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What is the skin’s natural barrier and why do we need it?

 The outermost layer of your skin that has a natural, protective barrier that when healthy keeps it safe from trans-epidermal water loss and potential irritants and allergens from getting into your skin, which can cause a variety of dermatological issues, like acne, dryness, chronic inflammation and overall sensitivity. A healthy skin barrier composed of mainly lipids. And the 3 crucial components are; ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.

What can damage a skin barrier?

Harsh cleansers, strong acne-medication, over-washing, over-exfoliating, over-applying products, and over-using the amount of products in one routine (moderation is key) Also, stress and hormonal changes can weaken the skin barrier function.

How to know if your skin barrier has been compromised? 

Your skin feels tight, oily-dehydrated skin is the most common indicator that your skin barrier is damaged. People who secrete a lot of oil are more likely to demonstrate aggressive skincare habits that strip away the natural oil and all (even good) bacteria off their face, which further damages your barrier function.

Once your skin barrier is damaged, your skin loses water quickly and you often experience a dehydrated sensation. This is called ‘transepidermal water loss’. You can also tell your skin barrier is compromised when your skincare products that you have may have been using for a long time irritate, sensitize or even cause redness. They also no longer functioning to your skin like they used to do.

Specific ingredients that you can use to repair the skin barrier

Look for products that use ceramides, cholesterol (or phytosterol for a vegan option), and free fatty acids in the right ratio. People with compromised skin barrier should work more on hydration. Always hydrate your skin with good moisturizer. Also, replenishing the skin with natural moisturizing factors can help, as well. Panthenol (Vitamin B5) and Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) also help improve the barrier function. And limiting your cleansing to once a day and switching to a moisturizing, barrier-friendly cleanser.

Try to eliminate any potential irritants from your skincare products or lessen the chance of irritation by using fewer products during this period. Never use any products that dries your skin out. Stop using active ingredients during this period as they can either stress out or worsen your skin.

How long does it take to repair the barrier function and after you’ve let your skin barrier heal, when you can you start incorporating new products in?

This really depends on the severity of the damage and the individual’s skin condition. For healthy skin, it can take 2 weeks and up to a month to repair the barrier function. Once your skin barrier is back on full force, you’ll notice a decrease in redness, skin-sensitivity, inflammation, and dehydration. You will definitely be able to tell when your skin can handle a new product.

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