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May 9, 2022

How to Repair Your Skin Barrier

Skin Barrier 101

Our skin is a shield between our inner bodies and the environment. But when people refer to the skin barrier, they mean the very outer layer (or stratum corneum if you want to get scientific).

The skin barrier is made of tough skin cells that are layered together like bricks. Inside each brick, there's keratin and natural moisturizers. Layered between the bricks is the mortar, made of cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides. This brick-and-mortar barrier prevents the hydration in our bodies from evaporating. The skin barrier literally keeps us alive. And it's also the key to keeping our skin plump, clear, and dewy.

Is my skin barrier struggling?

Since it's the top layer, when your skin barrier is damaged, you can usually tell. Signs of a damaged barrier include:

  • dry/scaly skin
  • sensitive or inflamed areas
  • itchiness
  • rough or discolored patches
  • bacterial, viral, or fungal skin infections

How does damage happen?

To prevent future damage, it's helpful to know the cause. Common skin-barrier stressors are:

  • sun exposure or sunburn
  • over-washing or exfoliating
  • steroid medications
  • stress
  • dry or hot environments
  • hot water
  • high concentrations of skincare ingredients like vitamin C or retinoids

How do I repair my skin barrier?

There are three keys to repairing your skincare barrier: simplify, protect, and hydrate.

1. Simplify
Pare back your routine to just a few, gentle products to avoid stressing your skin or mixing ingredients that counteract each other. Look for multitaskers with natural antioxidants and oils. Our multitasking picks:

Too Cool for School All-in-One Egg Mellow Cream 5-in-1 Firming Moisturizer
Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream
Air Repair Complexion-Boosting Moisturizer

2. Protect
Prevent moisture loss with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or other humectants, substances that draw in and hold onto moisture. Our protective picks:

PCA SKIN Hyaluronic Acid Boosting Serum
Tenoverten The Heroine Hand Lotion
NuFACE Hydrating Aqua Gel

3. Hydrate
Ceramides, which are naturally found in the skin barrier, can help revive dry skin. Products with ceramides can help soothe and restore moisture levels, especially if you have acne or other skin irritation. Our hydrating picks:

Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Cream
FILA How Dew Yew Sheet Mask

To discover more products to help support your skin barrier, check out our favorite moisturizers at Birchbox.


Jac Wray

While a self-described social butterfly, I find empowerment in my independence. Taking myself on a spur of the moment solo vacation, dinner dates to new restaurants or parts of the city where my company is solely the characters in the book I bring, visiting the local bar and getting to know the bartenders over a glass of wine… or 3. I find that intimate moments with myself leave me feeling brave, confident, and empowered to take on the world without depending on anything else as a buffer. It also gives me time to reflect, plan, journal and explore new places at my own pace.