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How to Restore a Healthy Skin Barrier

How to Restore a Healthy Skin Barrier

A healthy outer layer is the secret to great skin.

1. Can damaged skin cells be repaired?

2. How long does it take to repair the skin barrier?

3. How to restore a healthy skin barrier


You can’t see it, but it’s there. The skin barrier, also known as the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the skin), helps protect your skin from harsh elements and holds in moisture, preventing your skin from drying out. Put simply, it is the security guard for your skin: It works to keep the good stuff in and the bad stuff out.

When it’s healthy and intact, the skin barrier can help protect the skin from external factors that can cause clinical signs of damage such as skin irritation, redness and dry patches. But the problem is, it doesn’t take much for your skin barrier to become compromised—especially in specific extreme situations like our current climate: living in a pandemic. Added anxiety, quarantine-related insomnia, the friction from face masks, an uptick in alcohol consumption and washing our hands frequently are all major factors that can damage the skin barrier.

Once it’s impaired, you need to act fast. Whether your skin is oily, dry, sensitive or acne-prone, here is everything you need to know about looking after your skin barrier, how long it takes to repair the skin barrier and how to strengthen it.

1. Can damaged skin cells be repaired?

The skin barrier protects the homeostasis health of the skin,by keeping out harmful pathogens and allergens and by maintaining moisture. However, a barrier impairment can change all that. If you see clinical signs like uneven pigmentation, redness and fine lines when you look in the mirror, or if you feel skin irritation, itching and tingling sensations, these are all examples of damaged skin—and at a cellular level, that could mean damaged skin cells. In addition to that, as we age, our cellular turnover begins to lag. This leads to a buildup of dead skin, which can cause the complexion to look uneven and dull and even feel rough. Meanwhile, skin continues to face damaging elements, so it’s in a constant cycle of trying to heal and protect itself. But as we age, it has trouble keeping up with the demanding pace.

The good news is that damaged skin can be repaired with the help of the right skincare ingredients. To force your skin into the habit of faster cell turnover, introduce products that speed up the process, like a gentle cleanser or a mild salicylic cleanser. It’s important to address the dead skin cell buildup so you can effectively treat and strengthen the skin barrier with a skin repairing serum. Then lock in that skin hydration with a soothing moisturizer.

2. How long does it take to repair the skin barrier?

Recovery time depends on how damaged or weakened the barrier is—and also on your age. This delay in repair can be caused by a few factors, such as a slowdown in cell turnover, a decrease in vital lipid production and hormonal changes.

Another aspect that can cause barrier impairment and increase its healing time once is the new normal in all our lives: wearing a face mask. In our current climate, we can all agree on the importance of wearing masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially for those who must keep them on during full workdays, but the downside is skin irritation and inflammation that can manifest in redness, breakouts and discomfort. In addition to that an angry red rash caused by continuous rubbing against skin can appear. Help repair the barrier by choosing a mask made of soft material and washing it regularly using a gentle detergent and use products that can help create a skincare barrier.

3. How to restore the skin barrier

You can assess the strength of your moisture barrier by paying attention to your skin. If your skin feels tight, rough, dry and inflamed, chances are your skin’s protective barrier is damaged. If you have barrier impairment, the issues are sometimes the result of a genetic predisposition (rosacea, atopic dermatitis), but other culprits are external aggressors like stress, diet, weather and friction caused by face masks.

The key is to act fast, starting with increasing your moisture levels. If you’re wondering how to lock in moisture in the skin amid a barrier breakdown, try swapping your regular skincare routine for a more streamlined version featuring products with fewer irritants and active ingredients. Also, look for formulas that are heavy in moisture to build up the barrier.

Dermatologists say that moisturizing products are an effective treatment to repair the skin barrier. The stratum corneum is made up of several components, including fatty acids and ceramides, so if you want to know how to repair damaged dry skin, supplement your skin with moisturizers containing those ingredients to ensure that everything is working as it should. You should also look for emollients (which soothe and heal dry skin) and humectant (which draw in and retain more moisture). Another important ingredient to look for in skin moisturizer is hyaluronic acid, which binds water up to 1,000 times its weight, and lactic acid, which brightens, smooths and evens out the skin.

If you’re wary about wearing a rich day moisturizer under your makeup, consider a heavier night cream. When you sleep, your skin goes into repair-and-rejuvenate mode so it’s the perfect time to cocoon it with an ultra-repairing night cream. The best night cream for skin repair is Vichy Aqualia Thermal Night Spa because of its replenishing and hydrating properties.

Sun exposure is also a major contributor to the damage of skin cells. If you’re wondering how to repair sun-damaged skin on arms or legs—or anywhere else, for that matter—the best offence is a good defence. One of the easiest ways to protect your skin barrier is by wearing a daily sunscreen every day. You can also double down and add a skin treatment filled with antioxidants to help protect against other environmental stressors.

If you’re wondering how to moisturize your skin from the inside out—and if that’s even effective—try altering your diet. Foods rich in essential fatty acids or an omega-3 supplement can help nourish and soothe the skin. Plus, they’re anti-inflammatory, so they can help calm skin or soothe aggravating conditions.


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