Exactly What We Use (And Don't Use) to Fix Our Cranky Impaired Skin Barriers

Best products for impaired barrierBest products for impaired barrier

We need to have a chat about your skin barrier.

Don't worry, it's nothing serious, but I have a feeling yours might be impaired (or at least has been at some point).

If you're into skincare, you'll know what I'm on about, but for any beauty newbies here, a healthy skin barrier is essential for good-looking skin.

Only, it's moody. And when your skin is freaking out, there's a good chance it's because your skin barrier is throwing a tantrum.

But what is a skin barrier and how do you know if yours is broken? Read on for everything you need to know about impaired skin barriers, and the best products to heal them.

What Is a Skin Barrier?

The sciency version: Your skin barrier is the outer layer of your skin (the epidermis) and contains your stratum corneum, which is made of skin cells, lipids, oils and our bodies' natural moisturising factors like amino acids and fatty acids.

Short version: It's a barrier protecting your skin to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Basically it's a nightclub bouncer, for your face.

Paramedical Skin Therapist Katy Bacon told the Beauty IQ Uncensored podcast to think of your skin barrier as a brick wall - your skin cells are the bricks, and the mortar is your lipids and moisturising factors.

"The skin barrier is the first line of defence between you and the outside world... and the last line of defence for keeping your body hydrated," she said.

"Its main jobs are to maintain balance, guard against pollution and external elements, protect us from UV and sun damage, and slow down water evaporation or transepidermal water loss."

You can listen to Hannah and Jo's full chat with Katy Bacon on all things skin barriers in this episode of the Beauty IQ Uncensored podcast below!

What Is an Impaired Barrier?

An impaired skin barrier is what happens when your bouncer stops checking IDs at the club and starts letting people walk out the door with bottles of booze from the bar. It's chaos.

Bacon added, "Back to the bricks analogy - if your mortar starts to crumble, the bricks aren't supported. It's the same for our skin. When the barrier is compromised, the lipid portion can't do its job. It's allowing all of our vital moisture to escape and enabling external irritants to penetrate."

What Causes a Damaged Barrier?

Here are just a few things that can impact your skin barrier:

  • External aggressors from sun damage and pollution.

  • Over-exfoliation or overuse of active skincare.

  • Incorrect skincare choices for your skin.

  • Seasonal or environment changes.

  • Illness and medication.

  • Stress and diet.

You can learn more about exfoliation and how not to overdo it in our YouTube video below!

How to Know If Your Skin Barrier Is Damaged.

How do I know if my barrier is damaged, you ask? Bacon said it can vary depending on your skin type.

"If you're a damaged oily skin, you might produce more oil. But a damaged dry skin can become rough or flaky. Compromised barriers can also worsen inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis."

The typical signs your skin barrier ain't happy include:

  • Redness and sensitivity.

  • Dehydration, dryness and flaky skin.

  • Rough texture to touch.

  • Stinging or burning.

  • Increased oiliness and breakouts.

What NOT to Use on an Impaired Skin Barrier.

Put simply, all the fun stuff.

"Less is more when it comes to active ingredients. Pull back on the use of actives for at least two weeks, and slowly reintroduce them with care. Same with wash cloths, facial cleansers and devices."

The Best Products to Repair Your Skin Barrier.

Skin barrier crying out for help? We've all been there. Literally, this was me two weeks ago.

Hannah's barrier has also been cranky lately, so we've pooled together our picks for the best products to repair your skin barrier.

Generally, look for products with skincare ingredients like hyaluronic acid, cermaides, naicinamide, oils and glycerine. And SPF! You must wear sunscreen when your barrier is impaired, very important!

These are the exact products we've been using recently to heal our poor barriers.

1. Murad Revitalixir Recovery Serum.

Murad Revitalixir Recovery SerumMurad Revitalixir Recovery Serum

This one is Hannah's picks, here's what she told me about it:

"My skin has been feeling sensitive and red - kinda like a sunburn. Even my AHA cleanser feels too much right now. A dermal clinician took one look and said I had an impaired barrier. My science experiments during iso haven't been helping..."

"I decided to drop every other serum in my routine and spend two weeks using only the Murad Revitalixir Recovery Serum with a soothing moisturiser over the top. It has caffeine to reduce puffiness. Tick. Hyaluronic acid to hydrate. Tick. Cannabis sativa seed oil to soften and smooth. Tick. And niacinamide to strengthen the skin's barrier. Big tick from me."

Check out Hannah's before and after photos from using the serum for about a week. Pretty good, eh?

Hannah Furst Skin BarrierHannah Furst Skin Barrier

2. SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser.

SkinCeuticals Gentle CleanserSkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser

Moving on to what I've been using. When I saw this cleanser was formulated for "sensitive or traumatised skin", I felt seen.

SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser is a mild, gentle cream cleanser that removes makeup and sunscreen without leaving the skin feeling tight or dry. I use it at night - I only wash my face with water in the morning.

This product is non-foaming and feels a bit like putting moisturiser on your wet face. The main ingredients are glycerine, orange oil (which gives a subtle citrus scent) and an emollient-rich surfactant system derived from coconut oil fatty acids.

3. Beaute Pacifique Defy Damage Serum.

Beaute Pacifique Defy Damage SerumBeaute Pacifique Defy Damage Serum

You'd think I'm on commission the way I bang on about this serum but I'm not, it's just that good.

It's mostly a hydrating, soothing serum with the tiniest bit of a gentle form of vitamin A. It uses sodium hyaluronate (the smaller molecule form of hyaluronic acid), squalane and vitamin E to hydrate and restore the skin, and is brilliant at reducing redness.

4. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Sensitive Moisturiser.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Sensitive MoisturiserLa Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Sensitive Moisturiser

Finally, I've been chucking the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Sensitive Moisturiser on top of my serum to lock in hydration, without causing any irritation.

This moisturiser is as inoffensive as they come. It's literally made from glycerine, squalane, a bit of shea butter, thermal spring water and the brand's soothing Neurosensine complex.

Here are my before and after photos from using these products in my routine for the last two weeks. I've noticed the redness and skin texture around my eyes, nose, mouth and chin have improved heaps.

Amy Clark skin barrierAmy Clark skin barrier

How Long Does It Take to Repair Your Skin Barrier?

Depends on what kind of condition it's in, but generally speaking, it takes between two to four weeks for your skin barrier to heal... if you treat it kindly. Any longer than that, seek expert advice to suss out what's going on.

Finally, to anyone with an impaired barrier, Godspeed! You've got this.

Want more great skincare product recommendations? Check out these stories from our Adore Beauty staff below!