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Protecting the Skin Barrier

Damaged Skin Barrier

Let’s be real, dry and flaky skin is not cute. Your first instinct might be to start reaching for your favorite exfoliating product to smooth out the texture, but what if the reason behind it is not dead skin cell buildup, but a damaged skin barrier? Making sure that you’re protecting your skin means caring for every layer, including the skin barrier. But what is it? And how do we do that? Keep scrolling to find out more about it and how we can restore our skin barrier to its healthy state!

What is a damaged skin barrier?

On the top surface of our skin, there’s a ‘brick and mortar’ structure called stratum corneum, more commonly referred to as skin barrier. Made of corneocytes (skin cells), that represent the bricks, and lipids (ceramide, cholesterol, and free fatty acids), as the mortar. Corneocytes produce Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF)—such as amino acids, hyaluronic acid, pyrrolidone carboxylic acid (PCA), and more—that keep the skin barrier hydrated. Being the outermost layer on our body, the skin barrier plays a vital part in protecting us by keeping all sorts of bad stuff (irritants, toxins, pathogens) out and holding the good stuff (water) in.

Disruption of the structure’s integrity means it can’t perform as well as it’s supposed to. Just like cracks in a wall, the same thing can happen to our skin barrier. As a result, water inside our body evaporates more easily which is marked by increased trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL is a fancy way of saying that water moves from deeper layers of the skin to the top of the skin, before evaporating. An impaired barrier function makes the skin more susceptible to damage from the external environment as well.

In a nutshell, it’s a compromised state of our skin’s self-repair mechanism.

What causes a damaged skin barrier?

  • UV irradiation
  • Air pollution
  • Extreme temperature—too cold/hot weather, hot shower
  • Skincare habits—over-exfoliation, over-cleansing, using harsh/irritating products
  • Lifestyle—alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking, stress, lack of sleep
  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Underlying inflammatory conditions—psoriasis, rosacea, eczema

What are the signs of a damaged skin barrier?

  • Dry and flaky
  • Itchy
  • Rashes/redness
  • Tight
  • Stinging or burning sensation
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Increased sensitivity

How to repair a damaged skin barrier?

Simplify your skincare routine

When your skin is having issues, it’s always a good idea to streamline your skincare routine to these three essential steps: cleanse, moisturize, and protect. 

Adjust your cleansing routine

Over-cleansing falls at the top of the list of what causes impaired skin barrier, particularly those with oily and acne-prone skin (pssst, I used to be one of them). While it’s important to get rid of the day’s gunk and grime off of our face, you have to remember that a squeaky clean face is not the goal—we don’t want to strip our skin of its natural oils. Just wash your face once or twice a day and use a gentle, low pH cleanser! Remember to avoid rinsing with water that is too hot or too cold.

Step up your moisturizing game

Whatever your skin type is, giving an extra boost of hydration is something that our skin will appreciate, especially when the barrier is damaged. Apply moisturizer to add a protective seal on our skin’s surface so that we can trap more water inside and prevent it from escaping from our skin. A few replenishing ingredients that may help to undo the damage are ceramide, squalane, fatty acids, allantoin, panthenol, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin.

Protect your skin from the sun

Since UV irradiation is one of the major causes of a damaged skin barrier, protecting your skin from it is a must. I’m sure you’ve read or heard these hundreds of times, but I’m still gonna remind you anyway: wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or greater every day. Period.

Hit the brakes on exfoliation

Just like cleansing, exfoliation is a double-edged sword if not done properly. On one hand, it’s incredibly beneficial to speed up cell turnover that makes our skin fresh and radiant. However, when we overdo it, chances are we do more harm than good to our skin barrier. Stop exfoliating and let your skin barrier heal. You can slowly start incorporating exfoliation back into your routine once your skin has calmed down.

Avoid applying new skincare products

Experimenting with new products that we don’t know how our skin will react to, especially when it’s not at its best state, is not wise since it can further irritate the skin and make the situation even worse.


  • Figure out what causes the damage of your skin barrier in the first place as it can help restore it to its healthy condition and preventing it from happening again in the future.
  • Be patient as it may take some time for your skin barrier to recover.
  • Take a step back from applying irritating ingredients like retinol and vitamin C.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Products Recommendations


ACWELL No 5.5 pH Balancing Micro Cleansing Foam

AXIS-Y Sunday Morning Refreshing Cleansing Foam


ROVECTIN Skin Essentials Barrier Repair Cream Concentrate

KRAVE Great Barrier Relief

DEAR ME BEAUTY Skin Barrier Water Cream


NACIFIC Fresh Herb Origin Sun Block SPF50 PA++++

AXIS-Y Complete No-Stress Physical Sunscreen

Need More Help?

If you have any other questions about your skin and how to take care of it, you can always download our Picky App and discuss with other users. If you want the opinion of a professional, you can check out other articles on our Picky Blog or head over to our Youtube channel! Our Instagram also has a ton of products and tips that are posted daily. We hope to see you on Picky!

Created With

Stella Marselie

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