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Why Might It Take Months To Heal a Damaged Skin Barrier?

It may take months to heal a damaged skin barrier due to a variety of factors including your skin care routine, environmental stressors, and lifestyle factors. 

Each of these factors must be carefully curated to support the skin barrier. After all, the skin is the body’s largest organ and requires attention and care for the overall health of your body.


What Does a Damaged Skin Barrier Look Like?

dry, flaky skin - a sign of a damaged skin barrier

A damaged skin barrier comes in many forms, ranging from mild to severe damage. Typically, the following symptoms are present when the skin barrier is damaged:


  • Dry, dehydrated, and/or flaky skin
  • Consistent redness and inflammation
  • Irritation
  • Itchiness
  • The feeling of tight skin after cleansing
  • Persistent acne
  • Dehydration lines (appear as small wrinkles)

The causes include harsh skin care products, physical aggressors (like using rough towels on the skin), and lifestyle factors including lack of sleep and poor diet. While there may be other factors that contribute to a damaged skin barrier, these are the most common and preventable factors to focus on.


Factors That Make a Damaged Skin Barrier Worse

While you may be trying to heal a damaged skin barrier, it is important to note that seemingly small habits can consistently damage your skin barrier. 

Poor Skin Care

three bottles of skincare products with white background


Using products high in alcohol.

Unfortunately, many of the products available over-the-counter have added high amounts of alcohol.

When it comes to toners, they are notorious for including high alcohol volumes to make the skin tighter and make pores appear smaller.

When alcohol makes contact with the skin, it evaporates quickly and leaves the skin dry. This can lead to dehydration, redness, irritation, and detrimental transepidermal water loss of the skin.

It is imperative to choose products with low alcohol content and a high amount of water, hydrators (like hyaluronic acid) and emollients (like glycerin).


Using a drying face wash.

Face washes are important to cleanse the skin of dirt, oil, makeup, and sunscreen.

However, many face washes contain harsh surfactants such as sodium lauryl sulfate that can denature proteins on the skin and cause dehydration.

Look for a cleanser with gentle surfactants, a minimal ingredient list, and preferably a cleanser that has skin-nourishing ingredients. These can include humectants like hyaluronic acid and emollients like ceramides.


Over-washing the skin.

You may believe you have picked out the perfect cleanser. However, no matter how gentle your cleanser may be, it is essential to ensure that you are not over-washing your face.

Washing your face more than twice per day can lead to skin dryness and inflammation. Both of these factors lead to a damaged skin barrier if exacerbated over time. 


Using too many active ingredients.

Active ingredients affect the cell turnover rate of the skin. They exfoliate the skin to promote the shedding of dead skin cells.

Examples of active ingredients include acids and retinol.

If you use more than one active ingredient in your routine, you may experience an excessive amount of inflammation and irritation. This skin dryness can lead to a damaged skin barrier and will impair your skin’s ability to heal itself. 

Bad Habits

There are plenty of bad habits that can lead to a damaged skin barrier.


Using rough fabrics on the skin.

Often, people will wipe their face with a face towel after washing. However, many face towels have abrasive textures that can actually harm the skin. Tugging, rubbing, or pulling at the skin can all lead to irritation and inflammation.


Using water that is too hot.

It is important to understand that simply washing your face, even with just water, will lead to transepidermal water loss of the skin.

Using hot water will lead to even more water loss as it is particularly irritating.

Face washes have detergents that clean the skin – These aggregate together to form a group called micelles.

When micelles come into contact with hot water, they easily penetrate into the skin and can denature more proteins on the surface of the skin, cause more water loss, thus causing excess drying.


Not cleaning your pillowcases or phone.

Inflammation in the skin is often exacerbated by bacteria found on common household items.

Cellphones and pillowcases are both objects that touch our faces. It is important to clean the surface of your phone and regularly wash your pillowcases to avoid bacterial infections, irritation, and

exacerbation of existing acne. 

Lifestyle Factors

There are two primary factors that can affect the quality of your skin and its ability to fight against environmental stressors. 


Poor diet.

Eating foods with low nutritional value will not only harm your physique and overall health, but also your skin specifically.

One study in the Journal of Dermatological Therapy has shown that patients suffering from acne had low levels of zinc in their blood. Oral consumption of zinc led to a decrease in inflammatory acne.

Another study emphasized the importance of vitamins in the diet.

Patients with acne were low in vitamins A and E.

In general, vitamin D and E have been shown to enrich the skin, stabilize cell membranes, and provide antioxidant and photoprotective effects on the skin.

They minimize skin aging, prevent dehydration and dryness, and keep the skin barrier intact. 


Not sleeping enough.

multiple letter "z's" to reperesent sleep with pink background

Sleep is incredibly important in the regeneration and repair of your skin. When we sleep, the body undergoes many renewal processes

One study by the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dermatology suggested that poor sleep leads to increased skin aging and decreased skin barrier functioning. On the flip side, getting more sleep improved people’s perception of their appearance.

How Long Does It Take To Fix a Damaged Skin Barrier?

The skin undergoes a cycle every few weeks.

During this cycle, new skin cells form and then differentiate (specialize) into skin cells with specific functions. Once these cells age, they shed. This shedding process is known as desquamation.

From cellular formation to desquamation, the process takes approximately 4 – 6 weeks. This means that it will likely take a minimum of 4 – 6 weeks to see improvements in your skin barrier. 

How Do I Know If My Skin Barrier Is Repaired?

There are a few characteristics that you can keep track of in order to know when your skin barrier is repaired:

  • Skin is less dry and/or flaky, especially under makeup
  • You no longer experience burning, itching or irritation after washing or applying skin care products
  • Fine dehydration lines are gone
  • Skin looks more even, plump, and bright


  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32860489/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/

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