In recent years, the emphasis on maintaining a healthy and resilient skin barrier has surged in popularity, yet the ingredients responsible for repair aren’t often talked about. As we approach 2024, a discernible trend is emerging – a shift towards skincare product formulations that speak to the science behind barrier repair.
In case you don’t know about the skin’s barrier, here is what you first need to know.
The moisture barrier is the outermost layer of the skin that helps retain water and protects it from external aggressors, like bacteria and environmental debris. Think of it like your skin’s personal bodyguard, which helps keep the good in and the bad out. It’s made up of lipids (oils) that bind your skin cells together. When intact, it’s responsible for keeping skin feeling soft and smooth. When the moisture barrier becomes damaged (such as from over-exfoliation, retinol, and the use of harsh products), small, invisible cracks appear. Through these cracks, moisture can easily escape and irritants can easily enter. The skin may start to feel tight, dry, and sensitive. Essentially, it’s like your skin lost its protective bodyguard – and it needs to be fixed!
So, What Ingredients and Methods are Best to Repair Your Barrier?
From a product formulation standpoint, these are five effective ways to repair a compromised barrier that you need to know about when choosing skincare products.
1. Use products containing Niacinamide at approximately 2-4%
This versatile ingredient plays a crucial role in not just repairing the skin barrier but also promoting overall skin health. Niacinamide is most beneficial in serums or moisturizers left on the skin, so it has time to penetrate the skin’s upper layers and go to work.
2. Use products containing usnic acid (usnea)
Usnic acid is a natural extract from lichens that is a gentle solution for barrier repair. It balances skin’s microbiome, leaving it feeling soothed. Usnic acid can be found in products in the form of sodium usnate or Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract.
3. Use products that contain ceramides, essential fatty acids, and fatty acids
These ingredients work in harmony to strengthen and replenish the skin barrier, providing the essential building blocks for healthy skin. Look for ingredients like phytosphingosine, ceramide AP, and ceramide NP. Phytosterols are also great for barrier repair and very similar to ceramides as they’re part of the skin’s structure.
4. Use products that contain plant oils rich in fatty acids and omegas
Incorporating plant oils into our routines helps nourish the skin with essential fatty acids and omegas, promoting barrier recovery. Shea butter, jojoba oil and squalene have components similar to the structure of human sebum, making them a natural fit to protect your skin’s barrier.
You can either use a moisturizer full of plant oils or apply a few drops of Pro Remedy Oil as the last step of your skincare routine to lock moisture in– here’s how to apply it the correct way.
5. Use products with occlusive ingredients
Occlusives in skincare refer to ingredients that create a barrier on the skin’s surface, helping to prevent water loss and enhance moisture retention. It’s a common misconception that occlusive ingredients (like ceramides, squalane, and shea butter) clog pores or don’t allow your skin to breathe. In reality, the right amount of occlusive ingredients is required to create a protective seal, preventing moisture loss and aiding in barrier repair. Sunflower oil is an occlusive plant oil found in Phytolipid Comfort Creme that works to repair skin’s moisture barrier function.
Look for the following occlusive ingredients when shopping for barrier-repairing products.
As many brands tout barrier repair claims, understanding the science of how a product achieves this has grown increasingly important. Many brands will claim a moisturizer or mask will repair the barrier but it’s really important to understand how a product achieves this. I hope this has brought you some clarity when it comes to the ‘how’ of effective barrier repair. Now you can ensure your skincare choices align with the facts behind healthy, glowing skin.
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”