Damaged Skin Barrier: Signs, Treatment, & Prevention

Damaged Skin Barrier: Signs, Treatment, & Prevention

Dry, flaky, irritated patches. Breakouts and itchiness. It happens to the best of us—and it could be a sign of a damaged skin barrier. The outermost layer of skin is protective, but when something is awry, it can cause serious issues for your overall skin health.

If you think you have skin barrier damage, we’re here to help. Learn what it is, (and why it’s important), how to protect it, and changes you can make to keep your skin barrier healthy.

What Is a Skin Barrier?

The skin barrier is the outermost layer of your epidermis (the top layer of the skin). Some call it other names, like the “moisture barrier” or its more scientific counterpart, stratum corneum.

While the barrier is technically composed of dead skin cells, it’s vital because it protects all the living parts of your skin beneath. It helps keep the beneficial (natural oils and moisture) in and prevents the harmful (pollution, toxins, chemicals) from entering.

If you lose too much moisture, your skin can become dry and flaky, breaking the barrier and making your skin cells more exposed to environmental toxins. An influx of these toxins impedes your skin barrier function and can lead to a variety of skin conditions

Damaged Skin Barrier Signs

If you’ve felt something is amiss with your skin, it’s time to look at the protective barrier. Signs the moisture barrier is damaged and needs some TLC include:

  • Dehydrated or flaky skin
  • Chronic or prolonged irritation
  • Itchiness
  • Hyperpigmentation or dark spots
  • Acne breakouts
  • Frequent rosacea or eczema flare-ups
  • Longer time to heal wounds
  • Sensitive skin
  • Skin infections

When you experience these symptoms, it can feel frustrating and discouraging. Fortunately, it’s easy to find the culprits and begin the process of skin barrier repair.

Common Causes of a Damaged Skin Barrier

As with many skin conditions, a compromised skin barrier comes from environmental, health-related, or human-made factors. Some of the most problematic influences include:

  • UV rays
  • Pollution
  • Sleep problems
  • Wind
  • Over-washing or exfoliating
  • Natural-oil-stripping cleansers

While many of these are natural (like UV rays and pollution), you can play a direct role in damaging your moisture barrier. Lifestyle habits (like smoking), mental and physical well-being, and skincare routines (such as over-exfoliating) also play a role in skin barrier damage.

Repairing Your Skin Barrier

Once you’ve identified a damaged barrier, you can start working on a repair routine. Depending on the severity, it could be beneficial to consult a professional about skin your routine for barrier repair.

Start thinking about what you want from your skincare routine. Some people add too many products to their regimen, rendering them ineffective or causing more problems than helping. Instead, choose items that will help you achieve your specific needs and goals.

Here are a few helpful adjustments to help repair a broken skin barrier:

Knowing what to avoid 

Avoid using products with fragrance, retinoids, alcohol, and acids to prevent exacerbated symptoms (especially during winter).

Using serums for your skin barrier 

Opt for products with ingredients (ceramides, glycerin, and hyaluronic acid) designed to help protect the barrier. Layer or alternate harsher ingredients with barrier-friendly products.

Choosing gentle cleansers 

Avoid face washes with ingredients that strip natural oils and moisture. Pick a gentle cleanser that removes makeup, dirt, and pollution particles while protecting the outer layer.

When put together, these ideas usually lead to the same end goal: simplify the process. Too many products can cause excess exfoliation and irritation, which can harm or weaken your skin barrier.

Essentials of Building a Barrier-Friendly Routine

Keeping your skincare regimen simple and targeted helps you protect your barrier. Once you’ve simplified your products and learned what to avoid, you can go back to basics:

  • Cleanse
  • Moisturize
  • Sunscreen

You can add products to target your needs, but starting with the standard pillars of skincare is the first step to building a new routine.

Additional Recommendations 

Consider incorporating plant oils to help preserve moisture and encourage a healthy skin barrier . Popular options include jojoba, almond, argan, rosehip, and coconut oils.

Choose moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid, glycerin, grapeseed oil, shea butter, or AHAs. Making lifestyle changes can also improve your barrier function and promote overall skin health. We recommend reducing stress, incorporating a diet of whole foods and healthy fats, and improving your sleep habits.

Preventing Further Damage

Stopping damage before it starts (or worsens) is one of the most crucial steps to protecting the skin barrier. Other changes you can make to your routine to prevent excess damage include:

  • Wash your face with lukewarm (never hot) water to avoid stripping the skin.
  • Limit the time you spend washing your face (massage then rinse is all you need!).
  • Opt for chemical exfoliants containing alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).
  • Wear moisturizer and sunscreen daily.

These adjustments help keep the moisture barrier healthy and intact, ready to take on all the external challenges thrown your way.

Strengthen Your Skin Barrier With Seven:Thirty

Now that you’re familiar with the causes and symptoms of a damaged moisture barrier, you can work to resolve it with Seven:Thirty. We offer consultations to help you design a customized routine for your needs and skin type.

Our paraben- and SLS-free products—ranging from cleansers to moisturizer, serum, and sunscreen—can help promote healthy skin and restore your skin barrier. Shop our entire collection, or contact us for a consultation today.



Cleveland Clinic. How To Tell if Your Skin Barrier Is Damaged and What To Do About It. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/skin-barrier

Byrdie. How to Tell if Your Skin Barrier Is Damaged. https://www.byrdie.com/damaged-skin-barrier-5184125

Healthline. What to Know About Your Skin Barrier and How to Protect It. https://www.healthline.com/health/skin-barrier

WebMD. What to Know About Your Skin Barrier and How to Protect It. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/skin-barrier-what-to-know 

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