A healthy skin barrier is arguably the most crucial component when tackling any problems you may have with your skin. From Acne and Rosacea to Aging, the skin barrier plays a vital role in supporting the overall health of the skin.
When the skin barrier is impaired, dehydration caused by Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL), cause issues to be exacerbated; wound healing takes longer, acne lesions and rosacea more painful, skin more sensitive and the aging process accelerated.
The human skin barrier is made up of a very specific mixture of lipids; Ceramides, Cholesterol and Fatty Acids. Many products claim to support the skin barrier but more often than not they do not contain the proper lipid profile to do so. Some will taut their high levels of Essential Fatty Acids while others simply provide temporary relief in the form of a superficial barrier on the skin, and both approaches can actually cause long term issues.
It is important to note that the thickness or viscosity of a moisturizer is not actually in any way indicative of how moisturizing it will actually be on your skin. The moisture and hydration factor which a product can provide depends on the emollients, lipids and humectants used within the formula (with other actives playing obvious important supporting roles as well). When we look at a thick moisturizer, it is all simply geared towards aesthetic perspective which makes it "feel good" and the viscosity or thickness of that product is predominantly based on what emulsifiers, gums, and/or polymers we use in the emulsion.
Viscosity Does Not Equal Hydration
In fact, when we first use a well-balanced moisturizer, things can appear to get worse before they get better as we are not replacing our lipids but rather supporting the healthy production of them which we want to be naturally occurring within the skin.
So let's take a look at how you can properly repair a damaged skin barrier:
Step 1. Your Cleanser is Everything
Roccoco's Pore Cleansing Oil, Roccoco's Soothing Cleansing Oil, Roccoco's Ruby Cleanser, Michelle Corley's Pore Purifying Cleanser, AnteAGE Cleanser
Non irritating barrier supportive formulas to relieve skin of discomfort, address acne and repair the skin barrier are crucial for the overall health of the skin.
Many people think that dry, irritated skin just needs a good moisturizer, and while that is certainly one part of the equation, an arguably more important first step in healing a compromised skin barrier will be the proper cleanser.
While a cleanser's main function is to cleanse, we do not want something so effective that it cleanses our skin of its defensive layers and leaves it vulnerable. Cleansers with mild surfactants yet high in supportive lipids like linoleic acid, a necessary component to healthy skin, will help you maintain the overall health of your skin. Due to their gentle nature, it may be necessary to double cleanse at night if makeup and SPF are worn. This can be accomplished without it being "too much" because of just how supportive these cleansers are.
*Important* Not all oil cleansers are created equally. Aside from the often poor selection of oils in many "cleansers" on the market today, is the fact that many do not contain a surfactant. Oil alone will not cleanse the skin, it will simply move things around, all will not sufficiently rinse off, oxidizing on the skin - a process that contributes to the stress the skin is already experiencing. The specific oil cleansers mentioned here contain what is known as a non-ionic surfactant which rinses clean, effectively dissolving and removing makeup, buildup and oil produced by the skin but is considerably gentler than its harsh, foaming counterparts.
Step 2. Restoring the Lipids
A truly perfect system where protecting our barrier and improving our skin health is concerned. Growth factors native to the skin direct and normalize cellular function ensuring the skin behaves in a more youthful manner, improving the overall health of your skin daily.
This topical live probiotic serum balances your skin's microbiome and ensures that the strength of all 3 lines of your skin's defense systems are healthy and intact while immediately brightening dull skin. A dynamic formulation which increases cholesterol and hyaluronic acid production in the skin to restore and support the skin barrier. While this product can cause heat and a bit of stinging upon initial application if the skin is severely compromised, it does fade, resulting in truly healthy, strong skin.
A fusion of phosphatidylcholine, Abyssinian oil, cholesterol, sugar molecules and hydrating active ingredients that replenish vital lipids and stop moisture loss, Roccoco's Ceramide Booster Serum is likely the only "Ceramide" serum you will see on the market that doesn't actually contain ceramides. What is does contain is sugar molecules that increase hydration while stimulating the production of ceramides to reinforce the skin barrier and relieve chronic dehydration.
*Please note: if your skin is severely compromised and you experience stinging or discomfort, skip a serum for at least 3 days while using your other products to first ease your sensitivities.
Step 3. Healing the Skin With a Moisturizer
Anti-inflammatory botanicals help to reinforce the skins protective barrier and soothe irritated skin. Containing Ayurvedic herbs known for their calming and anti-inflammatory properties, this Omega 3 and Cholesterol enriched moisturizer helps to quickly restore sustainable moisture levels in the skin.
Hale and Hush’s massively supportive moisturizer doesn't contain traditional emulsifiers which can be problematic for sensitized skin yet are often still present in even sensitive skin moisturizers. This product supports the overall health of the skin barrier through the inclusion of calming anti-inflammatory ingredients and bio identical lipids.
A 2 fold system to both support the skin barrier and provide hydration. The Forget Beauty Oil is the only oil we have seen to mimic the exact lipids in the skin barrier. When we use oils not native to the skin barrier it can cause a decline in skin health with continued use. That is not the case here and this oil offers immense benefits to the overall health and strength of the skin barrier while the moisturizer offers hydration and protection through the day.
While we may feel like we need a thick cream for really dry skin, emulsifiers have in fact been found to be higher irritants than fragrance or preservatives because they actually modify that delicate lipid structure meant to protect our skin, and in doing so, compromise the skin barrier. So while that thicker cream may feel good as it is being applied to the skin, it is actually contributing to issues down the road. These lightweight supportive moisturizers will offer continuous support.
Additional Products for a More Intensive Approach
Enriched with moisture regulators for intensive hydration, this professional grade sheet mask contains anti-irritant ingredients and extracts which modulate the sensation of burning and stinging resulting in a soothing and cooling effect. Certified oncology safe, it infuses hydration and enhances the efficacy of any serum applied underneath.
Going back to repairing the skin barrier and how sometimes that first initial step can be the hardest. If you have been using an oil as a moisturizer, just water to cleanse or products heavy in emulsifiers, or if your skin is just plain reactive and you know it, then this is a must have to get you over that initial hump and to heal your skin without discomfort. As a bonus, it has a lot of leftover serum from the mask after you use it which you can then use throughout that initial week to support the healing process.
A silky blend of plant based actives and peptides which help to lock moisture into the skin. It provides an effective breathable barrier for the skin, protecting it from the environment and an extra layer of protection to defend against the elements. It assists in instantly softening dryness and aids in wound healing.
This will be the only product which can create an actual barrier on the skin - which is necessary when the barrier is severely impaired. We have water which is lost through the skin and if we are unable to retain it at all while repairing the barrier, that can delay the process. This serum allows you to reinforce your natural barrier with a superficial one while it heals so that you aren't left feeling dry while your skin recovers.
While healing the skin barrier can be a very individual thing based upon your own skin and its surrounding environment, I have seen tremendous success using the method outlined above. Clients report seeing significant improvements in texture, sensitivities, redness, inflammation, discomfort and hydration. This is a "first step" regimen, so once that barrier is repaired, most skin is then much more compliant when dealing with bigger issues.
If you experience severe stinging and impairment, read our article on slugging for more info on a necessary step before using the methods addressed above.
About the Author:
Dru Pattan is a Licensed Esthetician who specializes in acne while taking a skin healthy approach to sustainably healthy skin known as Corneotherapy. She believes that we don't need to beat the skin into submission to make it comply. By monitoring the skin's needs and offering nourishment we are able to heal common ailments which can often seem lifelong and defeating.
Dru has been licensed since 2014 and has spent the majority of that time relentlessly hunting down advanced education within the industry. When she herself is not studying, she is offering education and support to clients and other professionals within the industry.