Chapter 19: Signs of a Damaged Skin Barrier and How to Fix It

Beauty Book

You’ve surely come across the words skin barrier when skimming through skin care products. The question is – what exactly does it mean? How can you tell if you have a damaged skin barrier? And how can you protect it?

Keep reading to learn a thing or two about keeping your skin barrier healthy and want to prevent pimples.

The skin barrier is made up of lipids. It forms the skin’s outermost layer, shielding skin against external aggressors. It’s also known as the moisture barrier since it helps skin retain moisture.

The skin barrier is extremely delicate, so it’s important to be extra cautious with the types of products you slather on. Introducing too many products all at once can make your skin freak out, causing irritation and even sensitivity.

The bad news: Your skin barrier can easily be damaged. The good news: It’s totally fixable!

You’ll know your skin barrier is damaged when you notice any signs of redness or inflammation, dehydration, itchiness, flakiness or acne flare-ups. A weak or damaged skin barrier is mostly dry or dehydrated so it can’t lock in moisture, making it easier for irritants and bacteria to penetrate the skin. If your skin easily reacts to products and you feel a stinging or burning sensation during application, chances are your skin barrier is damaged.

Your moisture barrier can get compromised due to over-exfoliating, harsh or alcohol-based products, pollution and other environmental stressors, sun exposure, genetics and aging.

When it happens, remember to act quickly! Nursing your moisture barrier back to a healthier state may not be easy, but it’s not impossible. Just don’t wait until more damage is done as it’ll be even harder to repair.

What do you do when you have a damaged skin barrier? First, re-assess your skin care routine and figure out the culprit. Did you recently try a new product that makes your skin react? Or perhaps you’re piling on way too many products that are actually doing more harm than good?

There are plenty of products that can help restore your natural protective barrier. Since your skin won’t be able to protect itself, look for products that are formulated with skin-restoring ingredients. Try to stay away from the ones with sulfates, parabens or alcohols as these ingredients only make things worse for a compromised skin barrier.

With loss of moisture, your skin will also appear less plump and be prone to fine lines and wrinkles, so it’s helpful to apply products that help replenish moisture. Here are some products that are infused with skin-friendly ingredients. You can incorporate them into your skin care routine to help fix your damaged skin barrier:


Start by washing your face with a gentle cleanser. There should be no harsh chemicals in the ingredients list (keep an eye out for sulfates) as you want to aim for as little irritation as possible.

Go for a low pH cleanser like the COSRX Low pH First Cleansing Milk Gel as this won’t disturb the natural pH level of your skin and will keep it balanced. This hypoallergenic cleanser is mild but can remove all traces of makeup, impurities and dead skin cells. It keeps skin soothed and moisturized thanks to its key ingredients: witch hazel extract and allantoin.


Similar to cleansers, your toner of choice should also be gentle, but one important thing to watch out for is the alcohol content. Certain types of alcohols are damaging as they completely strip the skin of its moisture. Avoid toners that contain any of these: denatured, SD, isopropyl or benzyl alcohol. Luckily, not all types of alcohols are harmful, so don’t worry if you see ceteryl, glycol, cetyl, or stearyl alcohol. These fatty alcohols are actually great for skin! Plus, they help keep all the other ingredients in the product stable.

Pyunkang Yul’s Essence Toner is perfect for those with a damaged skin barrier. It’s formulated with just seven clean and EWG-verified ingredients, meaning there’s less chance that your skin will react.


Serums are a must as they contain a high concentration of ingredients that help repair the skin barrier. Look for serums with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide or ceramide as these ingredients not only nourish the skin but also protect it against further damage. They’re also gentle and help repair skin damage.

Before applying your moisturizer, apply a few drops of The Plant Base’s Waterfall Moist Balanced Hyaluronic Acid for added hydration. You can also try out the brand’s Quesera Ceramide ampoule, which contains 74.19% rice ceramide for extra protection against external aggressors. Read a more in-depth review of these ampoules in this post.


Similar to serums, your moisturizer should also contain hyaluronic acid, niacinamide or ceramide. Fans of ceramide will love SKINRx LAB’s Madecera Cream. The rich cream soothes, moisturizes and strengthens the skin barrier with naturally derived ceramide from green tea. Though quite thick, the cream absorbs into skin quickly and you’re left with nothing but glowing skin.


The last (and most important) step is to apply sunscreen! When your skin barrier is damaged, it needs all the protection it can get. Skipping on SPF will worsen the situation. No matter the weather, apply a layer of sunscreen every day on top of your moisturizer and underneath your makeup; one of our favorites is the Purito Go-To Sunscreen.

AROMATICA’s Aloe Mineral Sunscreen is a soothing and moisturizing sunscreen that won’t leave a white cast on skin. It’s silicon-free so you don’t have to worry about it clogging your pores, and it contains bifida ferment to moisturize and reinforce the skin barrier.

Going through skin issues can be tough (trust me, I’ve been there), but one thing to remember is to give your skin some time. There are no shortcuts, and products may not miraculously give you perfect skin within a day, week or even a month. Nonetheless, if you’re patient enough, you’ll get there!

With the right combination of products that suit your skin type, soon enough you’ll get skin that’s glowing, hydrated and supple – basically #skingoals!

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