The skin barrier keeps the skin healthy, hydrated, and functioning properly. Damage to this barrier can be difficult to fix depending on the extent to which it has been damaged, but it is not an impossible feat.
Permanent Damage To The Skin Barrier
There are certain circumstances in which we could consider the barrier to be permanently damaged.
By permanently, this means that it is unlikely for the skin barrier to repair itself and have all the capabilities of normal epidermal cells.
One example of this includes severe sun damage. The sun gives off both UVB and UVA rays.
Each of these types of radiation can have a negative impact on the skin’s barrier. They can cause damage to the skin’s DNA and destroy the protective mechanisms put in place to prevent DNA degradation (1).
This can lead to deadly skin cancers.
On a more surface level, UVA and UVB damage can lead to photosensitivity, photoaging, dry and flaky skin, and loss of collagen.
Using sunscreen at an early age can reduce the risk of UV-induced immunosuppression, photosensitivity and prevent aging (1).
Another circumstance that can permanently damage the skin barrier happens when the skin is burned.
This disrupts the function of the epidermal barrier. A local burn can have a devastating impact on the skin.
It reduces the skin’s capacity to make use of its antimicrobial function. An increase in transepidermal water loss has also been seen in burn victims. Changes in the pH of the skin were not regulated. In addition, the skin was no longer able to properly repair itself after further disruption of the skin barrier (2).
A few other habits may contribute to a very damaged skin barrier. However, most situations are easily fixable and can be improved and repaired overtime.
Using a harsh cleanser can disrupt the skin’s moisture barrier. By harsh, this means that the cleanser you are using causes your skin to be dry, sensitive, red and/or irritated after use. This is often caused by aggressive surfactants that dissolve good proteins in the skin that would normally keep the skin barrier healthy.
Cleansers that dry out your skin weaken the skin barrier and make your skin susceptible to bacterial infections, acne, rosacea, and other types of inflammatory conditions.
Another factor that can play a role in a damaged skin barrier is not moisturizing after cleansing.
When the skin is cleansed, the surfactants cause transepidermal water loss, which is the loss of water from the epidermis or surface of the skin. When this occurs, the skin loses its moisture content. If you do not put a moisturizer on after cleansing, the skin will continue to lose more water. This will make it dry or even dehydrated.
Using Toners With Alcohol
Toners are a popular trend to incorporate into your skincare routine. More often than not, they have no purpose in your skincare.
Many toners contain high amounts of alcohol. This gives you the appearance of tighter skin and smaller pore sizes. However, these toners are simply drying out your skin creating an illusion of tighter skin.
With prolonged use of alcohol-containing toners, you risk your skin being continuously dried out. This damages the skin barrier, as it is constantly pulling moisture and hydration out of the skin.
How Do I Know If I Ruined My Skin Barrier?
One surefire way to know if you have compromised the health of your skin barrier is to take note of how your skin feels after cleansing. Is it tight, dry, irritated and/or red? Do you see small lines on the skin? This could indicate dehydrated skin and a damaged moisture barrier.
The skin often peels and overall feels uncomfortable when the barrier is damaged. In addition, you may find that your skin stings or burns when it comes into contact with certain moisturizers and other skincare products.
Repairing The Skin Barrier
If you are using harsh skincare products that may cause barrier damage, such as harsh cleansers, aggressive toners, strong chemical exfoliators, or drying acne treatments, it is completely possible to repair the skin barrier and restore it to a healthy, supple feel.
One of the most important steps in repairing a damaged moisture barrier includes incorporating thick lotions or creams to your routine.
In addition, a hyaluronic acid serum may be beneficial to your skin as it attracts water molecules and keeps your skin moisturized and hydrated.
Read more on how to repair a damaged moisture barrier.
How Long Does It Take For The Skin Barrier To Repair?
Depending on the severity of the skin damage, the length of time it takes to repair will vary.
In terms of using harsh skincare products, the skin will quickly repair itself once harsh cleansers and drying toners are stopped.
The skin cycle lasts approximately 4 weeks. After 4 weeks of using gentle cleansers, cutting out alcohol-containing toners, and incorporating hydrating and moisturizing ingredients into your routine, you can see a vast improvement in the health of your skin.