How To Repair A Damaged Skin Barrier – The Comprehensive Guide

Damaged Skin Barrier repair
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The skin is like a fence, — yes, the fence you know, that protects the building. It protects the body from external factors such as bacteria, chemicals, and temperature. The skin contains secretions that can kill bacteria and the pigment melanin provides a chemical pigment defense against ultraviolet light that can damage skin cells, thus preventing the sun rays from reaching the skin DNA cells.


When the skin barrier is compromised, it weakens its protection-potentials which creates room for bacteria, environmental aggressors and ultraviolet light rays to easily get into the skin, thus giving rise to multiple skin issues such as, itchiness and dryness, acne, redness, sensitive or inflamed skin area, bacteria, viral or fungal infections.

If you’re having any of the above mentioned signs, huge chances are, your skin barrier is damaged, and needs repair. Good thing you met this article today, because it’s a comprehensive guide on everything you should know about damaged skin barrier and how to repair it. Keep reading to learn more.

What Is The Skin Barrier?

The skin barrier, also known as “moisture barrier” or “acid mantle” is a term used to describe the top layer of the skin (epidermis).

The skin comprises of three (3) layers, — The epidermis (the top layer), the dermis (the middle layer) and the hypodermis (the bottom or fatty layer), all three (3) make up the skin.

But when the skin barrier is mentioned, we give reference to the outer layer of the skin – the epidermis or can also be called statum corneum.

What Causes Damaged Skin Barrier?

The skin is armed with multiple barrier layers to protect the body from bacteria and environmental aggressors invasion, but regardless of that, multiple factors can lead to the Impairment of the skin barrier, factors such as:

  • Use of harsh physical exfoliants.
  • Smoking.
  • Lack of sleep.
  • Stress.
  • Nutrient-light diet.
  • Pollution.
  • Wind.
  • UV radiation.
  • Frequent hand washing.
  • Use of cleansers that strip the skin barrier of its natural oils.

Here’s How To Tell If Your Skin Barrier Is Damaged. 

Sensitive Or Inflamed Skin.

When your skin barrier is compromised or impaired, everything you put on it hurts. Including your once-loving hydrating and soothing skincare products. This is your skin telling you that it is losing its integrity and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

Itching & Dryness.

A damaged skin barrier occurs as a result of the skin epidermis or the statum corneum losing moisture. The skin barrier helps the body to hold onto natural moisture by preventing transepidermal water loss, when this moisture is deprived by exposing the skin to moisture-stripping factors, it can result to damaged skin barrier, thus causing the skin to appear rough, dry and flaky which could stimulate itchiness too.


A weakened or damaged skin barrier can stimulate acne flare-up as the bacteria that causes acne is more easily able to penetrate the skin. Acne-causing bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes), are considered a key player in acne development. When skin barrier is compromised, its bacteria-resistance potential becomes impaired, making it vulnerable to acne-causing bacteria.

Skin Redness.

As earlier mentioned, inflammation contributes to a damaged skin barrier. The situation of the damaged skin barrier can even get worse due to its weakened barrier function, irritants and allergens will easily sneak through the cracks in the skin barrier which in turn spur an inflammatory reaction.

Bacteria, Viral Or Fungal Infections.

Aside from acne-causing bacteria easily gaining access to a compromised skin barrier, other bacteria, fungi and parasites could as well easily get through the skin, thus causing skin infection. Remember, a damaged skin barrier is like a weak-fence, which can easily be pulled down and passed through.

How To Repair A Damaged Skin Barrier. 

To repair a damaged skin barrier, first thing first, you have to emancipate yourself from all skin barrier impairment risks, avoid all skin moisture-stripping factors, temporary retire all your exfoliating skincare products and acids (such as retinoids, AHAs and BHA) till your skin regains back to shape.

Believe it or not, when it comes to repairing your damaged skin barrier all you need is a simplistic hydrating skincare routine. Your skin needs all the moisture and hydration that it deserves at that traumatic-condition, to enable it to heal itself.

Venture into hydrating facial cleansers that are loaded with skin soothing and conditioning ingredients to avoid stripping off the already-damaged moisture barrier in the course of cleansing, which could worsen the situation at hand. Recommended: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, loaded with three (3) essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid to cleanse the skin while hydrating and restoring the protective skin barrier.

As previously stated, a damaged skin barrier needs lots of skin hydrating and moisturizing skincare ingredients to replenish the skin of lost moisture and help the skin to gradually heal itself.

Talking about ingredients, you need skin-barrier healing and moisture replenishing skincare ingredients to put the skin right back in shape.

So, what are these skin-barrier healing and moisture replenishing skincare ingredients? Keep reading to learn about them.

Best Ingredients For Your Skin Barrier.


Humectant skincare ingredients (also called moisture-magnets) such as hyaluronic acid pull moisture from the atmosphere to the skin-surface to encourage epidermal moisture which in turn helps protect and heal a damaged skin barrier.

When the skin barrier is damaged, trans-epidermal water loss occurs, which results in skin dehydration with signs such as dryness, flakiness and itchiness.

Humectants such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, propanediol and other moisture-magnets ingredients help draw moisture from the atmosphere, then bind it to the skin, thereby encouraging skin-surface hydration and healing of damaged skin barrier.

Consider products with multiple hyaluronic acid derivatives as a better option like the Hada Labo Premium Hyaluronic Acid serum, which contains five (5) different types of hyaluronic acid for a collaborative effort to supply the skin with intense hydration.


Ceramides are one of the most important lipids that make up the skin barrier. Infact, If your skin barrier is damaged, chances are high that your skin is lacking ceramides, therefore exploring ceramides-infused-moisturizers is the best route to take. CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a good example, as it contains three (3) essential ceramides to moisturize and replenish the skin moisture barrier for an improved skin barrier function. You can as well read my comparison review between CeraVe and Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion.


Emollients help soothe and soften the skin. They soften dry, rough and flaky skin, making it look and feel better. A damaged skin barrier will benefit a lot from emollient-rich skincare ingredients because of their skin soothing, conditioning and restoration potentials which will go a long way to help facilitate the healing process of a damaged skin barrier. Coupled with emollient-rich ingredients exhibits occlusive-like potentials by locking in moisture into the skin thus encouraging moisture retention.

Emollient-rich ingredients such as rosehip oil and squalane oil are wonderful choices to make when it comes to healing a damaged skin barrier. For best practice, it’s best to go along with emollient-rich ingredients immediately after applying a humectant and ceramide-based moisturizer.

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Oil is a good choice to make from thousands of rosehip oils on the market, coupled with its budget-friendliness. If you prefer squalane oil rather, then The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane is a good choice.


Occlusives are moisture-trapping skincare ingredients. When applied, they form a coat layer at the top of the skin, thereby locking or sealing in moisture into the skin which promotes moisture retention and prevents moisture-loss which aids the healing process of a damaged skin barrier.

One of the most frequently recommended occlusive moisturizers is petrolatum (also known as petroleum jelly), which experts say can block as much as 99 percent of water loss from your skin. Other good examples of occlusives to consider are: lanolin, beeswax, olive oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, safflower oil, tamanu oil, as they’re rich in fatty acids, which helps replenish the lipid matrix In your skin barrier by filling in gaps in the lipid matrix of the epidermis.

Don’t Forget To Take Care Of Your Body.

We tend to put 100% care for the skin on our face, neglecting the body. Of course the skin on your body needs to be pampered and taken care of too. The body can be prone to dryness, itching, dullness, and hyperpigmentation in the same way the face is. Focus on using gentle cleansers on the body and the hands.

If you suffer damaged skin barrier on any part of your body, just as aforementioned, avoid exposing the skin area to all skin-barrier impairment risks and pamper the skin area with skin soothing, conditioning, calming, hydrating and moisturizing ingredients. Read our best body skincare routine.

Don’t forget to nourish your skin inside out by eating skin nourishing diets, have adequate sleep, and engage in stress relief exercises too.

How To Use Humectants, Ceramides, Emollients And Occlusives In A Skincare Routine To Heal A Damaged Skin Barrier.

Healing a damaged skin barrier involves replenishing it with lots of hydrating and moisture-restoring skincare ingredients to create a healing environment which enables the skin repair itself.

Below is a guide on how to use humectants, ceramides, emollients and occlusives to heal a damaged skin barrier.

Step 1: Cleanse.

After cleansing the skin with a non-stripping, skin-soothing and hydrating cleanser. Pat your skin (don’t rub) with a clean towel. Recommended: CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser.

The reason to desist from rubbing your face with your towel is not only to avoid irritating your already-irritated skin, but to also avoid completely towelling off water from your skin, because you need your skin slightly damp or moist to enable skin hydrating ingredients work better.

How To Apply. 

Dampen your face with water, then apply your cleaner, while you gently massage (in a circular motion) to cleanse your face. Do that for one (1) minute, then rinse off completely.

Step 2: Apply a humectant.

As aforementioned, humectants are moisture-magnet that pulls moisture from the atmosphere to sufficiently hydrate the skin surface. Hyaluronic acid serums are best recommended humectants to intensely hydrate the skin. Recommended: Hada Labo Premium Hyaluronic Acid Serum – which contains five (5) derivatives of hyaluronic acid to ensure a double-hit of hydration.

How To Apply.

While your skin is slightly damp or moist, apply a hyaluronic acid serum to your face, 3-4 drops is enough for the whole face and neck (you can apply more if you desire).

Step 3: Apply A Ceramide-Rich Moisturizer.

Ceramides are one of the most important lipids that make up the skin barrier. Applying a ceramide-based moisturizer will do a good job to replenish the skin moisture and help repair damaged skin barrier by filling in the cracks to create a smooth, more complete protective skin barrier. Recommended: CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Cream or Lotion – which contains three (3) essential ceramides and hyaluronic acid to moisturize and help restore the protective skin barrier.

How To Apply.

After applying your hyaluronic acid serum, move ahead immediately to apply a generous amount of your ceramide-based moisturizer.

Step 4: Apply An Emollient.

Emollients help soothe and soften the skin. Their skin soothing and conditioning attributes help facilitate the healing process of a damaged skin barrier. Emollient-rich ingredients like rosehip oil and squalane oil will do a great job. Recommended: The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rosehip Oil or The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane.

Emollients exhibit occlusive-like potentials by locking in moisture into the skin, thereby encouraging moisture retention and discouraging trans-epidermal water loss.

How To Apply.

After applying your ceramide-based moisturizer, go ahead and apply 2-3 drops of either rosehip oil or squalane oil and gently massage till fully absorbed. You don’t need to apply too much, a little goes a long way.

Step 5: Apply An Occlusive.

As earlier stated, occlusives are moisture-trapping skincare ingredients. When applied, they form a coat layer at the top of the skin, thereby locking or sealing in moisture into the skin which promotes moisture retention and prevents moisture-loss which aids the healing process of a damaged skin barrier.

Petrolatum (also called petroleum jelly) is one of the most recommended occlusive skincare ingredients owing to the fact it blocks as much as 99 percent of water loss from your skin. Shop for petroleum jelly. Other good choices are; lanolin, beeswax, olive oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, safflower oil, tamanu oil.

How To Apply.

After applying your emollient-rich ingredient, you can stop at that stage, because emollients also exhibit occlusive-like potentials by trapping moisture in the skin (but they don’t do this as good as occlusives does). However, if you feel your skin needs more moisture-retention, you can move ahead to applying an occlusive ingredient to totally seal in moisture into the skin.

In Conclusion.

Like earlier mentioned, the skin is like a fence that protects the body, by fending off bacteria and other environmental aggressors that can be detrimental to the skin.

Avoid all skin-barrier impairment risks, keep a good hygiene and a decent skincare routine (invest in skin-barrier-friendly products), equip yourself with the right information before using any skincare products (especially acids), or better still do well to consult your board certified dermatologist for guidance to avoid damaging your skin barrier.

Don’t forget to always wear your sunscreen to protect your skin from the UV rays of the sun which can be deleterious to the skin when sun protection measures aren’t observed. You can read how to properly apply a sunscreen.

UP NEXT: Is Your Skin Purging Or Breaking Out? You Can’t Tell The Difference? – Here’s A Guide.

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