Oops! I almost completely stripped off my face because I was thrilled about my new chemical exfoliant. Sounds recognizable? Exactly. Although some itchy, irritated, or burning skin may seem unrelated to anything, it indicates that you've damaged your skin barrier, which is the "shield" that controls how your skin looks and feels. Every doctor would advise you to proceed cautiously with at-home peels and retinol treatments. Once you meddle with it (particularly frequently), it may result in breakouts, rashes, premature wrinkles, and other issues.
Even devoted skincare devotees make mistakes sometimes, but fortunately, you can restore a damaged skin barrier if you know what to do. Therefore, we'll talk about your skin barrier, how to repair it, and the best advice and treatments to use right now. Let's get going.
What is a skin barrier?
Your skin's outermost layer, known as the skin barrier, protects your face by acting as a ''barrier''. The whole function of your skin barrier is to keep all the beneficial components of your skin in place while shielding it from external stresses, irritants, and inflammation (like moisture, moisture, and more moisture).
The stratum corneum, the most superficial layer of your epidermis—imagine the top bun of a hamburger—is what is formally referred to as your skin barrier. The stratum corneum (skin barrier) comprises a complex network of lipids and cells that function as a barrier to protect the health of your skin. The skin barrier's cells, also known as corneocytes, are its bricks, while different lipids like cholesterol and ceramides serve as its mortar. Each component is essential to maintaining the equilibrium of your face's environment.
What damages the skin barrier?
Unfortunately, unlike a brick wall, your skin's barrier is much more brittle. It is easily "destroyed" by environmental factors (such as sun exposure, pollution, smoking, and extreme weather variations), physical harm (such as over-exfoliating), certain medical conditions (such as diabetes), and genetics. Your barrier may even change with your age. As we age, ceramide levels drastically decline, compromising our skin's capacity to retain moisture.
The most serious harm will often result from using too-harsh treatments, such as gritty exfoliators, powerful acids, and drying sulfates. Of course, some of these elements are beyond your control (such as aging, pollution, desert heat, and frigid winters), but most are unavoidable. Your skin's ability to retain moisture and hydration, which gives it a supple, full, and plump appearance, will be compromised if your skin barrier doesn't have an adequate balance of fats.
How can you tell if your skin barrier is damaged?
If your skin barrier is compromised, your skin may feel dry, flaky, sensitive, irritated, tingling, stinging, or itchy. As a compromised skin barrier raises your risk of infections and dermatitis, you can also experience rashes and inflammation. Another red flag? Applying a moisturizer to your skin that you usually tolerate immediately causes irritation or burning.
Does your skin barrier repair itself?
Depending on the extent of the damage, broken skin barriers may normally recover within two weeks if exfoliators (including acids and retinoids) are avoided and soothing lotions are used instead. The barrier won't heal if you keep doing what caused the harm in the first place. But after some time and a simplified regimen, your skin's barrier will start to work normally again, protecting your skin's moisture and health from environmental irritants and possible stresses.
Should I still exfoliate?
Once you realize that your skin barrier is damaged, you should avoid from using chemical and physical exfoliants (such as retinol, AHAs, BHAs, and vitamin C) for two to three weeks. You may continue using a light chemical exfoliator (such as polyhydroxy acids, PHAs, and the gentlest of acids) once a week for another two to three weeks if the inflammation, flakes, and irritation have reduced for at least one full week.
Getting A Healthy Skin Barrier
The keys to a healthy skin barrier are to heal the skin with a basic skincare regimen and slathering on rich moisturizers. Before reintroducing exfoliation once or twice per week, stick to a bland and moisturizing regimen for at least two to three weeks (in general, even with a healthy skin barrier, you should only use exfoliants three times a week max).
Your morning and evening skincare regimen should start with a mild face wash, go on to a hydrating face serum, and finish with a rich, barrier-repairing cream. To lock all that moisture and water into your skin, you may put on an occlusive ointment (hello, slugging!) if your skin feels tight and dry.
Your skincare regimen should ideally consist of humectants and ceramide-containing products that restore the skin's barrier. While humectants (such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin) draw water molecules from the dermis toward the epidermis to keep your skin hydrated, topical ceramides imitate the moisturizing actions of your skin to hold onto hydration.
Prioritize substances like urea and squalane, naturally occurring in your skin, and jojoba oil that imitates those lipids. Always avoid products that include fragrances, essential oils, or sulfates since these ingredients may irritate your skin and eventually cause the skin barrier to break down.
Even the greatest, most moisturizing regimen can't instantly resolve all skin-barrier problems, particularly if you have eczema, rosacea, or cystic acne. Therefore, seeing a dermatologist is your best and fastest plan of action. They may alter your regimen and issue you topical drugs to stop flare-ups as soon as possible.
How soon can your skin barrier repair itself?
Your skin type and the degree of damage to your skin barrier will determine how long it takes to improve. If you accidentally overdid a face cleanse or peel one time? After following a dull schedule for two weeks, you ought to be feeling better. However, you may need to adjust your routine for one to two months to return your skin to normal if you've spent months inadvertently damaging your skin's protective layer via harsh products, stress, or environmental conditions.
If your skin feels dry and irritated, you may have a compromised skin barrier. But don't worry; your skin will return to normal in a few weeks with a basic skincare regimen (including a thick moisturizer). Never, however, undervalue the influence of your dermatologist when you have a damaged skin barrier. Trust that they have your back.
Need to strengthen your skin barrier? With Shea Butter in its content, OTACI Rose Passion Deep Hydration Face Cream protects your skin from external factors and supports the skin barrier.