When your skin barrier is damaged, your skin struggles to hold onto moisture, and this will lead to uncomfortable sensations such as dryness, redness, irritation, or more severe burning.
When you start experiencing some of these symptoms, you need to carefully pick skincare products that will help repair & strengthen your skin barrier (without causing more issues.)
Therefore, in this article, I will give you my top recommendations of the 19 best products to repair the skin barrier, along with useful tips on how to strengthen your skin barrier and avoid skin damage down the line.
What is Our Skin Barrier, And Why Is It Important?
The skin barrier is your body’s first line of defense against the outside world.
It serves a multitude of essential roles, but three of its primary duties include:
- Protecting your body from external stressors such as pollution and toxins.
- Preventing moisture loss.
- Keeping bacteria and other harmful microorganisms at bay.
To understand what the skin barrier is and why it’s so important for it to remain strong and healthy, think of your skin as a brick wall.
The skin cells are the bricks, while the lipids (fats) in between act as the mortar, keeping everything together
This structure helps to retain moisture and keeps you hydrated, which is crucial for maintaining healthy skin.
When our skin barrier is damaged, moisture from the deeper layers of the skin will evaporate, and without it, you will start experiencing symptoms such as dryness, tightness, itchiness, redness, and irritation.
Moreover, the skin barrier also prevents the entry of pathogens and environmental aggressors into our bodies.
Therefore, when our skin barrier is damaged, bacteria and irritants can easily make their way in, colonizing and overgrowing to the point where our immune system will try to fight it, which will result in visible skin inflammation, such as redness, itchiness, and discomfort, along with inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and dermatitis.
Essentially, your skin barrier helps keep the bad stuff out (irritants, pollution) and the good stuff in (water, lipids) and is vital for overall skin health and clear appearance.
What Are The Signs Of a Damaged Skin Barrier?
While our skin barrier is strong and resilient, it can weaken as a result of factors like aging, harsh environments, such as the use of drying and stripping cosmetics, and environmental factors, such as UV damage and damaging pollutants that attack our skin cells.
When our skin barrier is weakened or damaged, the skin will show the following signs:
- Flakiness and peeling.
- Inflammation and irritation.
- Rough patches.
- Stinging, especially when you apply skin care products.
- Tenderness or sensitivity.
How to Repair a Damaged Skin Barrier?
Here are the best tips on how to repair a damaged skin barrier:
Use a Gentle Cleanser: The first step in repairing the skin barrier is to switch your regular cleanser with a gentler one that won’t strip your skin of the little hydration it produces or attracts from a humid environment.
Hydrate Continuously: A damaged skin barrier requires moisture, so keeping your skin well-hydrated is critical. This can be achieved by drinking plenty of water and using hydrating skincare products that contain humectants, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, which are components that attract moisture from the deeper layers of the skin or a humid environment.
Incorporate Ceramides: Look for moisturizers rich in ceramides, which are lipids that closely resemble our natural oils and help form the skin’s barrier and retain moisture.
Avoid Abrasive Scrubs: These will forcefully remove the dead skin cells that are holding on to moisture, causing the little hydration left to evaporate and further damaging the skin barrier.
Avoid Exfoliation: While gentle exfoliants in the form of acids and enzymes are generally better alternatives to scrubs, they should also be avoided until your skin barrier has recovered from damage.
Use Fragrance-Free Cosmetics: Fragrances in cosmetics can irritate the skin and exacerbate damage to the skin barrier, leading to long-term skin issues and conditions such as dermatitis.
Use Specific Repair Products: Some products are specifically formulated to repair the skin barrier and contain barrier-strengthening, soothing, and hydrating ingredients that will help reduce damage and uncomfortable symptoms such as dryness, redness, and itching.
Best Products To Repair The Skin Barrier
Here are the best products to repair the skin barrier:
Best Cleansers for Damaged Skin Barrier
When choosing a cleanser for a damaged skin barrier, opt for a product that’s free of drying and irritating components such as alcohol and fragrance.
On the other hand, avoid cleansers that foam and opt for something with a milky consistency that contains soothing, hydrating, and anti-inflammatory components.
Here are my recommendations for the best cleansers for damaged skin barrier:
La Roche Posay Toleriane – Hydrating Gentle Cleanser
The Hydrating Gentle Cleanser from La Roche Posay’s Toleriane range is an excellent cleanser for everyone who struggles with dry and irritated skin as a result of a damaged barrier.
It is perfect for people going through lasers or microneedling and those currently getting used to strong prescription treatments such as tretinoin, which can initially cause barrier damage while the skin is getting used to the potent active ingredient.
Besides that, it can be used as a first cleanser to remove makeup, as it is extremely gentle and won’t sting the eyes.
The Hydrating Gentle Cleanser contains LRP’s exclusive Prebiotic Thermal Water as well as skin-replenishing ceramides, hydrating glycerin, and soothing niacinamide.
It has a milky texture that transforms into a soothing lather when applied and worked on the skin.
La Roche Posay Toleriane – Purifying Foaming Cleanser
The Purifying Foaming Cleanser contains an excellent combination of ingredients that address excessively oily skin, acne, and sensitivity.
This cleanser will efficiently remove daily grime, excess oils, and dirt accumulated on your skin, but it will also leave it soft and hydrated.
The unique blend contains hydrating humectants, soothing and repairing ingredients such as propanediol and niacinamide, and ceramides, which are the building blocks of a healthy skin barrier.
Vivant Skin Care – Cleansing Milk
The Cleansing Milk by Vivant Skin Care is an extremely gentle, non-drying cleanser specifically designed to support the skin’s delicate barrier.
Its luxuriantly creamy and moisture-rich formula lathers into a lightweight emulsion when in contact with water and effectively dissolves oil, dirt, and residue accumulated on the skin’s surface while leaving the skin feeling soothed and supple.
This cleanser stands out due to its unique composition of lightweight, antioxidant oils that cleanse without disrupting the natural moisture balance of the skin, thereby aiding in maintaining a healthy skin barrier.
Best Serums For a Damaged Skin Barrier
A barrier-repairing serum is a must when healing a damaged skin barrier.
Serums are super potent concoctions that contain hydrating, strengthening, soothing, and moisturizing ingredients packed in a lightweight formula that absorbs into the skin with ease and nourishes it across multiple layers.
Therefore, when choosing a serum for a damaged skin barrier, stay away from drying and irritating components such as alcohol and fragrance and opt for a product that contains barrier-repairing ingredients.
Here are my top recommendations for the best serums for a damaged skin barrier:
Krave – Great Barrier Relief Serum
Krave’s Great Barrier Relief Serum is formulated with barrier-repairing ingredients such as niacinamide, squalane, ceramides, sodium PCA, urea, oat, and safflower oil.
Fantastic for those with sensitive, reactive, and irritated skin, this heavy-duty serum will not only strengthen the skin barrier but create an occlusive layer on the surface to protect it from external aggressors.
With a creamy, nourishing consistency, the Barrier Relief Serum will certainly become a loved instrument in your barrier-repairing arsenal.
La Roche Posay – Toleriane Sensitive Fluide
The La Roche Posay Toleriane Sensitive Fluide is a lightweight emulsion that’s technically considered a moisturizer but suitable to be used as a serum in an instance of barrier damage, specially formulated for problematic skin that gets clogged and breaks out from anything.
It is formulated with only ten ingredients, including water, caprylic/capric triglyceride, lipids important for skin health, soothing propanediol, brightening and balancing niacinamide, and a few other humectants and stabilizers.
It’s also safe for fungal acne, which is another problem triggered by many products marketed towards acne-prone skin.
And lastly, it’s exceptionally good for ultra-sensitive skin as it doesn’t contain drying alcohol, fragrance or fragrant components such as essential oils.
Good Light – We Come In Peace Microbiome Serum
Good Light’s Microbiome Serum is a nourishing, heavy-duty product with a rich consistency and a blend of probiotics to help balance the skin’s microbiome and strengthen its protective barrier.
With a potent combination of carrot, moringa, and olive oil, the serum delivers an instant softening effect on the skin’s surface.
On the other hand, the addition of bakuchiol, which is considered the natural, pregnancy-safe alternative to retinol, provides cell repairment and antioxidant protection that will help you achieve a more youthful and nourished look.
This is a serum that will work wonders for dry, damaged, dehydrated, and even sensitive skin; however, due to the high oil content, those with combo, oily, and acne-prone skin should stay away from it.
Best Moisturizers For a Damaged Skin Barrier
A moisturizer is the most important product in your barrier-repairing skincare routine.
It acts like a sealant, locking in all the beneficial ingredients you’ve applied to your skin, preventing water loss, and keeping your skin hydrated.
The ideal moisturizer for repairing a damaged skin barrier should contain ingredients known as humectants, emollients, and occlusives.
Humectants, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, draw water into the skin from the environment and the deeper layers of the skin, providing immediate hydration.
Emollients, like oils and ceramides, fill in gaps between skin cells, smoothing and softening the skin surface.
Occlusives, such as petrolatum, form a protective layer on the skin surface to prevent water loss.
Additionally, while choosing a good moisturizer is essential for barrier repair, it’s also important to apply your moisturizer correctly for maximum effectiveness.
Apply it onto damp skin, ideally within a few minutes of cleansing, applying your toners or serums, or right after showering. This helps ‘trap’ the moisture on your skin, promoting better absorption.
With that said, here are my top ten recommendations for the best moisturizers for a damaged skin barrier:
First Aid Beauty – Ultra Repair Cream
The Ultra-Repair Cream by First Aid Beauty is an ultra-nourishing moisturizer suitable for normal, dry, and dehydrated skin dealing with sensitivity and irritation due to barrier damage.
It contains a few ingredients, including stearic acid, Cetearyl alcohol, and squalane, which are excellent emollients for someone with dry skin, along with triglycerides, which are lipids naturally found in our skin’s natural oil and are essential for a healthy skin barrier.
It also contains moisturizing shea butter anti-inflammatory colloidal oatmeal and soothing licorice extract to help relieve irritation and soothe symptoms such as redness, stinging, and itching.
COSRX – Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream
The COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream is a thick and occlusive cream formulated to protect, calm, soothe, and strengthen dry and irritated skin.
This cream is notably rich in Ceramide NP (10,000 ppm), a key ingredient known for its ability to replenish the skin’s natural lipids and strengthen the skin barrier.
It also contains Centella Asiatica (Cica), a plant extract known for its soothing properties and ability to help skin battle dryness and protect it from external environmental stressors that are causing it to become red, irritated, and itchy.
In terms of consistency, the COSRX Balancium Comfort Ceramide Cream is a thick, soft cream that dries down to a waxy matte. This makes it most suitable for those with dry and damaged, as it provides deep hydration and a thick occlusive layer on the surface to prevent trans-epidermal moisture loss.
Uriage Bariederm – Cica Daily Gel-Cream
The Uriage Bariederm-Cica Daily Gel-Cream is a lightweight gel cream that absorbs quickly and easily without leaving a heavy and sticky residue on the skin’s surface.
It’s a more suitable product for day use or to be used by combination and oily skin.
It contains a 10.5% Thermal-Biotic Complex in unison with Uriage Thermal Water to help the skin bounce back from fatigue and restore its radiance.
The look of dry skin is reduced, thanks to an infusion of Centella Asiatica and hyaluronic acid. At the same time, soothing copper zinc encourages a comforting sensation, helping to replenish irritated and stressed-out skin.
Embryolisse – Lait Creme Sensitive
Embryolisse’s Lait-Creme Sensitive is a deeply moisturizing and nourishing cream developed for irritated and sensitive skin.
The soothing cream is fragrance-free and rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins that provide the skin with nutrients and protect it from pathogenic aggressors while helping it retain moisture and a healthy barrier.
Besides that, there are also soothing aloe vera and moisturizing shea butter and beeswax in the formula, making it a thick, nourishing product suitable for dry, mature, sensitive, and irritated skin.
EltaMD – AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer
The EltaMD AM Therapy Facial Moisturizer is a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer that not only hydrates the skin but also stimulates its natural water system to maintain moisture balance.
It’s designed to provide hydration all day long, making it an excellent choice for everyday use, including by those with combo, oily, and acne-prone skin.
This moisturizer is packed with notable soothing ingredients, including niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3 that refines enlarged pores and reduces redness
Additionally, it features hyaluronic acid, a powerful humectant that helps increase moisture retention in the skin.
The product also includes glycerin, which aids in skin hydration, and allantoin, known for its ability to soothe redness and irritation.
First Aid Beauty – Ultra-Repair BarriAIR Cream
First Aid Beauty’s Firming Cream is a rich and creamy balm that strengthens the skin barrier and helps the skin retain moisture.
It contains essential ceramides, triglycerides, and humectants to ensure the skin is hydrated on multiple levels, along with soothing oatmeal extract, redness-reducing niacinamide, brightening licorice extract, and firming collagen that will further fortify and strengthen the damaged skin barrier.
It is suitable for all skin types; however, it may not be the best option for acne-prone skin due to a couple of emollients that are on the heavier side.
Paula’s Choice – Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol
Paula’s Choice Barrier Repair Moisturizer is a thick, creamy moisturizer that helps slow down transepidermal water loss by creating a lightweight barrier on the skin’s surface.
The silky-smooth cream is infused with a very low strength of 0.01% retinol to further strengthen the skin’s elasticity and barrier but without the irritation often associated with stronger retinoids.
It is ideal for evening use, and it’s a good match for dry and mature skin.
Paula’s Choice – Omega + Complex Moisturizer
Paula’s Choice Omega + Complex Moisturizer is another great product with a lightweight, whipped texture that helps regenerate and energize dull, tired, and dehydrated skin.
It contains a blend of superfood omega fatty acids and replenishing ceramides that help strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier and promote a radiant complexion.
It also contains passion fruit and guava extracts, which are rich in antioxidants and help improve the skin from free-radical damage.
Eminence – Calm Skin Chamomile Moisturizer
The Eminence Calm Skin Chamomile Moisturizer is a barrier-nurturing moisturizer that works wonders on sensitive and irritated skin.
It’s designed to soothe inflammation, reduce redness, and promote a clear complexion with notable soothing and natural ingredients.
It comprises calming chamomile and arnica that work together to reduce irritation and inflammation while shea butter, known for its hydrating and emollient properties, and calendula oil, lauded for its antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, make it useful in healing wounds, soothing eczema, and relieving diaper rash.
Another key ingredient is aloe vera juice, recognized for its capacity to soothe and hydrate the skin.
With an ultra-creamy and hydrating consistency, the Calm Skin Chamomile Moisturizer is best suited for those with dry, irritated, and sensitive skin.
SkinCeuticals – Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2
Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 is an anti-aging cream that contains the optimal lipid ratio of 2% pure ceramides 1 and 3, 4% natural cholesterol, and 2% fatty acids, which aims to nourish the skin while simultaneously correcting signs of aging.
The unique lipid correction cream will also strengthen the skin barrier and encourage the skin to repair itself from damage, be it caused by an allergen, an external pathogen, damaging UV rays, or the natural aging process.
Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 has a creamy, fast-absorbing texture, and the moisturizer gives an instant radiance as soon as applied to the skin.
It is a great product for dry, mature skin. It can also be used as post-procedure aftercare or when starting retinol to prevent the initial irritation often associated with the active ingredient.
Best Ointments For a Damaged Skin Barrier
Ointments are slightly thicker than moisturizers, and while not everyone needs them, those with naturally dry and sensitive skin who are currently experiencing severe barrier damage may benefit from them while trying to heal their skin.
Ointments can be used after your serum and moisturizer in the evening to aid the skin’s natural regeneration process.
Here are my recommendations for the best ointments for a damaged skin barrier:
La Roche Posay – Cicaplast Baume B5
The Cicaplast Baume B5 by La Roche Posay is a product that will deliver immediate relief within the first seconds of applying it to irritated skin.
It is a thick balm that contains many soothing, repairing, and moisturizing ingredients, including softening shea butter, hydrating glycerin, soothing and repairing panthenol, nourishing magnesium, anti-inflammatory zinc, as well as Madecassoside, which is one of the four main compounds in the plant extract Centella Asiatica, an incredibly soothing and repairing agent that helps strengthen the skin barrier.
The Cicaplast Baume B5 is also non-comedogenic, and although it’s quite thick and heavy, there’s nothing here that will clog the pores and cause your skin to break out.
Vaseline – Healing Jelly Original
Good ole’ Vaseline is one of the simplest, easiest, and most affordable ways to repair the skin barrier.
Vaseline will create an occlusive barrier on the skin, and this will help slow down the evaporation of moisture, giving the skin a little bit of something to hold on to.
The best way to use Vaseline is to slather it on your skin after applying your moisturizer and leave it overnight.
It’s important to note that Vaseline won’t moisturize your skin, and while it will soften it and allow the natural oils to repair and replenish the damaged barrier, it’s best to use a moisturizer before applying Vaseline.
CeraVe – Healing Ointment
CeraVe’s Healing Ointment is the more expensive version of Vaseline, plus a few extra repairing and nourishing ingredients.
It contains essential ceramides that help restore and maintain the skin’s barrier and hyaluronic acid, which is an incredibly good humectant that attracts hydration to the skin’s surface.
The Healing Ointment can be used on dry, irritated, and damaged skin in any area of the face and body.
Best Face Masks For a Damaged Skin Barrier
A face mask is not necessary but can help provide extra nourishment, which will aid in the repairing of a damaged skin barrier.
Therefore, while it is totally up to you whether you will skip this part or try out a hydrating mask, here are some of my top recommendations for the best face masks for a damaged skin barrier.
LANEIGE – Cica Sleeping Mask
The LANEIGE Cica Sleeping Mask is a beautiful, creamy mask that can be used as an overnight moisturizer or a treatment for dry, dehydrated, damaged, and irritated skin.
It contains soothing and repairing ingredients, including panthenol, propanediol, squalane, Asiatic, and Madecassic acid, as well as a couple of oils that will soften and smooth out dry and rough patches.
Eminence – Calm Skin Arnica Masque
The Eminence Calm Skin Arnica Masque is a skin-soothing mask specifically formulated to calm sensitive and inflamed skin while detoxifying it of irritants accumulated on the surface.
This masque is packed with soothing ingredients and features arnica, known for its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which can improve circulation and reduce signs of redness, along with calendula and ivy, both recognized for their ability to soothe the skin while infusing it with an antibacterial effect.
As for its consistency, the Eminence Calm Skin Arnica Masque can described as a thick mask with an ultra-hydrating formulation, making it suitable for dry and damaged skin types, especially those dealing with sensitivity or inflammation.
Vivant Skin Care – Algae Soft Mask
The Algae Soft Mask by Vivant is an exceptional restorative and clarifying mask designed to nourish and renew dry, dehydrated, and damaged skin.
It’s enriched with natural, bioactive, and antioxidant ingredients, including algae, which is known for its healing properties and ability to renew cells, contributing to firmer and more toned skin, along with natural clays that refine enlarged pores and skin texture.
With a soft, creamy, and hydrating formula, the Algae Soft Mask is suitable for all skin types, especially those with dry or sensitive skin, as it provides deep hydration without causing further irritation.
How to Prevent Skin Barrier Damage In The Future?
Maintaining the health of your skin barrier is crucial for its function and appearance.
Therefore, to avoid dealing with inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and dermatitis, as well as uncomfortable symptoms such as dryness, tightness, redness, stinging, and burning down the line, you need to pay special attention to your skin barrier.
Here are the best strategies to prevent skin barrier damage in the future:
Use Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen: Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily. This will prevent cellular damage and will keep the skin barrier healthy and functioning.
Be Gentle with Your Skin: Avoid tugging and pulling at your skin, which can disrupt the skin barrier. Also, avoid long, hot baths or showers that can strip your skin of its natural oils.
Simplify Your Skincare Routine: Too many products can overwhelm your skin and disrupt its natural balance. Stick to a few key products that suit your skin type and address your skin concerns.
Use Antioxidant-Rich Products: Antioxidants help protect your skin from environmental stressors that cause cellular damage and barrier breakdown. Consider incorporating an antioxidant-rich serum or moisturizer into your routine.
Moisturize Daily: Regular moisturizing can help repair and maintain your skin barrier.
Limit Exfoliation: Over-exfoliating can damage your skin barrier. Try to limit exfoliation to once or twice a week.
Avoid Known Triggers: If you have sensitive skin or conditions like dermatitis, try to avoid known triggers, such as fragrances in cosmetics, that can disturb your skin barrier.
Incorporate Barrier-Repairing Ingredients: Look for skincare products that contain ingredients like ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid, which help maintain a strong and healthy skin barrier.
My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.
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