave them down below!