Dry Skin? Your Natural Skin Barrier Could Be Damaged But Don't Worry - Here's How To Fix It.
Have you ever experienced an uncomfortable tight feeling in your skin, like your skin is almost spread too thin across your body? This tightness can trigger dry patches and sensitivity among other discomforts as well. A lot of the time when it comes to diagnosing our skin, we like to approach it from a number of angles but in the case of tight, dry, sensitive, and irritated skin the culprit is most likely a damaged moisture barrier in your skin.
Unfortunately approaching this issue by slapping on a few layers of your thickest, creamiest moisturizer won't fix it. More than likely you are doing something in your routine on the day to day that is causing your skin to get damaged and the moment you cut that activity or product out of contact with your skin, your skin barrier can naturally repair and replenish itself.
Here, we'll explain what exactly the skin barrier is and what we suspect could be causing it to get damaged as well as easy ways to fix it so you can return your comfortably moist, hydrated, and healthy skin with less tightness, dryness sensitivity, and irritation.
What Is Your Skin's Natural Barrier?
Your natural skin barrier is the very outermost layer of skin that provides you protection, helps retain water and moisture, and defends against external pollutants and particles like bacterial and environmental debris that could potentially penetrate through and causing sensitivity and other reactions. Imagine that your skin is your very own bodyguard that keeps in the good, and keeps out the bad. The barrier is made up of oils called lipids that seal our skin cells together. When healthy and intact, it's responsible for keeping your skin feeling soft, remaining calm, un-irritated and healthy. You can find the perfect example of the plump, radiant, and silky soft smooth skin of a baby.
What Happens When The Skin Barrier Is Damaged?
When the skin barrier is damaged, it results in tiny, invisible cracks in the skin. These cracks make it easy for moisture to escape and irritants to enter instead. Essentially, your skin lots it's highly protective bodyguard and is now more vulnerable to becoming dry, tight, and irritated.
How Can You Tell If Your Skin Barrier Is Damaged?
Many estheticians and facialists have been able to trace back a large number of skin problems they encounter to an impeded skin barrier. There are a variety of symptoms that can be a sign of a damaged skin barrier, such as:
- Feeling stinging or burning when using products
- Crepiness or fine lines
- Tightness - dehydration from lack of water
- The skin feels sensitive and gets easily irritated.
- Dehydration (from a lack of water)
- Increased breakouts
- Skin rashes like eczema
People of age or ethnicity can experience damage to their skin barrier. If you have any or all of these symptoms, this may mean that your skin barrier has been compromised and is need of repair. Skin damage can appear anywhere so keep in mind that sometimes that can be in places such as the tip of the nose and cause only this area to get dry and flaky.
What Causes Damage To Your The Skin Barrier?
- Exfoliating too often - this is the #1 cause of a damaged skin barrier that dermatologists run into all the time.
- Washing the face with too hot of water too often
- Topical prescription acne medications
- Not keeping the skin protected from the sun
- Essential oils with a high concentration of citrus or really any essential oils.
- Daily use of acidic ingredients or products like L-ascorbic acid
- Over-using alcohol-based toners or cleansers
- Overly drying or using harsh cleansing products like bar soap and high-foaming gel cleansers.
- Drinking alcohol or smoking often
- Prescription retinoids
- Synthetic fragrances used in skincare or cosmetic products
- Dry climates with low humidity or winter conditions
- Long airplane flights lasting overly 6 hours
- Genetics can sometimes play a role and make your skin more prone to having a weaker barrier.
- Medications that have dryness as a side effect.
- Allergic reactions to skincare products
- Air conditioners
- Chemical peels when performed too frequently.
If My Skin Barrier Has Been Damaged, How Can I Repair It?
Maybe you've been going a little overboard on the exfoliating, or you travel frequently and may not be super strict about using sunscreen during certain periods of time, we get it. You haven't done permanent damage to your skin barrier and more than likely it can easily be fixed. However, if you have been using harsh products, chemical peels, or exfoliants too often for years and years, along with excessive smoking, alcohol consumption, or sun exposure, then yes, unfortunately, some damage may have occurred. The silver lining is that it is never too late to get your skin back to a healthy level and if you're making positive changes, you will definitely see improvement.
Cut back on your exfoliation.
We understand how appealing the huge trend of exfoliating products is. Exfoliators are intending to remove surface dead skin cell build-up and penetrate deep to renew your pores but that doesn't mean it's something you should use every day. When you exfoliate too often, you're essentially stripping off your skin's protective barrier which guarantees moisture will escape and you will be more susceptible to free radicals and other particles affecting your skin. This can trigger inflammation which will not only lead to that uncomfortable tight, dry feeling but also will contribute to your skin aging faster which is something we all want to avoid.
Treat your skin like you would a baby’s skin.
Whether you're dealing with a damaged skin barrier or if your skin is simply not feeling it's healthiest, we always try to challenge ourselves by treating our skin like we would a baby's. This means keeping everything incredibly simple, natural, and gentle until it gets repaired and begins to feel healthier. Here are some ways we recommend doing that:
- Common exfoliants include:
- Sonic cleaning brushes
- Acid-based serums, creams, peels, pads, and liquid toners
- Enzyme-based masks
- Facial scrubs
- Washcloths - we recommend using a baby washcloth instead of a regular one as it's more gentle.
We also suggest that when trying to repair your natural skin barrier you stop using all other exfoliator products for two weeks and then slowly begin to rework them back into your routine once your skin feels repaired. When you do reintroduce them to your routine, they should never be used daily but instead four to five times a week, depending on your skin type.
Avoid Washing With Hot Water
When the water temperature is too high it instantly dilates the capillaries and raises the skin's internal temperature. The heat resulting from the rise in your skin's temperature impairs your skin's barrier. It's best to use lukewarm water, especially in the winter when our skin barrier is usually most fragile.
Always Wear Sunscreen
We know we say it a lot but that's because it is so very important! Sunscreen is known as the ultimate product for defending your skin from the biggest environment cause of damage - the sun. UV rays given off by the sun is one of the most common culprits for early aging and other skin problems in the future. Daily protection with sunscreen is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy skin barrier and safeguard your skin from other issues.
Utilize A Gentle Cleanser
Washing your face is a must, and we always suggest using a gentle cleanser to get this done, especially if your skin is feeling tight, dry, or irritated. When addressing a damaged skin barrier you'll want to change from a highly foaming cleanser (even if it's labeled as sulfate-free and gentle) to a cleansing lotion as it's much milder.
Avoid Highly Fragranced Skincare & Cosmetic Products
We're blessed to be living in a time when there is so much awareness about synthetic ingredients and perfumes that might cause unnecessary irritation. We're a little surprised companies still use them but when shopping for your new skincare and cosmetic products, look out for these ingredients below.
AVOID these scented ingredients, especially when fixing your barrier:
- Peppermint essential oil
- Spearmint essential oil
- Eucalyptus essential oil
Speaking of essential oils, high amounts of any type of natural essential oil can be irritating to the skin. Although we do love using essential oils in many of our skincare products, we make sure that it's in low percentages. The general rule is to smell the product and if it's a very potent and strong smell, this can be a sign it might irritate your skin. Not always, but frequently.
Be Picky When Choosing Your Moisturizer
Moisturizers are a big player when it comes to repairing your skin's natural skin barrier and elevating the level of moisture if your skin but it's important to choose wisely. Look for specific ingredients that mimic the natural lipids found in your skin. Sometimes a moisturizer can feel rich and creamy but may not actually offer the repair you need.
We suggest looking for these ingredients in your moisturizer to repair a damaged moisture barrier:
- Bois De Rose Oil
- Carrot Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Cranberry Oil
- Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride
- Linoleic/Linolenic Acids (this is not an exfoliating acid)
- Tocopheryl Linoleate (vitamin E)
- Tocopheryl Linoleate/Oleate (vitamin E)
- Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E)
- Shea Butter
- Soybean Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Sweet Almond Oil
- Canola Oil
- Sesame Seed Oil
After reviewing this list you might be thinking that the moisturizer you need should be heavy and greasy when that is not at all the case. Even when dealing with a damaged skin barrier, we always recommend lightweight formulas like our Lift Eye Serum that won't clog pores.
Start Using A Moisturizing Skin Oil Right Away
When tackling a skin barrier problem, we recommend always using a well-formulated skin oil over regular moisturizers as the last step in your routine before bed. This will provide a much-needed protective seal to lock in everything underneath, and making it less likely for your product to evaporate off the skin's surface, particularly in winter.
Try Listening To Your Skin.
This is one often overlooked but incredibly easy and important if we just take the time to do it. When you're trying to fix your skin barrier or any problem you may have with your skin, you want to avoid anything that makes your skin sting or leaves it feeling tight, dry, sensitive, or irritated.
People have fallen into the idea that 'if it burns or stings, it's working' and this is often untrue. Some skincare products may cause a tingle like exfoliating acids but it's important to examine whether or not this is a normal sensation to be experiencing. When your moisture barrier is compromised, it will make things that normally wouldn’t sting cause an irritating sensation. The idea here is that you really want to pay attention to some products you might be using that are causing unnecessary irritation.
How Long Does It Take To Fix The Skin Barrier?
If you're making changes in your skincare routine and lifestyle to drive your skin in a healthy direction, that's great! By investing in the right products, checking for the right ingredients, and listening to your skin - you are well on your way to a healthy, renewed skin barrier. By doing these things you should be able to get it fixed up in two or four weeks. For some people, it can be an even quicker repair process. The skin is so beautifully incredible in that it's always working overtime to try and fix whatever obstacles and issues come its way. The key is, you want to work with and support your naturally hard-working skin.
With all of that being said (and I know it was a lot!), there have been many incredible advancements in skincare in the last twenty years and there really is no reason why anyone should stay suffering from tight, dry and irritated skin in this day and age. It’s truly an easy fix and if you use the right combination of products for your skin type. If you've found your own methods of repairing a damaged skin barrier, reach out to us! We love to hear your DIY and home remedy solutions!