How to repair a damaged skin barrier

How to repair a damaged skin barrier

It’s the trending skincare term everyone's talking about, but what is a skin barrier and how can you keep yours strong, happy and healthy? Read on to find out everything you need to know about your skin barrier, including our tips on how to repair a damaged skin barrier.


What is the skin barrier?

Your skin barrier, also known as the moisture barrier, is the outermost layer or epidermis of your skin, which acts as a protective shield between your skin and the outside world. It helps to protect against the environmental stressors we encounter on a daily basis, like pollution and UV rays, and helps to hold on to the natural moisture our skin needs to function. When the skin barrier is compromised, both these functions are reduced, meaning skin is poorly hydrated, as well as being more vulnerable to external damage. A healthy skin barrier = happy skin.


Damaged skin barrier causes

There are many factors that can damage your skin barrier – most of which are just a part of daily life. Your moisture barrier can be impacted by a range of environmental, lifestyle and genetic factors – some that we can control, some that we can't – so it's just about finding the right balance. Here are a few common causes: 


• Sun and harsh UV exposure.


• Extreme weather and temperatures.  


• Stress.


• Lack of sleep.


• Overuse of exfoliating acids or physical exfoliants, and potent skincare actives. 


• Ageing, as our skin's natural production of lipids, ceramides and moisturising factors depletes with age. 


• Pollution.


• Genetics.


Damaged skin barrier symptoms

Though it works hard, the skin barrier is actually quite delicate and can be easily damaged or disturbed. If you notice any changes to your skin that you can't quite pinpoint, a compromised skin barrier could be the culprit. Here are a few damaged skin barrier signs to look out for, from subtle changes you may not even notice to more obvious reactions:


• Itchy, dry or tight skin.


• Redness, inflammation and irritation.


• Skin flaking.


• Acne and breakouts.


• Increased sensitivity or tenderness – including stinging when you apply your usual skincare products.


• Dehydration and dullness.


• Rough patches. 


How to repair skin barrier

It’s important to reassess your skincare routine as soon as you suspect your skin barrier is damaged. Here are a few tips to help you treat and restore your skin:


Keep it simple.

Stripping your routine right back to basics is one of the best ways to treat a compromised moisture barrier. Go back to skincare basics, leaving out any harsh actives like retinoids, acids and physical exfoliants, and focusing primarily on gentle, effective hydration – including a targeted barrier repair face cream. We recommend nourishing, alcohol and fragrance-free products that’ll help soothe the skin barrier naturally, avoiding any further damage.


Double cleanse. 

As pollution and external stressors can impact your skin barrier, it's worth adding a nightly double cleanse to your routine – ensuring both cleansers are gentle to avoid stripping the skin of natural oils. Start with a silky oil-based balm cleanser like Take The Day Off™ Cleansing Balm to help dissolve daily makeup, sunscreen and more, It's formulated with safflower seed oil which is rich in linoleic acid, a natural emollient that keeps skin feeling soft and nourished. Follow with our most gentle liquid cleanser Liquid Facial Soap Extra Mild formula, a soft, non-drying formula that thoroughly cleanses, without disturbing skin's natural moisture balance. Another note: avoid using very hot water on your skin during cleansing – including in the bath or shower, as the skin on your body is just as prone to barrier damage. 


Choose your moisturiser wisely. 

When it comes to choosing your face cream, select a formula that will help support the dual function of the skin barrier – i.e. to keep the good stuff in, and the bad stuff out. Look out for moisturisers which combine moisture-binding humectants like glycerin with emollient ingredients, such as our iconic Dramatically Different™ Moisturizing Lotion+. This dermatologist-developed moisturiser helps to support a stronger moisture barrier with natural moisturising factors (NMFs), including glycerin (read all about the skin-loving benefits of glycerin here) alongside natural, nourishing extracts of barley, sunflower seed and soothing cucumber. Suitable for use morning and night, this gentle, fragrance-free moisturiser helps to rebalance and strengthen your moisture barrier. There is also a lighter, oil-free moisturising gel formula, Dramatically Different™ Moisturizing Gel, which is ideal for oily, combination oily and sensitive skin types.


How to prevent damaged skin barrier

The most important thing is to treat your skin with TLC – harsh, high-potency formulas aren't right for everyone, so it's important to cultivate a gentle, effective routine that works for you and your skin. If you are trying out actives like retinoids, AHAs/BHAs or vitamin C, introduce these slowly by following a Skin Cycling routine – a four-day cycle alternating two days of actives with two ‘rest’ days of gentle, hydrating skincare – to avoid overwhelming your skin. This is also a good way to re-introduce actives once your skin health is restored. You can learn more about the benefits of Skin Cycling here.


Damaged skin barrier skin routine

Try this gentle, simple regimen. 


Step 1: Double cleanse skin with a silky balm-to-oil makeup remover like Take The Day Off™ Cleansing Balm, followed by a gentle, fragrance-free, non-stripping face wash such as Liquid Facial Soap Extra Mild.

Step 2: Comfort, soothe and hydrate with a nourishing, super gentle moisturiser like Dramatically Different™ Moisturizing Lotion+, which delivers eight hours of lightweight hydration to help strengthen your skin’s moisture barrier. It's formulated with glycerin, an effective humectant, which helps to strengthen the skin barrier, protecting skin from environmental aggressors, pollution and irritants. It also helps to increase skin’s elasticity and resilience over time.


Step 3: In the morning, finish with a high-level SPF formula to help prevent further skin barrier damage. We love the weightless texture of Superdefense™ City Block SPF 50 Daily Energy + Face Protector – a quick-absorbing, hydrating, oil-free formula with hyaluronic acid and a blend of chemical and physical sunscreens to protect skin. 


Step 4: At night, once or twice a week, treat your skin to a layer of Moisture Surge™ Overnight Mask. This intensely hydrating, creamy mask contains soothing aloe vera water, panthenol and nourishing murumuru butter to deeply nourish, soothe and restore skin as you sleep.


Want more healthy skin tips? Join us for an expert-led Skin School consultation, where you’ll get a customised routine to help you meet your skin goals. Enjoy a 1:1 session or invite your friends.

Words by Shona Wallace
Updated November 2023

Shop the story:

Dramatically Different™ Moisturizing Lotion+, Dermatologist-developed formula that supports a stronger moisture barrier for healthier looking skin.
125ml (With pump)
50ml (bottle)
50ml (Tube)
Liquid Facial Soap, Dermatologist-developed liquid face soap cleanses gently yet thoroughly.
200ml Mild
200ml Oily