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How To Repair And Protect Your Skin Barrier

If you hadn’t heard of a “skin barrier” until recently, we don’t blame you. However, over the past year interest in the term has exploded – when we last checked, the hashtag #skinbarrier had more than three billion views on TikTok. 

And, this is one beauty trend that dermatologists are happy to see taking off – any skincare specialist will tell you that you can’t have happy skin without a happy skin barrier. So, what does your skin barrier actually do – and how can you protect it? Read on for our expert advice. 

What is your skin barrier?

Your skin barrier is made up of skin cells and lipids (the natural oils that keep your skin lubricated and healthy).  A well-functioning skin barrier is essential to the health of our skin. Your routine can nurture it by ensuring skin is gently cleansed, hydrated and protected from external pollutants and aggressors.

Why is skin barrier care so popular right now?

Content about our skin barrier is increasingly high on our social feeds and across industry skincare shelves. The trend lines up with the growth of retinoid use (think tretinoin that increases cell turnover) and exfoliating acids (AHAs and BHAs) in our routines. Overuse of these products – and active ingredients in general – has the potential to compromise the skin barrier resulting in irritation and sensitivity.

Active ingredients are popular for a reason – they’re a powerful, effective way to help you reach your skin goals. To keep your skin barrier happy while using these potent ingredients, you just need an expert-approved approach and a basic bit of skincare savvy.

If active ingredients in your routine feel like they’re excessively drying your skin or triggering increased sensitivity, assess first if this is a reaction to your ingredients or you simply need to decrease the frequency of active ingredient use until you build tolerance and step up your skin barrier protection routine.

Other factors that can damage your skin barrier include: 

🥶 Your environment – very dry or very humid conditions, extreme temperatures and really cold or really hot weather.

🧬 Your genetics, or an existing skin condition like dermatitis, psoriasis or eczema.

🧠 Your mental healthstress causes high cortisol levels, which in turn stresses out your skin.

The best ingredients for your skin barrier

We’ll let you in on a skincare secret: The reality of skin barrier protection is that you don’t really need a buzzy product that screams ‘skin barrier protection’ on the label. 

If you’re already using a gentle cleanser and good quality moisturiser, then the chances are you’ll be using some of the key ingredients that support a healthy skin barrier already.

Our Head of Medical, Dr Jason Thomson summarises the best of what you should look out for, “Essentially all good barrier-protecting moisturisers will include emollients, occlusives and humectants.”


⭐ Soothing and conditioning, emollients likely form the base of your moisturising treatment. Emollients can also be used as a skin-softening soap substitute.

⭐ They’re used to treat dry and irritation-prone skin (and conditions such as eczema and psoriasis).

⭐ Emollients can be water-based (lotions) or have a higher oil-water ratio (ointments).

⭐ The higher oil-water ration emollients form a film on the skin that locks in moisture and these are known as occlusive emollients. 

⭐ Examples of emollients include shea butter, allantoin and ceramides.


⭐ A group of ingredients that form a protective, physical barrier over the skin to prevent water loss and seal in hydration.

⭐ Coating your skin in an occlusive overnight is known as slugging.

⭐ Occlusives are mainly oil-based and can be comedogenic.

⭐ Examples of occlusives include petroleum, coconut oil, almond oil, avocado oil and jojoba oil.


⭐ A common skincare agent that attracts and retains moisture, pulling moisture from the air into the upper layers of skin.

⭐ Apply your humectant on damp skin for an extra hydration boost.

⭐ Examples of humectants include AHAs, salicylic acid, glycerin and sodium hyaluronate or hyaluronic acid.

How to repair your skin barrier

If you’re experiencing redness, sensitivity and dry patches then your barrier could be in need of some repair. First thing’s first – strip everything back. Your skin is in crisis mode, and it’s time for rest and recovery. Grab a thick moisturiser (the thicker, the better) and the gentlest cleanser you can find (ideally containing any of the ingredients listed above) and stick to this simple regime for at least two weeks. We recommend Skin + Me’s Purify + Prep Hydrating Cleanser and Soothe + Smoothe Rich Moisturiser

Pause your active ingredients until your skin is back to normal and reintroduce them slowly – once or twice a week at first, if you can tolerate it, up until you’re back to your regular routine. 

If you’re using your Skin + Me personalised solution and feel your skin barrier needs a break, email our friendly Dermatology Support Team at for guidance. It’s always best to speak to your Prescriber before pausing your treatment. What’s more, they’ll give you tips and advice based on your own unique needs.

How to support your skin barrier

Supporting your skin barrier is all about using a simple routine and using active ingredients mindfully. The personalised formula in your Daily Doser evolves in strength as your skin builds tolerance to ingredients like tretinoin – so, if you’re using it then you don’t need additional layers of active ingredients in your evening routine.

Sensitive skin? Consider applying active ingredients every other day, until you build tolerance.

⭐ Don’t forget SPF – this will protect you from external aggressors that can irritate your barrier further.

⭐ Remove makeup gently – lookout for products that include natural moisturisers like glycerin in your cleanser and face wash.

⭐ Moisturise with the right ingredients. Look out for scientifically-proven skincare heroes in your products – glycerin, allantoin and ceramides will soothe all skin types.

Medical facts checked by Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Jason Thomson 

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