Sensitive Skin | Oily Skin & Acne | Impaired barrier | Dry Skin

Barrier Repair: the Key to Outrageously Healthy Skin

Barrier repair is a vital yet often overlooked skincare aspect.

It serves as the frontline defence between your body and the external environment.

Comparable to a diligent security guard.

Your skin’s barrier works tirelessly to prevent potential irritants from penetrating.

The great thing is that it also safeguards everything within.

Neglecting this crucial function can lead to various skin conditions.

In our comprehensive guide, we delve into the intricacies of barrier function.

To equip you with the knowledge needed for achieving and maintaining healthy, balanced skin.

Barrier Repair Problems

The skin is the body’s largest organ, a crucial interface between the internal body systems and the external environment.

Its primary function is to protect and support the body’s internal structures, making it essential for overall health and well-being.

When the skin’s barrier becomes compromised, many problems can arise, including dryness, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, inflammation, premature ageing, dehydration, sensitivity, and redness.

These issues affect the skin’s appearance and can also impact its functionality, leading to discomfort and potential health complications.

Surprisingly, our clinic’s observations show that approximately 60% of individuals suffer from an impaired barrier.

Maintaining a healthy balance within the skin is key to preserving its youthful, supple, and firm qualities, ensuring optimal protection and vitality.

Natural Barrier Repair

The term “natural barrier” refers to the protective function of the stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of the epidermis.

This layer serves as both a physical and chemical barrier, with two primary roles: preventing the penetration of allergens and bacteria into the skin and minimising water loss through a process known as trans-epidermal water loss.

The stratum corneum consists of multiple layers of flattened cells called corneocytes, surrounded by an oily, water-repellent coating.

This coating, comprised of ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids, forms an impermeable membrane that protects the skin from environmental aggressors such as bacteria and UV radiation.

Building and maintaining a strong natural barrier is essential for overall skin health and resilience, protecting against various external stressors.

Understanding the Natural Barrier 

Your barrier function is found in the stratum corneum, a specialised layer that forms the epidermis’s outermost part of your skin.

This layer functions as both a physical and chemical barrier; its role is twofold:

  1. To prevent penetration from invading allergens and bacteria.
  2. To avoid water evaporation, referred to as trans-epidermal water loss.

It is made of multiple stacks of flattened cells called corneocytes; there are layers upon layers of dead skin cells that are surrounded by an oily, water-repellent coating.

They provide a formidable barrier to water outflow and an impermeable membrane to the environment.

This oily environment comprises 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 10% fatty acids, essential lipids crucial for regular barrier repair. We discuss this subject in greater detail here.

Your barrier is a vital front line that protects you from environmental assaults, including bacterial infection, UV, and more.

Sensitive or not, building up your skin’s outer barrier gives your skin the increased resilience that we fragile folk so desperately require.

How is My Skin’s Barrier Function Formed?

The formation of your skin’s barrier function involves a complex process known as keratinisation. As new cells are formed, old cells migrate upward through the layers of the skin.

During this journey, they become cut off from their nutrient supply and produce a rugged, waterproof protein called keratin. This process is crucial because keratin provides your skin with resilience and strength.

Within the cells undergoing keratinisation, lamellar bodies produce complex fatty materials, or lipids, essential for maintaining the skin barrier.

These lipids are deposited between the skin cells, forming a matrix that helps to keep the barrier intact.

The proper mixture and organisation of these lipids in the space between the corneocytes are essential for maintaining healthy skin.

This barrier function is vital for protecting the skin from external aggressors and maintaining overall skin health and integrity.

While understanding this process may involve some technical terminology, it is essential for comprehending barrier repair and promoting skin wellness.

This video explains your skin’s keratinisation process.

Why the Barrier Become Weak?

Aside from environmental stressors, several factors can contribute to weakening the skin barrier. Age is a significant factor, as the skin barrier weakens over time.

Essential components like ceramides, cholesterol, and humectants such as hyaluronic acid and urea can deplete with age, further compromising the barrier function.

Additionally, individuals with certain skin types, such as Celtic skin, may naturally have a thinner barrier, making them more prone to issues like rashes, redness, and irritation.

Strengthening the skin’s barrier function is crucial for improving its appearance and increasing resilience, particularly for those with fragile skin.

A healthy barrier function maintains the right balance of lipids and natural moisturising factors (NMF), allowing the skin to retain water effectively, resulting in a dewy, plump, and radiant complexion.

However, various skin conditions can arise when the barrier is impaired, including dryness, flaking, tightness, redness, and itchiness.

Skin inflammation often occurs when the barrier breaks down, leading to heightened sensitivity and susceptibility to irritants. Itchiness is another common symptom of barrier damage, which can further exacerbate inflammation and redness when scratched.

This cycle of skin barrier impairment and reaction to irritants can become persistent, leading to ongoing skin issues.

Moreover, steroid creams, commonly prescribed for severe inflammation and eczema, can thin the skin over time, making it more vulnerable to further irritant damage.

Therefore, addressing barrier repair and maintenance is essential to promote healthy, resilient skin.

What can Upset My Barrier Function?

Several factors can disrupt your skin’s barrier function, leading to various issues. Here are some common culprits to be aware of:

Overcomplicated Routines: Simplify your beauty regimen to avoid overwhelming your skin. Harsh astringents containing alcohol and surfactants can strip away your skin’s natural oils, leaving it dry and vulnerable to irritation.

Active Acids: Avoid using strong acids like glycolic and salicylic acids, as they can remove the top layers of your skin, compromising the barrier function.

Exfoliants: Be cautious with exfoliants, especially those with harsh scrubbing particles, as they can cause micro-tears in the skin, leading to further damage.

Invasive Treatments: Procedures like micro-needling can disrupt the skin barrier, potentially causing irreversible damage.

Environmental Conditions: Exposure to extreme weather conditions such as cold, heat, dry air, and wind can damage the barrier lipids and weaken the skin’s protective layer.

Sun Damage: Cumulative sun exposure can affect cellular renewal cycles, impacting the formation of barrier lipids and compromising the skin’s barrier function.

Winter Months: Unprotected skin during winter can become dehydrated due to the destruction of barrier oils, leading to further barrier impairment.

Harsh Soaps and Detergents: Using harsh soaps or high-foaming detergents can strip away the skin’s protective sebum and break down barrier lipids, leaving the skin vulnerable to damage.

Over-Exfoliation: Excessive exfoliation and harsh peels can strip away the outer layer of skin cells and deplete barrier oils, weakening the skin’s protective barrier.

Genetic Conditions and Skin Disorders: Certain genetic conditions and skin disorders, like psoriasis, can negatively impact barrier function, increasing susceptibility to irritation and inflammation.

Being mindful of these factors and making informed choices about your skincare routine can help maintain a healthy and resilient skin barrier.

How to Rebuild Your Barrier

Choosing skincare products containing specific barrier-repairing ingredients is crucial to restore your skin’s resilience. Here are some key components to look for:

Lipid Components

Products containing lipid components like Xcell barrier repair oil can help supplement the missing elements in damaged skin, promoting barrier repair and restoration.

Humectant Ingredients

Look for serums containing humectant ingredients like hyaluronic acid and urea found in Quench. These ingredients attract water into the corneocytes, helping to hydrate and plump the skin.

Occlusive Ingredients

Occlusive ingredients such as cocoa butter create a physical barrier on the skin’s surface, sealing in moisture and preventing water loss, aiding in barrier repair. You can find these in our Barrier repair duo.

Protective Emollients

Emollient ingredients help the skin repair the damaged lipid layer through cell renewal, promoting smoother and healthier-looking skin.

Sebum-Identical Ingredients

Ingredients like jojoba and squalane mimic the composition of human sebaceous secretions, acting as lubricants on the skin’s surface and providing a smooth appearance.


Triglycerides, such as those found in castor seed oil, are highly moisturising and help replenish the skin’s lipid barrier, enhancing hydration and barrier function.

Linoleic Acid

Linoleic acid is essential for maintaining barrier function and is crucial for forming the lamellar phase of the stratum corneum lipids.

When selecting skincare products, look for ingredients such as phospholipids, ceramides, cholesterol, triglycerides, squalane, jojoba, fatty acids, and phytosterols.

These ingredients have compositions similar to the membrane structure of the skin’s natural barrier, making them effective in replenishing and repairing the skin’s protective layer.

By incorporating products rich in these barrier-repairing ingredients into your skincare routine, you can support rebuilding your skin’s barrier and promote overall skin health and resilience.

To conclude. The Naked chemist

In conclusion, the skin’s barrier function is vital for maintaining overall skin health and protecting the body from external threats.

When compromised, it can lead to various skin issues, including dryness, inflammation, premature ageing, and sensitivity.

Understanding the natural barrier, its formation process and factors that can weaken it is essential for effective skincare.

To rebuild the skin’s barrier, it’s crucial to opt for well-thought-out skincare products containing barrier-repairing ingredients such as lipids, humectants, occlusives, protective emollients, sebum-identical ingredients, triglycerides, and linoleic acid.

These ingredients replenish and repair the skin’s protective layer, promoting resilience and maintaining healthy, radiant skin.

By being mindful of factors that disrupt the skin barrier and incorporating barrier-repairing ingredients into your skincare routine, you can support rebuilding your skin’s barrier, enhance its resilience, and achieve optimal skin health and vitality.

109 replies on “Barrier Repair: the Key to Outrageously Healthy Skin”

Hi Samantha,
I have atopic dermatitis. My whole body itches after shower or sweating. My doctor given me Aveeno moisturizer. Can you please suggest what needs to be done to cure my skin problem.

Hi Sandy, go back to basics, avoid fragrance, essential oils and actives in your products, invest in some natural African shea butter and cocoa butter for your body, up our intake of essential fatty acids and possibly try a food elimination diet and think about cutting out lactose, i hope this helps.samantha

Thanks Samantha. Is Skin Barrier repair lotion/creams helps? As they contains ceramides, fatty acids etc. Also how much time skin takes to get smooth and regain its original structure.

Hi Sandy
Tricky to honestly tell you, without assessing your skin and knowing your skin, family and medical history. Obviously this is a gorgeous cream full of repairing skin identical ingredients, this layered with bio oil underneath would be amazing I think for you, and I would probably send you a generous sample of H20 to try also which is super hydrating, I think you will visibly see a difference within a couple of weeks, but remember you need to be moisturising from within also with your essential fatty acids please read my article on linoleic acid. Not just topically. Good luck samantha

Thank you Samantha. I read your article and follow the guidelines which you suggested. How you will send H2O cream sample to me. I live in India/Mumbai.

I have seborrheic dermatitis on sides of nose and dandruff on scalp. Any recommendations on how to help with that? The skin is red/inflamed and scaly st times.

Hi Jacob
This needs a systematic approach medicated shampoos containing ketoconazole, ciclopirox, selenium sulfide, zinc pyrithione, coal tar, and salicylic acid, used twice weekly for at least a month and if necessary, indefinitely. Steroid scalp applications reduce itching, and should be applied daily for a few days every so often. Tar cream can be applied to scaling areas and removed several hours later by shampooing. On the face you require barrier restoring ingredients that will not inflame the skin, therefore should be free of actives and fragrance. i hope this helps Samantha

I am 55. I have lines around my lips. I have a damaged the upper layer of my skin. I also have large pores around my nose. I have tried everything. I am using emu oil around my lips. Seems to help. Is this permanently rebuilding the skin. Oil is very heavy . Also tried everything to. Eliminate several large pores on my nose. Has made other pores large. I need to know how to close these permanently . Help . Thanks,

Hi sorry but you cant not permanently close pores once they have been stretched or it may be genetic, wither way there is no way you can close them. kind regards Samantha

Hi, I had a similar thing in my 30s- large pores as well as crepey skin, a result of adult acne and accutane. I did co2 laser resurfacing, twice and the results were incredible. Small pores and tight texture to the face. Like resetting the clock. Also promoted collagen production.

Hi Mary

Because I have seen so many adverse effects with laser when it comes to my clients I am loathe to recommend laser, however your comment is of interest to me and if you would like to expand further maybe I can add this as a foot note to my article. Samantha

Hi Destiny
Absolutely, I am all about customisation and layering so the skinshots or serums are there to be put directly on the skin depending on your skins requirements and the moisturisers are to be put on after to seal the ingredients into the moisture barrier, hope that helps. Kind regards Samantha

Hi. About 2 months ago I underwent a cosmetic procedure called IPL. Immediately afterwards I noticed enlarged pores and pinhole looking holes all over my entire face which were not present prior to tjw procedure. In addition my skin which used to be dry and Flaky is now very oily. I have discovered that this procedure has been known to damage the corneum stratum. Consequently I am trying to research what I can do to repair my skin if at all possible. Since after the procedure my dry skin became very oily i am not certain what i can do. This new shiny and porous texture to my skin is deeply affecting my esteem. Do u have any suggestions?

Hi Jennifer, I am familiar with this procedure and whathas happened is that it has boosted the sebaceous glands in your skin to some extent, it could also be hormonal depending on your age. My philosophy is that anything that causes inflammation in your skin will damage the skin and IPL is one of those intensive treatments. All you can do is repair your barrier and use a natural none astringent product on your skin, you want to balance not encourage over production of oily skin which is what lot of these formulas for oily skin do because they are loaded with alcohols. Equilibrium is oil free moisturiser will help with restoration of the stratum corneum and balance the lipids, i hope this helps somewhat. Samantha

Hi Samantha,
I have very dry, impaired barrier and dehydrated skin, specially under the eyes and upper lip area. You mentioned about fortify barrier repair cream and bio lipid complex. I don’t know which one best for my skin. Also which cleanser should I use to clean my face? Is it required to use one. I am not using any at the movement.

Hi Priyanka. thank you so much for reaching out I would recommend both as they both bring something different to the skin, one is a moisturiser and one is an oil. Miracle cleanse is gorgeous and protects as it cleanses – so you have a lovely routine o rebuild compromised skin.

Hi, I have been using Uremol 10 lotion on my flaky, itchy snake skin for over 30 years. It kept it flake free and smooth looking. It is now discontinued and I have tried 3 other urea lotions and none work. None of the creams work at all (not even uremol) as they just sit on my skin. Any suggestions?
Also, for dry face skin, could I use Avocado oil, then hyaluronic acid, then shea butter? Do I layer? which first?

Hi Rose whilst i don’t endorse products this sounds intriguing if you have had success. I tried to do research but it has been discontinued, do you have the ingredients at all Rose? If you are thinking of layering so hyaluronic acid in a water based serum for maximum penetration, why not melt a little of the avocado with the she and use as a night butter cream? make sure you are using unrefined shea which has some great properties for dry skin. Regards Samantha

Hi Samantha, I kept an old bottle to compare to other urea lotions. Here are the ingredients: 10% urea w/w. (alpha) caprylic/capric triglyceride. carbomer 940. ceteareth-12. ceteareth-20. dibasic sodium phosphate anhydrous. germaben II, glycerol stearate, octyl dodecanol. Potassium phosphate-monobasic. purified water. xanthan gum. I know most of it is chemical but it worked. It really sucks having your skin flake off! Uremol 10 cream is too waxy, sits on my skin and doesn’t help. I have since tried Urisec, Eucerin, Atra-Tain, ULactin and none work. Not to mention most of them smell disgusting. I don’t like the smell of shea butter and coconut oil dries my skin. I was thinking of trying to make a body butter with hemp oil, avocado oil, cocoa butter, honey, beeswax. I think that covers the emollient, humectant, occlusive. I’m not sure if it needs water or aloe but everything I’ve read says that causes bacteria and then you need a preservative. Haven’t quite figured out the ratios yet though – any suggestions? Not sure if I would be able to use this on my face or not. Maybe at night. I really can’t figure out why the Uremol worked so well. It did everything: exfoliate, moisturize, last 24 hours. I tried finding a natural ingredient that exfoliates and can be put in a lotion with no luck. Sorry for the “book”! Thanks, Rose. p.s. the photo above with the scales looks exactly like my skin!

I saw your comment and had to respond. I too have dry skin and have been researching an oil that is best for skin care (I also deal with dermatitis/eczema). Apparently oils high in linoleic acid are great for dry skin because they increase the ceramides in the stratum corneum, which is the top layer of our skin. a deficiency in ceramides in this layer will result in dry skin. oils high in linoleic acid include hemp seed oil (my personal favorite), high-linoleic acid sunflower oil (not regular sunflower as that is high in oleic acid), safflower oil, evening primrose, black cumin, rose-hip seed etc. My favorite way to combat dry skin is to apply hemp seed oil right when i turn off the water after taking a (warm not hot) shower. This locks in the water from the shower and results in soft hydrated skin all day long! I use a cold pressed hemp seed oil that needs to be refrigerated because hemp seed oil can go rancid. i also do not take hot showers or long showers as this can deplete you stratum corneum of the EFA (essential fatty acids), ceramides which are important to keep moisture lock in the skin. you don’t really need to make a moisturizer, of course you can if you want, i just find that this method works great. i have been doing this for over a week and not only has it given me softer skin but it is healing the dry patches left over from an eczema flare.

Castor seed oil is not moisturizing if you put it concentrated straight in your skin!! It can actually further damage and dehydrate–a very drying oil. I do not recommend and had a bad experience with it.

Hi John

Thankyou for your message. John my product fortify is formulated with skin identical ingredients soon to be released that works great for an impaired barrier. Alternatively look for something with no fragrance that contains ceramides and humectants and urea. Hope that helps Samantha

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