We, as sensitive and problem skinned individuals, are rather familiar with the feeling of having an impaired skin barrier. Skin going cray-cray isn’t exclusive for us with temperamental skin though, and it can happen to anyone at any given time. How to tell if you’re dealing with an out of whack barrier? How to restore it? Keep reading to find out!
What is the skin barrier and why does it matter?
The skin barrier is another name for the outermost layer of our skin: stratum corneum. It is the protective layer keeping the deeper layers safe from pollution and other harmful things, while also keeping the good stuff in. A damaged skin barrier means that the stratum corneum is disrupted and isn’t able to fully perform it’s job, giving external stressors a chance to do damage.
What can cause the skin barrier to go out of control?
- Too harsh cleansers. Fun fact: cleansing is one of the most important but also riskiest steps in a routine. Using a cleanser that’s too harsh, e.g., too alkaline or acidic, or has large quantities of strong surfactants (i.e., SLS), can wreck havoc on sensitive and problematic faces.
- Over-exfoliation. Our skin gets gently exfoliated daily. Anything from rubbing in a cleanser, to showering, to drying your face with a towel, exfoliates some of the dead skin cells away. If you add in something like a facial cleansing brush or a konjac sponge to the cleansing step, you’re already exfoliating quite a bit without necessarily even realising it. With all this in mind, an actual, dedicated exfoliation, such as a scrub (physical) or an acid (chemical), shouldn’t be done more than 1-2 times a week.
- Too many active ingredients. Actives (such as retinol, vitamin c, acids, etc.) are fun, but they must be used in moderation, as they can be strong and cause a reaction. Use only one active per routine and, depending on the ingredient, don’t use them every day. After all, skin doesn’t need every single active under the sun to be healthy and to function properly.
- Extreme weather conditions. Especially very cold or very dry climates (or both – hello Finland!) are quite prone to disrupting the skin barrier function - the cold and dryness literally suck the moisture out of skin. The same can happen in very dry and hot climates.
What does an impaired skin barrier look and feel like?
There are numerous tell-tale signs of a damaged skin barrier. Red, angry looking skin, itchiness, weird breakouts and tight and at the same time oily skin are all possible signs that something’s up. If everything applied to the skin just stings or even burns, it can be a sign of a more severe barrier issue and we’d advice you to drop everything and take a step back.
How to repair a damaged skin barrier?
Calm down. Take a step back. Strip your routine to basics. Focus on using very simple products with ingredients targeted to soothe and repair the skin (such as ectoin, madecassoside, bisabolol, oils, etc.). Actives like retinoids and vitamin C need to be benched for the time being, as well as all forms of exfoliation. Here’s our simple routine recommendation:
- Use a very gentle and mild cleanser, such as our Milk Cleanser. Apply to dry skin without water and rinse off. If your skin is extremely upset, you can just wipe off the Milk with tissue, without using water.
- Apply Balancing Essence to hydrate, soothe and balance skin.
- Slather your face with an emollient rich and soothing, yet basic moisturizer, such as our Hydrating Face Mask & Cream.
- Finish up with a light layer of our All-Around Balm to further aid your skin’s recovery.
If your barrier is so badly damaged, that everything stings, water-based products can sometimes cause more stinging. In this case, we recommend you use just the Mask and the Balm after cleansing, once the stinging subsides, introduce the Essence between steps 1 and 2, to further hydrate and help skin to calm down. If you want a slightly thicker product, use our Calming Serum instead of the Toner.
If you need help with choosing products or skincare in general, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to help!