I am a big believer in treating acne sustainably from within and through lifestyle changes. Previously I have covered lifestyle changes for acne, Japanese water therapy, and how exercise can help with acne. This time I will pivot a little bit and talk about products to apply to the skin. The focus will be on products for skin barrier repair. In this post, we will talk about how long to repair the skin barrier, how to repair your skin barrier and the best skin barrier repair products.
The need for skin barrier repair
How can the skin barrier get damaged in the first place? First, you might damage your skin barrier when you use the wrong skincare products. Products that are too harsh on the skin and damage the natural skin mantle can compromise the skin barrier. Second, you might handle your skin in the wrong way. For example, using water that is too hot on the skin or using facial scrub that is too rough. When the skin barrier is compromised, the skin might be dehydrated, sensitized, and more prone to infection.
How to repair your skin barrier
You can repair your skin barrier by changing the way you handle your skin. Observe how you handle your skin every day. Starting from when you take a shower or wash your face to the products that you use for skincare. Do you use water that is too hot that it dehydrates your skin? Do you use a facial cleanser that is suitable for your skin type? For example, if your skin is dry, you should not use a cleanser meant for oily skin. Do you use a facial scrub that is too harsh on the skin? If your skin is already sensitized, do you continue using your facial scrub for exfoliation? And do you hydrate and moisturize your skin enough, especially given your living condition? For example, if you always stay in an air-conditioned room that can dehydrate the skin, you need to moisturize your skin enough.
Building an understanding of what kind of skin you have is also important. If your skin tends to be sensitive, when you try acids or serums, try the lower concentration first before amping it up to the higher one. Skincare products that are too strong, especially acids or retinol, can damage your skin instead of improving its condition.
How long to repair skin barrier
Once the skin barrier is damaged, the skin barrier repair process might take time. The skin needs to return to its original optimal condition in its own time. You may need to change the way you tend to your skin. Moreover, you will need to revisit the skincare products that you use, and really assess which one works for you, and which does not. Personally, it takes me a couple of years to get my skin to where I want to be after all my breakout episodes. I have been maintaining my healthy lifestyle and skincare to keep my skin at its optimum level.
Skin barrier repair: steps to take
Revisit how you wash your face
Use lukewarm water to wash your face. In the morning, if you do not need to use a cleanser, you can opt for micellar water to gently take away your overnight skincare products on your skin. Milk cleanser can be an option too if your skin is easily dehydrated. Do not wash your face too often. This is because every time you wash your face, you are stripping away the natural oil on the skin.
Revisit how you dry your face
After washing your face, pat your skin dry. Do not rub your face too hard with the towel. If you are suffering from acne and worry about germs, you can pat your skin dry with a tissue. This way, you do not need to dry your face with the same towel every time.
Avoid harsh chemicals
Try to treat your skin more gently. If you have acne, you might want to use all means to get rid of it quickly. Therefore you might use too much of anti-acne products, or overexfoliate your skin. Evaluate your skin reaction to these products. Sometimes these products are too harsh on the skin, especially those with higher concentration. Do not confuse actives concentration with product effectiveness. Products that are too high in actives concentration might damage your skin rather than benefit the skin. Pay attention to how your AHA, BHA or retinol affect your skin condition.
Another chemical that we should look out for is Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS). This is common in any skin cleansers. It is a surfactant that can help to loosen dirt from the skin surface, hence helping in the cleansing process. However, research has shown that it can penetrate the dermal layers and disrupts the natural oil and moisture layer. It can also disrupt the pH level of the skin, which can compromise skin health and immunity. Our skin pH is at 5.5 and SLS is more alkaline at ph 7. Skincare products at lower pH that is closer to our skin natural pH at 5.5 will work better with the skin.
The best skin barrier repair products
Brands that work for different people may differ. However, in essence, gentle skincare products with the right concentration for your skin type, and with the right pH level will be good for your skin barrier. Also, hydration and moisturization of the skin are super important for your skin to function at its optimal level. If you want to add some antioxidants, they can boost resiliency and help your skin to fight free radicals as well.
These are the best skin barrier repair products in my skincare routine, I will break it down based on morning vs evening routine.
- Cleanser – SebaMed Anti Bacterial Cleansing Foam
- Serum – Hada Labo Hyaluronic acid, followed by Mad Hippie Vitamin C
- SPF – L’oreal UV Perfect Super Aqua Essence SPF 50
The cleanser is good for sensitive, acne-prone skin. It keeps the natural skin pH level at around 5.5. I usually leave the cleanser for 2-3 minutes on my skin before rinsing it off. After cleansing, serums are next. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant (it hydrates the skin) and Vitamin C serum is to boost the function of the SPF. I wrote about how Vitamin C is well combined with SPF in the morning in my other post. For the SPF I use anything that is not greasy and this one does the job. Another favorite is the Biore UV Aqua Rich sunscreen line.
And after all these products I put on my makeup, usually very minimal only revolving around under-eye concealer, concealer (for spot concealing), and setting powder to make my skin not shiny.
- Cleansing Wipe – Makeup Removing Towelettes by Dr. Morita
- Cleanser – SebaMed Anti Bacterial Cleansing Foam
- (On alternate days) AHA/BHA – Paula’s Choice 5% AHA or Paula’s Choice 2% BHA OR Paula’s Choice 1% Retinol
- Moisturizer – Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream
Choosing the right cleanser is very important. Harsh surfactants like Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS) are alkaline and will disrupt the natural skin pH balance at ~5.5 (slightly acidic). Find a gentler cleanser that is closer to skin natural pH.
AHA and BHA have been the game changer in my skincare routine. AHA makes my skin smoother, softer, more glowing and hydrated. On the other hand, BHA helps to reduce the appearance of blackheads and make my pores smaller. Don’t use AHA/BHA with Retinol at the same time because the combination might be too strong for most people.
Find out what moisturizer works best for your skin. When I use retinol, I wait for around 20 minutes before I put on moisturizer. This is to allow the retinol to sink into the skin before you put another product on top.
How’s my skin barrier repair journey so far?
I am conscious that this skin barrier repair journey cannot be rushed and I would need to allow the skin to restore its optimal condition in its time. After changing my own skincare habits, I have not been breaking out and I am very thankful for that. I believe that a good cleansing habits, proper chemical exfoliation, and generous skin hydration really can do your skin wonders.
Since I have dry skin, skin hydration is actually super important to give me the clear, supple skin that I have always dreamed of. Hydration does not only come from skincare, but also from water intake. Japanese water therapy works well for me, and at the same time, I make sure that I drink water throughout the day.
Find out more about acne, skincare and skin health with me!