By Britton Strickland, Ph.D.
FEB 13, 2023
Sometimes referred to as the “moisture barrier” or “acid mantle,” the skin barrier is a term used to describe the function of the outermost layer of our skin. The skin barrier is composed of dead skin cells and, when properly cared for, is an excellent shield against the external aggressors present in everyday life. This outside layer is faced with the task of protecting your body from a constant barrage of UV rays, pollutants, topical products containing harsh ingredients, and stress, all of which can weaken the skin barrier and alter the visible appearance and tone of the skin.Unfortunately, many products in the market aimed at reversing these visible signs of aging skin, such as acid peels and retinoids, can further contribute to skin barrier damage, as they strip your skin of natural oils and have the potential to damage the molecular structure of the skin barrier. When the skin’s moisture barrier is damaged, this can cause inflammation, redness, and flaky skin that can become difficult to manage. That is why it is important to know the signs of a damaged skin barrier, as much of this damage can be prevented and reversed.
This blog will discuss how you can know whether your skin barrier is damaged or not. It will describe the visible signs of a damaged barrier, how it feels (or doesn't feel), and the first signs in recognizing where and how your skin barrier may be damaged.
How do you know if your skin barrier is damaged?
- Dry, flaky skin
- Itchy and irritated skin
- Painful areas, particularly burning/stinging after application of products
- Breakouts and roughness
- Fine lines and wrinkles
- Increased skin infections
- Delayed wound healing
How do you fix/repair a damaged skin barrier?
Evaluate your skin care products
Consider taking a break from your complex regimen
This is especially important if you’re already experiencing the signs of a damaged skin barrier and if you’re using harsh exfoliants or acne treatments (e.g., retinols, peels). Take note of how your skin changes or improves over the few weeks that you avoid these products. And be sure to give yourself enough time (usually a full few weeks) for your skin to restore its natural balance.
Cleanse gently and moisturize liberally
Slowly reincorporate your products, one by one
Consult a dermatologist
Can a damaged skin barrier heal itself?
How long does it take a broken skin barrier to repair itself?
There are other factors, such as your skin’s natural microbiome, that can also promote skin barrier healing. Recent research has uncovered commensal bacteria that can generate ceramides to enhance skin moisture 5.
How do you know if your skin barrier is healing?
Is my skin barrier permanently damaged?
- The skin is the largest organ of our bodies and is responsible for protecting us from harmful environmental factors such as UV rays, bacteria, and viruses. The skin barrier is an important part of our skin, as it helps to keep the skin hydrated and healthy. The skin also has a natural ability to heal itself.
- A damaged barrier can be caused by environmental factors and overuse of functional skincare ingredients. Most barrier damage is repairable, which starts by reevaluating each skincare product you use and only moisturizing for a few weeks.
- Nurturing a damaged skin barrier with moisturizer and addressing underlying inflammatory factors can help keep our skin barrier functioning as best as possible.