Your skin barrier is vital for optimal epidermal health and homeostasis, and protects your skin and body from external pollutants and impurities. Most of the time our skin can effectively repair itself but if it’s gotten to the point where you start to notice that your skin isn’t repairing itself, it might be a sign of skin barrier damage that could trigger a host of new problems. But, how do you tell the difference between normal dryness, sensitivity, and a full-blown barrier impairment of your skin? Here are 5 signs of a damaged skin barrier and how to fix it.

1. Your skin feels tight and dry despite how much moisturiser you apply

Moisture loss is one of the main symptoms of barrier damage. When the waxy lipid bilayer in your skin’s outer layer has been stripped or damaged, you may feel like you need to apply moisturiser frequently but when you do it just seems to disappear again soon after. The waxy lipid bi-layer functions by locking in moisture so if it’s been impaired your skin will lose moisture rapidly.

2. Tender red patches of skin

When the lipid bilayer is damaged, your skin is defenceless against attacks from dust, radiation, pollutants, bacteria and viruses, allowing them easy access to the lower layers of your skin. Your skin fights back with inflammation but without a barrier, the battle becomes constant resulting in skin that always seems red and tender.

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3. Some products sting

With your skin barrier damaged and the bottom layers being exposed, some products may be too harsh or could be penetrating deeper than they should be. This can be painful, thus adding to the problem without solving it.

4. Itchiness and fine flakiness

Any type of skin can become sensitised but the good news is that it’s temporary. With a damaged barrier comes sensitivity, flaking and itchiness along with tightness and dryness.

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5. Your skin appears dull and dry

Dehydrated skin and dry skin are two different things: dehydration involves a loss of moisture and plumpness, whereas dryness refers to a loss of the natural oils that give skin a healthy appearance. When your barrier is damaged you’ll experience both these symptoms, leaving skin looking dull, lifeless and prone to fine lines.

How to fix it:

There’s only one way to reverse the effects of a damaged skin barrier: repairing the lipid bi-layer. To target barrier damage, try using products containing Niacinamide – it boosts ceramide production, thereby improving lipid barrier function. You can also try using a moisturiser that contains linoleic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid. This essential fatty acid is one that we can’t manufacture ourselves, so we must obtain it through diet or topical application. It helps repair barrier function and is an effective moisturising agent. Oils, like safflower and sunflower oil contain linoleic acid.

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