You don’t know it, but right now your skin is hard at work repairing the barrier that keeps irritants out and locks hydration in. The health of your skin’s moisture barrier controls the look and feel of your skin, as well as things like oil production, dryness, and breakouts.
Without a healthy skin barrier, the deeper layers of your skin are susceptible to long term damage that can age you faster and cause your skin to appear either too dry or too oily as it struggles to maintain a healthy barrier.
How to achieve maximum skin hydration to stave off the effects of premature aging? Repair your skin’s natural barrier.
What Causes A Damaged Moisture Barrier?
One major factor for a weak skin barrier is age. Your skin barrier gets weaker with age as it struggles to hold on to the same level of hydration you had in your youth. Another component for your skin’s barrier is complexion. Those with pale or fair skin are generally prone to more sensitivities like rashes or irritation, and are more sensitive to UV damage.
If you have digestive issues, like a leaky gut or chronic constipation, you will likely also notice skin problems like acne or eczema.
How Will You Know if Your Skin Barrier is Damaged?
If your skin barrier is healthy, it will lock vital hydration in and be less prone to irritation and breakouts. You’ll likely notice the difference too–having a soft, radiant glow. Your skin will have a good lipid balance, and feel flexible.
With a healthier skin barrier, your skin can tolerate more active ingredients like retinoids which means you can more efficiently fight wrinkles and improve the look and feel of your skin.
If your skin barrier isn’t healthy, it might feel dry, dull, or tight against your face, and as a result it will be more prone to inflammation and be less equipped to keep irritants and other pollutants out. You may notice more sensitivity to products, breakouts, or redness.
I’ve gathered the 10 most effective ways to repair and protect your skin barrier to keep your face looking young while maximizing hydration and underlying factors like collagen production.
1. Use A Daily Sunscreen (Yes, even if you’re inside!)
One of the best ways to protect your natural skin barrier is to wear a daily sunscreen. Ideally a facial sunscreen should be at least 30 SPF (1). And you should reapply–especially if spending time in direct sunlight.
Apply facial sunscreen after your moisturizer and facial oil, but before primer and foundation. You want sunscreen to sit as close to your skin as possible, but allow your skin to absorb the beneficial moisture from lighter serums and creams.
Wearing a facial sunscreen daily, no matter if you’re indoors or out, protects your skin cells from free radical damage that can cause wrinkles, enlarged pores, and accelerate the effects of aging.
East West Medicine Holistic Tips for Facial SPF
When choosing a facial sunscreen there are two categories of SPF: mineral or chemical. Mineral sunscreens usually contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide that physically block and reflect the sun’s rays.
Chemical SPF contains one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, or octinoxate. These work to absorb the sun’s UV rays. These sunscreens tend to be easier to rub into your skin without leaving a white hue.
If you’re prone to breakouts, chemical sunscreens may be a better choice for the sensitive skin on your face.
2. Get Back to Basics
Skincare marketing techniques are pretty effective, and you can quickly feel like you need 24 different products to build the healthy, glowing skin you want.
But the truth is, healthy skin is all about having a healthy barrier, and your skin is pretty low maintenance once you find the basic products that work for your individual skin (and it’s probably way less than 24).
Basic Skincare Routines often include: cleanser, toner, serum, moisturizer, retinol (optional), and a sunscreen.
3. Try Korean Beauty Techniques
I know I just said you don’t need to do anything fancy to protect your barrier and have great skin, but this one secret is a favorite of Eastern cultures to maintain a dewy glow and delay fine lines and wrinkles.
Korean beauty (often called K-Beauty) coined a method called slugging. And while this sounds like an odd term, it’s actually a very beneficial, yet simple process.
Slugging involves placing a pea-sized amount of an occlusive ingredient (one that locks in moisture), like petroleum jelly or glycerin on your driest areas of skin right before you go to bed at night.
Why Slugging is Awesome: It prevents your skin from losing moisture while you’re sleeping, and you wake up with moisturized, glowing skin in the morning (2). Best for dry skin types.
4. Avoid Harsh Scrubs
Overdoing physical exfoliation is common, and can be hugely destructive to your natural moisture barrier. When trying to repair your skin’s moisture barrier, limit exfoliation to a couple times per week, or consider a gentler chemical exfoliant like alpha-hydroxy acid or glycolic acid.
5. Apply Your Moisturizers Correctly
Would you believe me if I told you you’d been wasting your moisturizer if you’re not applying it correctly?
Your moisturizer needs one big thing to be properly absorbed into your skin so it can do its job–and that’s water. If you apply moisturizer over the top of completely dry skin the active ingredients aren’t able to penetrate the skin, as they need water for your skin to be able to absorb the molecules.
Always apply your moisturizer on damp skin–the water helps it absorb and helps you use less product.
6. Get Your Beauty Sleep
This saying exists for a reason, and it’s because without time to rest and repair, your skin’s natural barrier suffers, making you more susceptible to dryness, irritation, and breakouts.
Nevermind that a lack of adequate rest can throw off important internal processes like hormones (hello, hormonal breakouts!), but not sleeping well can also exacerbate dryness and flaky skin.
I use a blend of magnolia bark and magnesium to calm a busy mind and promote restful sleep.
7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
It’s hard for your skin to replenish moisture it never had in the first place, and you can’t get all the hydration you need from topical products.
Staying properly hydrated by drinking plenty of water is one of the best skin health not-so-secret secrets out there.
Aim for half your body weight in ounces per day. For example, a 150-lb woman needs approximately 75 ounces of water–more if you’re working out.
Drinking plenty of water also supports natural detox pathways, which is a must for healthy skin.
8. Supplement for Great Skin
Since much of the work your skin needs to do to rebuild a healthy barrier happens on the inside, it’s helpful to include plenty of the following nutrients in your diet, either from food or in supplement form.
- Omega-3 fats: Omega-3s help soften dry skin, regulate your skin’s oil production, subdue breakouts, and minimize the effects of aging. They’re essential fats–meaning your body doesn’t make them on its own–so you must consume them from fatty fish or a supplement.
- B vitamins: Not getting enough B vitamins can cause dry, flaky skin, acne, and accelerate the development of wrinkles. Some B vitamins help your body produce new skin cells (3). Get plenty of B vitamins from leafy greens and animal proteins, or in a fully-methylated supplement like Boost.
- Vitamin C: Not just essential for immune function, but a crucial factor for your skin’s production of collagen as well. Vitamin C serves as a cofactor for healthy collagen formation which promotes younger looking skin and a healthy skin barrier that can lock in moisture.
9. Liver Detox and Gut Health
When repairing your skin barrier there’s one major factor you shouldn’t ignore, and that’s the function of your gut and detox pathways.
You can think of your gut like your manufacturing facility for hormones, vitamins, and nutrients that your skin needs to repair, rebuild, and stay hydrated. Without a healthy functioning gut, you might be deficient in certain nutrients your skin needs, or be creating systemic inflammation that can cause breakouts, dry skin, or problems like eczema and skin irritation.
Proper detoxification function also helps your body get rid of toxins and metabolic waste that can build up and cause inflammation as toxins erupt through your skin.
My best-selling course, the 21-Day Belly Fix, gives you the step-by-step plan you need to remove triggers that are damaging your gut, and optimize digestion and detox function.
10. Optimize Your Actives
Which active ingredients are working the best for your skin? Why are you using the products you do? These are important questions to ask yourself when trying to repair your skin’s natural moisture barrier.
Keep your eye out for these helpful active ingredients:
- Niacinamide: Derived from B3, this vitamin can help repair signs of past damage like enlarged pores, wrinkles, and dullness (3).
- Hyaluronic acid (HA): This powerful molecule helps boost the moisture-holding capacity of your skin cells, which can improve the dry skin and the signs of aging (4).
- Glycerin: Acts as a humectant to attract moisture to your skin and help lock it in.
11. Balance Your pH
Believe it or not, the face on your skin is slightly acidic, with an average pH of about 4.2 to 5.6. As a result, studies show it’s safest to use a cleanser with a pH of around 5.5 to rebuild your skin’s natural barrier (5).
Harsh cleansers and other products can strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving your barrier exposed and susceptible to dryness and irritation.
Detergents like sodium lauryl (or laureth) sulfate should be avoided, because they disrupt your skin’s natural protective processes and moisture balance.
If your skin feels dry and tight after cleansing, chances are the pH of your cleanser is too high.
Holistic Skincare for Women
While outdated methods may have led you to believe you must strip your skin of its natural oils to reduce breakouts and irritation, this can destroy your skin’s natural barrier and make you more susceptible to dryness and the effects of aging.
Learning how to hydrate your skin by rebuilding your natural moisture barrier can help your skin cells retain moisture, and reduce dryness, irritation, sensitivity, and the effects of conditions like acne and eczema.
By repairing your skin barrier you can have hydrated, supple, and glowing skin for years to come.