First things first. Let’s start with what is what.
Is your shield compromised?
The skin barrier or hydrolipidic film is comprised of sebum and lipids and as such acts as your skin’s natural protection against environmental damage and water loss. Both functions are paramount for your skin health and radiant skin appearance. If your skin barrier is healthy, it effectively retains water and has the right balance of lipids, it is resilient and flexible. While everybody has a skin barrier, some can have a naturally weaker barrier (dry, sensitive, thinner skin types) but some manage to damage theirs, due to lack of knowledge. Been there, done that….
Is my skin barrier impaired?
You would be surprised how many people have an impaired skin barrier, and the funny thing is – many of them are actually putting some effort in their skincare. Just not the appropriate one…because at the end, the most damaging is inappropriate skincare destroying your skin’s pH balance, with cleansing as one of the main culprits. The skin barrier in general is not such a fragile princess, your skin tends to be resilient and it is eager to recover itself, but if you abuse it repeatedly, with harsh cleansers, exfoliation, excessive use of potent active ingredients, sodium bicarbonate peelings etc. well, at some point, it just can take it anymore, and then it gets really ugly. The most common symptoms of an impaired skin barrier, thus sensitized skin are:
- Dehydration and tightness from lack of water, because your skin has lost its capability to retain water. Your skin can be dehydrated yet very oily, because it tries to compensate!
- Acne breakouts due to excess sebum since your skin is struggling really hard to compensate.
- Itchiness, flakiness, eczema, redness, soreness due to dehydration and lack of shield from external irritants like bacteria, pollution, UV rays, smoke, skincare ingredients etc.
- Dull, uneven, rough skin, because everything above.
As you may notice, all this symptoms could be easily attributed to sensitive skin but the difference is, sensitive skin is a skin type, whereas sensitized skin is a result of a damaged skin barrier. Basically the same applies to the difference between dehydrated or dry skin. Dry skin is a type, dehydrated skin is an aquired condition.
So think, was your skin always like this, or it went berserk somewhere along the way?
While with sensitive skin there isn’t much to do, you just have to »get over it« and adapt your skincare accordingly, you can most definitely repair an impaired skin barrier.
Eucerin Atopicontrol Face Care Cream and Eucerin Aquaphor helped me restore my skin barrier
How can I repair my skin barrier?
The first and foremost, you need to be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your skin barrier wasn’t destroyed in a day either. It needs its time and you have to be willing to give it and take it easy. How long? It depends on your skin type, how long was your skin abused and how much damage it suffered, but I’d say from at least 1 to even 6 months.
I have dry and sensitive skin and I sensitized my skin by abusing active ingredients – I needed a 6 months rehab.
So, how the rehab works:
- Adapt your cleansing routine, you can read more about it here: click
- Back to basics: drop all cosmetic products with active ingredients (vitamin C, retinoids, acids). ALL of them, except vitamin B. The only skincare you’re allowed to use are replenishing natural moisturizers, ceramides, vitamin B and different occlusive products that act like a makeshift skin barrier and retain moisture while yours is healing. Avoid any cosmetic products that have higher concentrations of irritants like perfume, alcohol denat, higher concentrations of essential oils, etc.
- Use sun protection diligently. Choose a product that is intended for sensitive skin.
- Always avoid (even when your skin becomes healthy): hot water, sun exposure, mechanical peelings, cosmetic products with inappropriate pH.
If you’re afraid you’re going to become granny material during this rehab (like I did), don’t. You can still use replenishing moisturizers or serums with peptides that have also anti-aging proprieties and after the worst is behind you, you can also use some gentler and less potent forms of actives and enzyme peelings.
And don’t forget. Once you are »out of the woods« keep your freshly acquired skincare habits and don’t rush into too much, too soon. Less is always more. Check my other skincare basics posts for more information!
NIOD CAIS serum and The Ordinary 10% Niacinamide, also helped me with skin regeneration and added the missing anti-aging touch
I think I hear your thoughts now. You would like to know which products are in the skin barrier approved bandwagon, right? Here are some suggestions for the back to basics skincare:
- Skintegra Atomic, 200 ml, 20€, Superskin
- Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Cleansing Foam, 160 ml, 10€, Ebay
- Jessa Intimpflege Parfumfrei, 300 ml 2,50€, Drogerie Markt
Lighter moisturizers (hydration, replenishing)
- Near Skin Total Ceramide Cream, 50 ml, 25€, Missha Slovenija (my review: click)
- Skintegra Lunar, 30 ml, 22€, Superskin (has anti-aging proprieties too!)
- Eucerin Atopicontrol Face Care Cream, 50 ml, 15€, Pharmacy
Heavier moisturizers / occlusives (a makeshift skin barrier)
- COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Mask, 110 ml, 21€, Lookfantastic
- Eucerin Aquaphor Repairing Ointment, 45ml, 9€, 45 ml, Pharmacy
- Bioderma Cicabio Crème Réparatrice, 40 ml, 9€, Pharmacy
Serums with skin-regeneration proprieties (regeneration, resilience)
- Copper Amino Isolate Serum 2:1 (CAIS2), 15 ml, 47€, Superskin
- Skintegra Hydra B Advanced Hydration Serum, 30 ml, 15€, Superskin
- The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc, 30 ml, 8€, Superskin
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, so far my favourite vitamin B
As always, if you have any questions – shoot!