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Why your skin barrier matters and how to repair the damage in 2021

If you’ve ever wondered what your skin barrier really is, you are definitely not alone (see: me not so long ago, plus all the friends who text me and DMs about of their red and inflamed skin regularly). You’ve probably heard the concept of skin barriers mentioned in skin care commercials lately, as well as some * cough *. Student * cough * talk about how to strengthen your barrier, how to love it, how it is the source of all happiness and sadness, etc.

And while, of course, skin barriers are a bit overrated right now, that’s also for good reason: Your skin barrier is the very thing responsible for how your skin feels and looks., and if you don’t take good care of yours, you could increase your risk of dryness, irritation, acne, rosacea, fine lines, and more. Not ideal, right? So, to help you understand what exactly your skin barrier is and why TF is so important, we’ve enlisted expert help, below, starting with …

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What is the skin barrier?

Simply: The skin barrier is the outermost layer of your skin that serves as a protective shield. Basically, the purpose of your skin barrier is to protect you from environmental stressors, irritation, and inflammation, while still retaining all of the good stuff (see: humidity, humidity, and more moisture).

Even though it looks like a single layer of skin to you, your skin barrier is actually made up of a system of brick and mortar: “Cells, also called corneocytes, are the building blocks of your skin barrier, while the mortar is composed of various lipids, such as cholesterol and ceramides ”, explains Dana stern, MD, dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. The combination of all of these cells and lipids is what forms your skin’s protective barrier.

How do you know if your skin barrier is damaged?

Honestly, it’s a (rather) simple question: is your skin less than stellar? If not, your skin barrier might need a little TLC. Symptoms of a damaged skin barrier can include dryness, flakes, increased sensitivity, redness, itching, and major inflammation. Another sign of a weakened or damaged barrier? Your skin becomes more prone to infections and rashes, according to dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, of Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery.

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What causes a damaged skin barrier?

Your skin barrier always protects you from irritants, which means it will sometimes be damaged. Some of the main causes of a compromised skin barrier? Environmental factors (sun exposure, pollution, smoking), physical damage (over-exfoliate your face or using harsh / irritating skin care products), and even just your genetics and your age. “Ceramide levels decrease dramatically with age,” says Dr. Stern, “and therefore our skin’s ability to retain moisture ends up being compromised.”

Basically there are some factors that impact your skin barrier that are ~ totally ~ out of your control, like aging and, you know, the weather. But if your skincare routine is a problem, you can (and should!) change it by removing harsh exfoliators, acids and sulfate-filled soaps, which can upset the balance of fat in your skin barrier. “When your skin barrier does not have an effective balance of fat, the hydration and hydration that make your skin appear supple, full and plumped will not be maintained, says Dr. Stern.

How can I improve my skin barrier?

The key to repairing your skin barrier is to re-introduce moisture as soon as possible. Dr Stern suggests looking for moisturizers that contain ceramides and humectants. Topical ceramides mimic the skin moisturizing functions to lock in moisture, while humectants (like hyaluronic acid and glycerin) are what Dr. Stern calls water magnets. “They pull water molecules from the dermis into the epidermis to keep it hydrated,” she says.

If your skin barrier feels more turned off and has been for a while, try to stick to a gentle, moisturizing routine for at least 2-3 weeks before (slowly!) So a gentle facial cleanser morning and evening, followed by moisturizing face serum, and most importantly, a rich, barrier repairing moisturizer, like one of those expert-endorsed choices below.

How long does it take to repair your skin barrier?

I know that’s not what you want to hear, but the recovery time is totally dependent on your skin type and the condition of your skin barrier. If you have just gone too far with a face peeling or a scrub once? You should be on the mend in a week or two. But what if you’ve spent months accidentally breaking your skin barrier due to aggressive or unsuitable products? It might take a few months for it to bounce back.

At the end, your dermatologist will be your BFF in your barrier repair journey. While there are some things you can fix yourself (like dryness or flakes), there are a ton of skin conditions that will ultimately need the touch of a dermatologist (and prescription products). to soothe and treat, like rosacea or dermatitis, both of which can flare up when your barrier is compromised.

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