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The skincare world is abuzz with talk of the skin moisture barrier. Often referred to as a shield or protective layer, the skin moisture barrier is the skin’s primary defence against the outside world – including stressors like UV rays, pollution and bacteria. Far from a fleeting trend, investing in skin barrier care can set your skin up to look its healthiest when you wake up in the morning, and contribute to skin health in the long run. Below, we’ve assembled a guide to what causes a damaged skin barrier, how to know if your skin barrier is damaged, plus our recommendations for Kiehl’s products to keep your skin barrier hydrated and resilient.

What is the skin barrier?

The skin is comprised of many interlocking layers, with the layer known as the skin barrier located at the very surface. The top layer of skin is called the epidermis – and the skin barrier, or stratum corneum, makes up the outermost part of this layer. This skin layer has two important functions:

·       Shields the body from external factors like free radicals, pollution and allergens

·       Controls trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) to retain skin moisture

What causes a damaged skin barrier?

A healthy skin moisture barrier can defend your skin from external aggressors while maintaining moisture levels, often with no skincare intervention required. But it isn’t invincible - there are plenty of factors that unsettle the skin barrier’s equilibrium. Here are just a few to look out for:

  • Cold Weather
  • Very humid or very dry environments
  • UV exposure
  • Over-exfoliation and over-cleansing
  • Stress

How to know if your skin barrier is damaged?

Signs of skin barrier damage vary - at times, weather conditions or an exfoliation mishap can put your skin moisture barrier under low-level strain, while longer-term issues can happen too. If you’re noticing some or all of the following signs, it’s possible the delicate balance of your skin barrier has been impacted and a little skin TLC is required:

  • Dry, flaking skin
  • Dull, dehydrated skin
  • Itchy sensations
  • Tender skin sensations

5 steps to a healthy skin barrier

So – now you’re across how the skin moisture barrier works and how to know if your skin barrier is damaged. But what happens next, and how can you address your compromised skin barrier and nurse it back to optimal condition? With the right products and ingredients, you can improve skin moisture levels, dullness and texture, and care for your compromised skin barrier effectively.

Step 1: Seek expert advice

It’s best to get some expert insight before you embark on your quest for a healthy skin barrier. From helping you understand what your skin is going through to personalised product recommendations, head to our skin services to pick the online or in-store option that’s best for you. Alternatively, you can seek out the assistance of a dermatologist when more in-depth advice is needed.

Step 2: Use a gentle cleanser

When curating a skincare routine to help skin barrier damage, start with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt and grime that may have formed during the day or overnight. This step prepares your skin to take in nourishing, hydrating skincare steps without being disrupted by sebum and other factors that accumulate on the face.

What to use:

Our Ultra Facial Cleanser combines gentle foaming agents with emollients like squalane and vitamin E for an efficient, pH balanced cleanse that leaves skin feeling fresh and supple.

Step 3: Reach for targeted skincare ingredients

Some skincare ingredients can impart useful benefits for a broken skin barrier such as hydration, comfort, smoothing and brightening. These skincare properties can help a lot with the visual appearance of skin barrier damage while attending to the skin’s needs. Targeted steps can be added to your morning or night time skin routine.

What to use:

For a dedicated night skin oil with helpful skin barrier ingredients, opt for our bestselling Midnight Recovery Concentrate. Use as a final step in your evening skincare routine for a skin comforting combination of botanical lavender, squalane and evening primrose oils to nourish your damaged skin barrier while you get your beauty sleep.

If your concerns are anti-ageing alongside skin barrier support, get a serum that can do both. The Vital Skin-Strengthening Super Serum is a hard working multitasker for your serum stage. This serum is packed with micro hyaluronic acid for hydration and glow, and our proprietary Adaptogenic Herbal Complex to deeply target skin-aging stressors.

Step 4: Add hydrating skincare steps

Ensuring each step of your skincare routine contains hydrating ingredients for skin barrier support is a key step. The Kiehl’s Ultra Facial skincare collection has you covered – in this line, each skincare step is infused with skin identical squalane oil and moisturising apricot kernel, avocado and sweet almond oils. If you want a lightweight, daily moisturiser enriched with these ingredients, our Ultra Facial Cream with Squalane is the one for you.

Step 5: Apply SPF daily

Lastly – but no less importantly – remember to complete your AM skincare with a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It’s one of the best tools in your skincare arsenal, as studies have shown approximately 80% of skin ageing occurs as a result of UV radiation.I Whichever sunscreen you choose, apply generously to ensure even coverage, reapply as needed and follow other sun safety guidance like seeking shade and putting on a hat when in direct sunlight.

We hope you found our guide to skin barrier damage helpful. Next up, uncover what is a skin barrier repair cream?.

IZhang, Shoubing, and Enkui Duan. "Fighting against Skin Aging: The Way from Bench to Bedside." Cell transplantation vol. 27,5 (2018): 729-738. doi:10.1177/0963689717725755.


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