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Healing A Damaged Moisture Barrier

If you haven't already seen my video on healing a damaged moisture barrier, you should check it out here. It should help clear up what your moisture barrier is, and why it is important.

For a quick summary: your moisture barrier keeps the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. Having a damaged one, is no bueno. When your skin is damaged and your moisture barrier has become compromised, you can imagine the kind of trouble this can start for your skin. And it's no good news for your acne.

If you have a damaged moisture barrier, your skin is probably:

- overly dry, overly oily

- easily irritated

- acne-prone

- itchy

- red

- inflamed

- tight

Damaged moisture barriers can be the result of using too low or high of pH products. See more about pH here. It may also be from using products improperly, in improper dilution, etc. It may also be from excessive exfoliation, or sun exposure.

If your skin is any one or combination of those things, it may be a damaged moisture barrier. The more skin issues you check off on that list, the more likely it is a damaged moisture barrier is at the root of it.

So if acne is your main concern, but you think you might have a damaged barrier, your healing process is going to need to start with the barrier, not the acne. Acne may just be a symptom of a larger problem (isn't it always?). That means you need to follow certain guidelines and use products that will help heal your skin!


When you have a damaged moisture barrier, you need to consider a complete overhaul for your skin care routine and your lifestyle. Here's a few tips to get you started:

1. Get Back to Basics

Overcomplicated routines are a recipe for trouble. I always cringe a little bit when someone tells me their routine and it's about 10 products long. We really need to keep it simple, with effective products like the ones listed below. Take a long, hard look at your routine. Get rid of products with astringents, like alcohol and witch hazel, and avoid foaming cleansers, which leach away our skin's lipids.

2. Stop Exfoliating

I know this seems like a bad idea, especially if you're like me and love to exfoliate. Without proper exfoliation as we age, our skin problems can get worse, but when you have a damaged moisture barrier, exfoliation should be the furthest thing from your mind. Too often people are using exfoliants that are too harsh or not right for their skin type, and this can further exacerbate a damaged moisture barrier. Don't worry, you'll be able to add it back in once you've got the bigger issue out of the way!

3. Mind the Temperature

Don't wash your face with piping hot water, and don't steam your skin during this time - keep the water tepid, and avoid getting it wet with hot shower water, too. This will only serve to steal more lipids from your skin.

4. Stress Management

Stress is proven to slow down the skin healing process, including skin barrier recovery. So, daily stress or poor stress management can leave the skin barrier in a permanently weakened state. I can't tell you the most effective ways to handle your stress, although I do mention a few methods here and here. Stress management can be elusive, but it's something worth sitting down and actively trying to do each and every day.


The things you'll want to look for are: antioxidants (vitamins, green tea, soy, etc) and lots of skin-repairing ingredients (ceramides, hyaluronic acid, fatty acids, etc). You need emollient ingredients which protect and allow the skin to repair through cell renewal. You also need products that have lipid components, as well as humectant ingredients (hyaluronic acid, glycerin). Occlusives also provide a seal to the moisture to prevent water loss. Ingredients like jojoba and squalane from olives act as lubricants on the skin. Triglycerides like castor oil are also very nourishing.

I also recommend using a moisturiser with linoleic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid that is perhaps one of the most significant lipids for the maintenance of barrier function. It’s an essential fatty acid for the formation of the lamellar phase of the stratum corneum lipids - which we can't manufacture ourselves, so we must obtain it through diet or topical application. It helps repair barrier function and is an effective moisturising agent.

I've compiled a short list of barrier repairing products for you to try!

Paula's Choice Skincare Calm Redness Relief SPF 30 Moisturizer (Normal to Dry)

Get it here.

I really can't recommend this product enough - or most of Paula's Choice products, for that matter! Almost all of Paula's Choice moisturizers have barrier repair ingredients, but Paula's Choice Skincare Calm Redness Relief SPF 30 Moisturizer for Normal to Dry Skin (not Normal to Oily) goes beyond basic repair. Thanks to plant oils and antioxidants, it soothes redness and irritation caused by things like eczema and rosacea, it gently hydrates, and it leaves behind a pretty, dewy finish that's so hard for irritated skin to achieve.

Derma E Hydrating Cleanser

Get it here.

This is a great, gentle cleanser option for dry and damaged skin. It has hyaluronic acid; the magic of this ingredient lies in its ability to retain moisture; it’s considered to have a greater capacity to hold moisture than any other natural or synthetic polymer. In fact, one gram of hyaluronic acid is able to hold up to six liters of water. Hyaluronic acid also doubles as an antioxidant defense against free-radical damage, and reduces inflammation (1)(2).

Acure Organics Sensitive Facial Cleanser

Get it here.

This gentle cleanser contains glyceryl oleate which is a fatty acid, as well as an array of antioxidants. Again, the key to a healthy moisture barrier is a gentle cleanser.

Mad Hippie Face Cream

Get it here.

This is an amazing product and I highly, highly recommend it. It has peptides (fatty acids), as well as niacinamide which is great for boosting collagen production and boosting lipid production. It is also extremely rich in antioxidants. I would snag this up as your new moisturizer if you need one.

Dermalogica Ultra Calming Barrier Repair

Get it here.

This option is a tad more expensive, but it does contain everything needed to heal a damaged moisture barrier. It contains cyclopentasiloxane as an emollient, dimethicone as a conditioning occlusive, as well as healing oat extracts.

MyChelle Dermaceuticals Hydrating Cactus Mask

Get it here.

This mask has a lot of hydrating, antioxidant ingredients that would be great for healing damaged, dry and irritated skin. It will soothe and nourish skin that needs a little extra TLC. Ingredeitns like blue agave help to ease irritation and discomfort, as well as mitigate signs of redness.

Acure Organics Night Cream

Get it here.

This night cream is a lovely, hydrating option for dry and damaged skin. It contains ingredients that will help stimulate collagen production, as well as repair and moisturize the skin.

Life Extension Skin Restoring Phytoceramides

Get it here.

I wrote a whole blog post on this product, because it's just that great. Lipid composition in diseased skin is characterized by decreased levels of ceramide and altered ceramide profiles. Some studies have found that decreased ceramide level is a major etiologic factor in skin diseases, and skin lipid supplementation provides opportunities for controlling ceramide deficiency and improving skin condition.

Follow these guidelines and your skin will be well on its way to being healthy, happy, glowy and beautiful once again!

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