Is your skin currently taking a walk on the dry side? Flaking and dryness taking up residence on your complexion? Or are pink, red and inflamed some (or all) of the words you would use to describe your skin’s current M.O.? You may be suffering from a compromised moisture barrier, a common skin concern. It could be because you’ve switched up your skincare after spending more time at home this year, because you’ve started to experiment with new products and active ingredients, or exposure to environmental aggressors. The good news is that a troubled skin’s moisture barrier can be repaired with the help of tried-and-true ingredients that will give your complexion a welcome boost of hydration and nourishment.
We turned to Dr. Nina Wines, Clinique Derm Pro and dermatologist based in Sydney, for her expert-approved tips on how a compromised skin barrier can affect our skin health, and exactly how we can get our glow back.
The role of your skin's moisture barrier
The skin’s moisture barrier is the most outer layer of the skin, explains Dr Wines. “It’s our protector, guarding our body from environmental toxins and bacteria. It’s a 3D structure of stacked, densely packed lipids. Lipids play a crucial role maintaining the strength and protection of skin and are responsible for locking in moisture.” When your skin’s moisture barrier is intact, your complexion appears radiant, luminous and uniform, however when it’s damaged, the result is the exact opposite - cue dry, flaky skin, redness and inflammation.
Here's how the damage can be done
As mentioned above, some of the causes include exposure to environmental factors like free radicals, constantly switching up your skincare products, and also an over-zealous application of potent active ingredients. “Free radicals are the enemy of our skin,” says Dr Wines. “They are generated when our skin has been exposed to excessive sun, environmental chemicals or toxins. Our skin is a clever organ that generates its own antioxidants to combat free radicals, but sometimes our skin gets exhausted and can’t make enough to protect us. This can then damage the skin’s moisture barrier and may also lead to sunspots, pigmentation and redness.”
When it comes to skincare, Dr Wines explains that it’s human nature for us to think more is better, but over-zealous application of actives can damage the skin moisture layer, having an adverse effect. “Rather than enhancing the levels of moisture in our skin, it reacts.”
Let's start the repair process!
While we know it’s tempting to slather or scrub with every skin solution in sight to soothe our skin, less is more when it comes to a broken barrier; it can take up to two weeks to repair once damaged.
DO Calm down on active ingredients; avoid actives, acids or alcohols, as this can cause further issues.
DON'T Book in for any dermabrasion treatments or abrasive facial treatments.
DO use a great moisturiser. “The repair process begins by strengthening the barrier again using a quality protective moisturiser, which will seal all the cracks, locking moisture back into the skin.” explains Dr Wines.
DON'T turn to harsh exfoliants. While it might be tempting to slough away dryness, Dr Wines says that too much rubbing can strip your skin of essential lipids.
Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise...
… And did we mention moisturise? Building up the skin’s outer barrier benefits the appearance of the skin so when you’re searching for a formula, look for those with ingredients like humectants and hyaluronic acid. “Humectants moisturise the skin by drawing water from the lower cell layers,” explains Dr Wines. “Ingredients like glycerin and also activated aloe water help to soothe the skin; aloe vera creates a thin, protective film over it to shield nerve endings and help to lock in moisture.” If inflamed skin is your bugbear, Cica is your go-to; derived from Tiger grass, an ingredient commonly used in Chinese medicine thanks to its healing benefits, works to comfort irritated skin.
Hyaluronic acid is another iconic hydrating ingredient, and a naturally occurring substance in our skin that holds 1000 times its weight in water, plumping up the complexion.
HOW IT WORKS: Lightweight in texture, easily absorbed, fragrance-free and non-acnegenic, this lotion replenishes lost moisture and strengthens the skin, making it ideal for those with a compromised moisture barrier. Hard-working humectant glycerin is on hand to attract and lock-in moisture.
APPLY IT: Enjoy a moisturiser you can use both morning and night? This one’s for you.
HOW IT WORKS: Just because your skin may be on the oilier side, it doesn’t mean you may not experience the tell-tale signs of a compromised moisture barrier; in fact. Never fear; this oil-free gel formula glides on like a dream. With silica to help to absorb surface oil, your skin will lap up nourishing sunflower seed, barley and cucumber extracts.
APPLY IT: Use it twice a day after cleansing and clarifying.
HOW IT WORKS: If dryness, flaking and fine lines are common concerns and you’re on the hunt for an instant hit of hydration, look no further. Exclusive Aloe Vera Bio Ferment created using Aloe Extract Powder, Lactobacillus, and activated aloe water helps skin retain moisture and Auto-Replenishing Technology with caffeine and activated aloe water helps skin create its own internal water source, delivering continuous hydration to the skin.
APPLY IT: This cooling gel-cream can be applied morning and night. Expert tip: smooth it onto your skin as a mask and leave it in overnight for a hydrated, glowing complexion come morning.
PERFECT FOR: Very dry to dry combination skin types.
HOW IT WORKS: Just like a tall glass of water for thirsty skin types, think of this as the souped-up twist on the original, the richest moisturiser of them all but still lightweight on the skin. Promising continuous hydration – we’re talking 72 hours – hyaluronic acid keeps your skin’s moisture levels in check, as is soothing activated aloe water plus barrier-strengthening lipids and soothing cica to help restore dry, delicate skin to optimum condition.
APPLY IT: Apply this rich cream-gel liberally both morning and night. Also try it as a moisture mask for an extra boost and either tissue-off, or leave overnight for best results.