Dry, flaky, and itchy skin are pretty common complaints during the colder months—and they’re all signs that your skin barrier could be damaged. Your skin barrier (also known as the stratum corneum, moisture barrier, or lipid barrier) is the outermost layer of your skin, and its job is to keep harmful environmental irritants, toxins, and pathogens (like bacteria and viruses) out of your body. It also keeps water from escaping from the deeper layers of your skin and evaporating into the air, so it plays a vital role in keeping skin hydrated with a smooth, supple texture.
Unfortunately, your skin barrier can become damaged by things like harsh weather, too much sun, pollution, and over-exfoliation. Harsh, low-pH soaps and cleansers can also cause issues, since the skin barrier naturally has a slight acidic pH—usually around 5.7. Signs of a damaged skin barrier can include:
If you suspect that your skin barrier might be weakened, it’s a good idea to nourish it with repairing ingredients like fatty acids, cholesterol, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid—all of which exist naturally in human skin. You may also want to switch to a mild cleanser and scale back on actives that accelerate skin cell turnover, such as AHAs, BHAs, and retinol. Ahead, we look at our top skincare products to help repair a damaged skin barrier.
Start with a mild, non-foaming cleanser that gently cleanses the skin barrier without stripping moisture or disrupting its pH. This creamy cleansing balm from HoliFrog is formulated with a fatty, acid-rich blend of butters and oils to dissolve makeup and impurities while supporting healthy barrier function.
An occlusive moisturizer at the end of your skincare routine helps seal in all of the hydrating and nourishing ingredients you applied before it. Chemist Confessions Balm Voyage is a multipurpose balm with skin-friendly occlusives and barrier-repairing ceramides to keep moisture in and irritants out.
Bioderma’s Atoderm line is a lifesaver for dry, damaged skin, and we especially love Atoderm Nutritive as a tried-and-true, wallet-friendly facial moisturizer for stressed-out skin barriers. Fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, it’s specifically formulated to strengthen and repair the skin’s protective barrier over time.
Fatty acids are a major component of a healthy skin barrier, so adding an omega-rich facial oil to your routine can go a long way in helping your skin repair itself. Good Molecules Ultra-Hydrating Facial Oil is a blend of deeply nourishing plant oils that replenish and strengthen skin with antioxidants and omega fatty acids. Apply it straight to skin after toners, essences and serums, or mix a few drops into your moisturizer for a boost of hydration.
This multi-action serum from Allies of Skin is packed with a host of barrier-supporting ingredients including niacinamide, which is known to boost skin’s natural ceramide production process. Niacinamide also helps minimize the look of enlarged pores and improve uneven skin tone and dullness, so it’s a must-have ingredient even if your skin barrier is in good shape.
Another way to strengthen your skin barrier with ceramides: Sunday Riley’s Ice Ceramide Moisturizing Cream. This rich moisturizer supports healthy barrier function and replenishes lipids with ceramides, vitamin F, and pomegranate sterols.
The cult-favorite Water Drench from Peter Thomas Roth comes packed with glycerin, ceramides, and three molecular sizes of hyaluronic acid for smooth, soft and plump skin. The lightweight, fluffy texture and non-greasy finish make it a great choice for all skin types, including oily and combination.