If you’ve spent any time at all on skincare forums or the many dermatologist pages that have recently cropped up on Instagram, you’ve probably heard the term “skin barrier.”

Your skin barrier essentially encompasses the outermost layer of skin on your body and face. In this article, we’ll be discussing your facial skin barrier and how to repair and restore it when it’s become damaged and threatened.

What Is the Skin Barrier’s Role?

Your skin barrier has two major functions.

First, it acts as its name implies: as a barrier. It protects the rest of your skin from pollution, allergens, UV rays, bacteria, microbes, and other irritants.

Second, it works to keep moisture in your skin, preventing hydration loss, especially in the deeper layers.

When your skin barrier is in good condition, you’ll notice healthier, smoother, plumper looking skin. Unfortunately, it’s quite easy for it to become damaged. Sometimes, this happens because of basic carelessness. Those who pay no attention to their skincare routine may have a damaged barrier simply because they never spend time pampering their skin or giving it what it needs.

Conversely, your barrier can also become damaged when you spend too much time pampering. For example, if you have an eight-step skincare routine both morning and night, this onslaught of agitation and chemical rotation may break down the delicate barrier and cause all sorts of unintentional problems — from dryness and flaking to redness and blotchiness.

How Do You Know if Your Skin Barrier Is Damaged?

Naturally, if you have any sort of chronic and severe skincare issue (dermatologist-diagnosed acne, rosacea, etc.), you probably have a damaged skin barrier too. In these situations, it’s best to follow your derm’s advice and use the products and routines they recommend.

At the same time, some individuals struggle with more subtle skin care issues. For example, you might have mild blotchiness or a small patch of dryness. It’s in these situations that a little attention can go a long way. You can usually repair a damaged skin barrier on your own with some know-how and a few basic products.

Here are some signs that your skin barrier is damaged:

  • Acne
  • Dryness
  • Scaly, rough patches
  • Itchy skin
  • Inflamed skin
  • Discolored or reddish areas
  • Infections (viral, bacterial, fungal)

How to Restore a Broken Skin Barrier

In order to restore your skin barrier to its best state, you’ll want to rethink your entire skincare routine.

For those who are saying, “Uh … what skincare routine?” — hey, we get it. Adopting a “skincare routine” can sound like a big commitment. Really, we’re just talking about developing a few small steps you can plan to do every morning after you wake up and every evening before you go to bed. Yes, you’ll probably need to invest in a few new products, and yes, you should be consistent with your new regimen. But it’s really not as involved as it may sound. In fact, it’s probably very similar to things you already do.

Creating a new skincare routine shakes up any bad habits you may have had and gives your skin consistency. You want to handle your skin with “kid gloves” when you have a damaged barrier.

As we stated above, for most people, skin damage occurs because of either too much negligence or too much attention. A new, calming regimen will give you the correct balance.

Here’s how you’ll want to set up your routine:

1. Cleanse

Cleansing should always be your first step — both morning and night. Choose a fragrance-free, lotion-like cleanser that is specifically designed for sensitive skin. Don’t use a foaming cleanser or one with exfoliating microbeads.

If you wear makeup throughout the day, you’ll want to “double cleanse.” This means adding a step to your nighttime cleansing routine. Basically, before using your standard fragrance-free, lotion-like cleanser, use another balm-based cleanser that will remove the makeup from your skin. Again, choose one that is fragrance-free and built for sensitive skin.

2. Moisturize

Gently pat your skin dry after cleansing, and apply a moisturizer. This should be a hydrating, cream-based moisturizer for sensitive skin. It should also be fragrance-free. Apply it liberally to your face and neck.

If you feel your skin needs added moisture, consider using a serum or oil before you moisturize. Try rosehip oil, coconut oil, or CBD oil (check with your local Chicago dispensary for access). These oils can provide intense hydration, and they’ll be locked in for a lasting effect by your moisturizer.

3. SPF

During the day, always apply an SPF to protect your skin from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Once again — you guessed it — choose an SPF that is specifically made for use on the face, and make it fragrance-free and designed for sensitive skin. Apply liberally to your face and neck.

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