Beauty 101

Signs of a Weak Skin Barrier and How To Fix It

Rachel Gibbons Beauty Expert
Signs of a Weak Skin Barrier and How To Fix It

You’ve surely come across the words skin barrier when skimming through skin care products. The question is – what exactly does it mean? How can you tell if you have a damaged skin barrier? And how can you protect it?

The skin barrier is made up of lipids. It forms the skin’s outermost layer, shielding skin against external aggressors. It’s also known as the moisture barrier since it helps skin retain moisture. It is extremely delicate, so it’s important to be extra cautious with the types of products you slather on. Introducing too many products all at once can make your skin freak out, causing irritation and even sensitivity.

You’ll know your skin barrier is damaged when you notice any signs of redness or inflammation, dehydration, itchiness, flakiness or acne flare-ups. A weak or damaged skin barrier is mostly dry or dehydrated so it can’t lock in moisture, making it easier for irritants and bacteria to penetrate the skin. If your skin easily reacts to products and you feel a stinging or burning sensation during application, chances are your skin barrier is damaged.

What do you do when you have a damaged skin barrier? 

First, re-assess your skin care routine and figure out the culprit. Did you recently try a new product that makes your skin react? Or perhaps you’re piling on way too many products that are actually doing more harm than good?

There are plenty of products that can help restore your natural protective barrier. Since your skin won’t be able to protect itself, look for products that are formulated with skin-restoring ingredients. Try to stay away from the ones with sulphates, parabens or alcohols as these ingredients only make things worse for a compromised skin barrier.

With loss of moisture, your skin will also appear less plump and be prone to fine lines and wrinkles, so it’s helpful to apply products that help replenish moisture. Here are some products that are infused with skin-friendly ingredients. You can incorporate them into your skin care routine to help fix your damaged skin barrier:

Facial Cleanser 

Start by washing your face with a gentle cleanser. There should be no harsh chemicals in the ingredients list (keep an eye out for sulphates) as you want to aim for as little irritation as possible. 

Go for a low pH cleanser like the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser as this won’t disturb the natural pH level of your skin and will keep it balanced. This hypoallergenic cleanser is mild but can remove all traces of makeup, impurities and dead skin cells. It keeps skin smooth and moisturised thanks to its key ingredients: witch hazel extract and allantoin.


Similar to cleansers, your toner of choice should also be gentle, but one important thing to watch out for is the alcohol content. Certain types of alcohol are damaging as they completely strip the skin of its moisture. Avoid toners that contain any of these: denatured, SD, isopropyl or benzyl alcohol. Luckily, not all types of alcohol are harmful, so don’t worry if you see cetearyl, glycol, cetyl, or stearyl alcohol. These fatty alcohols are actually great for skin! Plus, they help keep all the other ingredients in the product stable.

Clinelle Purifying Toner is a great, gentle toner for you to try out. 


Serums are a must as they contain a high concentration of ingredients that help repair the skin barrier. Look for serums with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide or ceramide as these ingredients not only nourish the skin but also protect it against further damage. They’re also gentle and help repair skin damage.

Before applying moisturiser, apply a few drops of The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 for added hydration. 


 Similar to serums, your moisturiser should also contain hyaluronic acid, niacinamide or ceramide. Fans of ceramide will love SKINTIFIC 5X Ceramide Barrier Moisture Cream. The rich cream soothes, moisturises and strengthens the skin barrier. Though quite thick, the cream absorbs into skin quickly and you’re left with nothing but glowing skin.


The last (and most important) step is to apply sunscreen! When your skin barrier is damaged, it needs all the protection it can get. Skipping on SPF will worsen the situation. No matter the weather, apply a layer of sunscreen every day on top of your moisturiser and underneath your makeup; one of our favourites is the La Roche Posay Sunscreen.

Going through skin issues can be tough, but one thing to remember is to give your skin some time. There are no shortcuts, and products may not miraculously give you perfect skin within a day, week or even a month. Nonetheless, if you’re patient enough, you’ll get there!

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