How to repair a damaged skin barrier

With a rise of beauty and skin influencers and the introduction of new brands that cater to all kinds of skin types, colour, and issues, the world of skincare is ever expanding. People are focused on achieving healthy skin while sampling products that are both internationally acclaimed and new.

While chasing the idea of ‘perfect skin’, you can sometimes go overboard and with the products we opt for. Using products with chemicals and abrasive ingredients can be beneficial however if used in excess it can damage our skin and skin barrier instead.
The skin barrier is a very important layer as it keeps the skin moist and the gunk out (Representational image) (Shutterstock)

Dr Mikki Singh, head dermatologist at Bodycraft Skin Clinic explains, “The importance of the skin barrier cannot be stressed enough. The skin barrier or lipid barrier is made up of cholesterol, free fatty acids and ceramides. Physically, it protects the layers of the skin from external factors such as infectious agents, pollution, chemicals, systemic toxicity and allergens. Internally, it protects from trans-epidermal water loss from the deeper layers to retain moisture and hydration.”

A person’s skin barrier can get damaged due to a variety of factors such as extreme weather conditions, harsh facial products that strip the skin of its natural oils, over cleansing or exfoliation and incorrect use of active ingredients like AHAs and BHAs.

The biggest sign of a unhealthy skin barrier is acne breakout due to the inability of the skin to keep out the acne causing bacteria. A damaged skin barrier can also look like excessive dryness which leads to loss of ceramides, inflammation, and scaling, says Dr Yuti Nakhwa, consultant dermatologist and cosmetologist. “Trauma to the skin after scratches, any injury leading to loss of skin or burns can also lead to loss of skin barrier,” she adds.

But fret not! If your skin barrier is damaged, it can be healed. “Depending on the damage to the skin, your skin barrier should fix itself within three weeks to a month. In some instances, it may take up to two months. So, it is important to avoid any damaging practices during this period,” advises Singh.

Nakhwa adds, “In case of dryness, its important to moisturize your skin with moisturisers containing ceramides, regularly. If there is loss of skin as in burns, one needs to use antibacterial creams topically to prevent any secondary infection.”

While looking for skincare products with a compromises skin barrier, keep an eye out for soothing, barrier-protecting ingredients such as ceramides, peptides, niacinamide, Centella asiatica and green tea as they will heal and maintain the skin.

The difference between a healthy and unhealthy skin barrier (Shutterstock)
The difference between a healthy and unhealthy skin barrier (Shutterstock)

These are few ways a skin barrier can be healed:

– Stop using any exfoliation for two to three weeks

– Use a gentle soap-free calming cleanser

– Use a moisturiser with ceramides, peptides, cholesterol and fatty acids to help restore the lipid barrier

– Avoid using an active ingredients for two to three weeks and stick to a simple skincare routine

– Compulsorily using sunscreen during the day.

– Seeing a skincare professional will help you understand the reasons for your compromised barrier and how to fix it.

Inputs Dr Mikki Singh, head dermatologist at Bodycraft Skin Clinic

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