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Dry or Reactive Skin? Your Moisture Barrier May Be Damaged: Here's How to Rebuild It

October 7, 2021

Is your skin suddenly or chronically dry? Sensitive or reactive? Your moisture barrier may be damaged. Here are some ways to start rebuilding it.

Summary

What is My Moisture Barrier?

Skin has what is called a "moisture barrier." or "acid mantle". This is the outermost layer of the skin that is responsible for keeping moisture in and things out like unhealthy bacteria and other debris . However, this barrier can become stripped away, which makes skin lose moisture at a rapid rate, leading to the production of more sebum (oil) to "compensate," as well as more bacteria to feed on the dead skin cells and sebum. As a result, skin becomes more sensitive, dry, oily, dull, and potentially broken out.

It can be a confusing issue to resolve, but instead of just layering on a heavy moisturizer, it's important to identify the reason your moisture barrier is damaged in the first place. Once you know that, you can avoid it and your skin can start naturally repairing itself.


How Do I Know if My Moisture Barrier is Damaged?

If your skin looks and feels rough, dull, flaky, inflamed, red, or itchy, you may have damaged your moisture barrier (although there can be other causes for those symptoms as well.) You might even be experiencing more breakouts than usual.


What Causes Damage to My Skin's Moisture Barrier?

Dehydration
From inside like not drinking enough water or drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. Or from the outside- simply not moisturizing enough.

Over Exfoliating
We can easily break down our moisture barrier by using acids like AHAs, glycolics and lactic acids and retinols that are too strong for our skin, or using acids too frequently. The same goes with scrubbing too hard or frequently or using a scrub that is too harsh for your skin type. Some skin devices like the Dermaroller can damage your barrier.

Dry & Harsh Environments
Sun and wind can quickly strip your moisture barrier. In Central Oregon, the temperatures plummet quickly in the fall. Heaters kicking on and especially using a wood stove will rob the air of moisture. Exposing our skin to sun, dry (and especially cold) winds and snow can break down our barrier as well.

Harsh and Stripping Cleansers & Toners
Many facial and body cleansers and soaps are made with alcohol and/or ingredients that create a high lather and these are especially harsh on the skin. Synthetic fragrances and dyes and many other ingredients can dehydrate your skin and break down your moisture barrier.

Hot Water
Taking very hot baths and showers, washing your face with hot water and sitting in a hot tub or hot springs for an extended period of time (or just frequently) can damage your skin.

Smoking & Medications
Nicotine acts as a diuretic and dehydrates not only your skin, but your other organs as well. Medications that list dryness as a side-effect.

Aging
As our skin ages, usually after 46 years, it becomes more susceptible to dryness and a weakened moisture barrier.


How to Start Rebuilding Your Moisture Barrier

Can I Actually Repair My Moisture Barrier?
Thankfully, the answer is yes! It’s pretty simple, but it does take some time and careful attention.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Both inside and out.

Prop up your pillow
Sleeping with your head slightly elevated can help prevent fluid from building up around your eyes while you sleep.

Try a cool compress
Cold can help tighten the skin and reduce puffiness. Put a spoon in the refrigerator for a while and then very gently hold the back of it against the puffy skin. Or make a cup of green tea, put it in the fridge until it's cold and use the teabag (or soak a soft cloth in the tea) as a cold compress. The caffeine in green tea constricts the blood vessels while the antioxidants help firm up the skin. Cucumbers have soothing properties, but can be awkward and messy to use.

Add more moisture
Use a good daily moisturizer to keep skin healthy (choose a gentle formula for use around your eyes). Well-moisturized skin has a better moisture barrier, which prevents irritants and allergens from getting into the skin. We love how our Calming Eye Oil moisturizes and soothes.

Hydrate and avoid alcohol
Dehydration can make the skin around your eyes saggy and "crinkly". Make sure to drink plenty of water. And avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can be dehydrating.

Skip yo-yo dieting
When your weight goes up and down, the fat in your face can grow and shrink — and the fat pads in your face (which give it such gorgeous shape) can shift around.

Exfoliate (carefully!) around the eyes
We often don't think about exfoliating the skin close to our eyes, but it can really help prevent fine lines, milia and dryness. I prefer to use our Coconut Lactic Peel, which is relatively gentle and provides moisture and brightens while it exfoliates dead skin.

*Avoid using anything harsh, like AHA's or scrubs with sharp particles (sugar, salt and bamboo are all angular and can tear the delicate skin around our eyes). And, obviously don't get any products in your eyes.

Use a good eye cream
We love our Geranium & Lupine Eye Cream. Two kinds of caffeine, green tea and white peony tea, constrict the blood vessels and decrease puffiness, geranium helps move fluid out of the area and sweet lupine extract provides an instant tightening effect.

Avoid eating too much salt- especially at night
Salt causes our body to retain fluid and that fluid can pool under our eyes as we sleep.

In a Nutshell,

In short, you’ll know your barrier is on the mend when those above symptoms (flakiness, roughness, and itchiness) start to disappear.


In a nutshell, the skin's moisture barrier helps the skin to retain moisture, specifically water. The barrier works to keep good stuff in and bad stuff out. To look after your moisture barrier you need to stay hydrated on the inside and out - aka drink lots of water and use the right skin care- it’s as simple as that! Just one thing to note, if you do have underlying skin disease or severe skin damage, it may be hard to repair at home, so you should probably go see your dermatologist who can analyze barrier function using a measurement called Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) and offer an expert treatment plan. In the meantime, keep hydrating!

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Angelina Swanson is the founder and chief formulator at aos [ angelina organic skincare ]. A self-described plant chemistry nerd, she's spent more than thirty years researching and developing skincare formulas that keep our skin healthy and radiant.

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Disclaimer: Content found on www.aosskincare.com including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


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