What Are the Signs That Your Skin Barrier Is Compromised?

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The skin barrier, which refers to the watertight seal that keeps your many layers of skin together, serves an extremely important function. Your skin is the largest organ in the body and protects you from outside aggressors. In fact, according to Healthline, your skin keeps you alive because, without it, you’d be susceptible to a number of environmental toxins and pathogens.

In order to function properly, your skin needs to be cared for correctly, but there are a number of factors that can compromise this barrier. Environmental influences include allergens, irritants and pollutants as well as too much exposure to the sun.

The overuse of active ingredients like L-ascorbic acid, salicylic acid and lactic acid can also play a part, as can certain acne medications and retinol products. Over-exfoliating is one of the biggest culprits of a compromised skin barrier, so it might be time to cool it with your exfoliating acids.

According to Paula’s Choice Skincare, when your barrier becomes compromised, “it loses or becomes unable to hold on to the vital substances that keep skin cells intact: ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids like linoleic acid. This leads to water loss and skin becoming more vulnerable to all external aggressors. Not surprisingly, a damaged skin barrier also makes it difficult to repair signs of ageing and post-breakout marks.”

Symptoms of a comprimised barrier

So, how can you tell when your barrier isn’t functioning in tip-top shape? There are a number of symptoms, which include:

  • Redness
  • Rosacea
  • Peeling
  • Tightness and irritation
  • Increased breakouts
  • Dry, scaly skin
  • Sensitive or inflamed areas
  • Bacterial, viral or fungal skin infections

How to heal your skin barrier

The good news is that you can heal your skin barrier with a little TLC. It can take a little while — up to a month, in some cases — but it is possible to restore the health of your skin barrier. Here’s what to do:

  • Give the acids a break: Firstly, it’s time to simplify your skincare regime. If you’re regularly using a number of acids as well as retinol products, it’s time to give your skin a little rest from these for a few weeks. When your skin is looking and feeling a lot calmer, you can start slowly re-introducing one product at a time.
  • Wear sunscreen: From an environmental perspective, sun exposure can be extremely damaging for your skin barrier. In order to protect your skin and help it heal, the regular (we mean every single day!) use of sunscreen is important.
  • Use a plant oil: According to Healthline, research from 2018 shows that certain plant oils can help repair a compromised skin barrier while also prevent your barrier from losing moisture. These plant oils include jojoba oil, coconut oil, almond oil, argan oil and rosehip oil. Look for products that contain these oils or simply apply them straight to your skin.
  • Opt for products with ceramides: Ceramides are waxy lipids that are super important for the health of your skin barrier. In fact, moisturisers that contain ceramides have been shown to strengthen the structural integrity of the skin barrier, so reach for a ceramide-rich cream like the CeraVe Moisturising Cream (22.99).
  • See a professional: If you’re dealing with a lot of irritation and can’t quite seem to repair the barrier yourself, it might be time to seek help from an expert like a dermatologist to get some professional advice on the next steps for your individual skin concerns.
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