Rebuilding the barrier: Essential steps for restoring and strengthening your skin barrier

You may have heard the buzz about the skin barrier, but what exactly is it? Let’s break it down. 

In this article, we will dive into the crucial topic of restoring and strengthening your skin barrier. 

In the world of skincare, the term "barrier repair" is everywhere. It may be the skincare buzzword of 2023 or, at least, a close second to serums. 

With so much information out there, it can be overwhelming to decipher what truly matters for your skin. But fear not because I'm here to guide you through it all using my medical training and dermatology experience. 

The Skin Barrier and Its Significance:

The skin barrier is like a protective shield that guards your skin against external aggressors, locks in moisture and maintains its overall health. When the barrier is compromised, various skin issues can arise- like the entry of unwanted viruses and bacteria, which can lead to secondary infections like impetigo, warts, molluscum contagiosum, etc.

How Recognizing a Compromised Skin Barrier:

The best way to explain a compromised skin barrier is eczema. We all have an idea of what that looks like, and many of us have experienced it personally. Signs such as increased sensitivity, redness, dryness, burning or stinging or a compromised skin texture indicate that your skin barrier is in distress and requires attention. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Restoring and Strengthening:

Now, let's get down to business. Follow these crucial steps to replenish your skin barrier so it can protect us from the outside world.

Step 1: Gentle Cleansing

Discover the power of mild, non-stripping cleansers that respect your skin's natural balance. Oil cleansers are really great examples of gentle cleansers. My recommended ingredients and formulations are:

EltaMD Oil in Gel Cleanser
EltaMD Oil in Gel Cleanser
EltaMD Oil in Gel Cleanser
EltaMD Oil in Gel Cleanser
EltaMD Oil in Gel Cleanser
EltaMD Oil in Gel Cleanser

EltaMD Oil in Gel Cleanser


WHY SYDNEY LOVES IT: Oil cleansing is the secret to healthy, beautiful skin!EltaMD Oil-in-Gel Cleanser is the perfect two in one cleanser.It works better than straight oil cleansers, IMO. The unique texture gives Pond's Cold Cream the ease it offers without the residue. It combines the effectiveness of a traditional cleanser with the benefits of an oil cleanser. It's my pick for breakout-prone skin and can be used twice daily.

DETAILS: The rich gel texture melts into a silky oil that effortlessly removes pollutants, water-resistant sunscreen, long-wear makeup, sweat, and excess sebum - all in one step.

HOW TO USE: Use morning and night. When the oil is contacted with water, itturns into a milky emulsion to wash away the impurities.


  1. Meadowfoam Seed Oil: known to moisturize skin
  2. Vitamin E: moisturizes and helps prevent free-radical damage
  3. Turmeric root extract: known to soothe skin
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    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser
    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser
    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser
    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser
    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser
    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser
    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser
    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser

    MDSolarSciences Wash Away Cleanser


    WHY SYDNEY LOVES IT: It's magical. The one cleanser I recommend everyone start with- no matter age or gender or skin type. It's not an oil cleanser but functions like one in that it gently removes eye makeup and fortifies the skin's natural protective moisture barrier. Plus THE PRICE makes it extra magical.

    DETAILS: This sulfate-free, low-foam, oil cleanser gently exfoliates as it washes away makeup, impurities and sunscreens. Cleanses pores without stripping skin's moisture barrier.  It will leave skin feeling clean, refreshed, supple and ready for your skincare routine.

    HOW TO USE: Use morning and night. apply to damp skin. Work into a lather in your hands before applying to damp face. Gently massage face and neck using circular motion. Rinse with lukewarm water. Pat dry with a soft cloth.


    • Pomegranate, Cranberry, Green Tea and Vitamin C
    • Vitamin B5
    • Vitamin E
    View Details

    at the drugstore: Vanicream Gentle Cleanser

    Step 2: Hydrating and Moisturizing

    Hydration is key to a resilient skin barrier. Moisturization is the key to locking in the hydration. GO with this:

    Epionce Enriched Firming Mask
    Epionce Enriched Firming Mask

    Epionce Enriched Firming Mask


    WHY SYDNEY LOVES IT: Possibly my favorite skincare product. This can be left on overnight as a moisturizer when your skin needs some extra love to thrive. It's a must for all skin types to navigate seasons and incorporate new/stronger ingredients. Dry skin can use a few times weekly, and it's the secret to navigating winter for oily skin without changing your entire routine. Plus the price is fabulous for the quality.

    DETAILS:  This hydrating mask is expertly formulated with botanical ingredients to help soothe and improve the visible appearance of elasticity and firmness of the skin. With highly emollient properties and a proprietary blend of barrier lipids, Enriched Firming Mask helps calm visible redness and irritation.  Gives skin a visible boost of hydration.

    • Helps soothe and calm irritating factors
    • Helps reduce visible redness
    • Extra hydration for firmer-looking skin

    HOW TO USE: Evenly apply to clean skin. Leave on for 5-10 minutes then rinse. For additional hydration, do not rinse. For best results, use weekly.


    • Safflower Seed Oil
    • Meadowfoam Extract
    • Lavender Extract
    • Willowbark Extract
    • Orange Fruit Extract
    • Date Fruit Extract 
    • Shea Butter
    • Avocado Oil
    View Details

    Step 3: Nourishing and Repairing

    Barrier-boosting skincare products, such as serums, oils, and treatments, provide the nourishment your skin craves.

    Epionce Intense Defense Serum
    Epionce Intense Defense Serum

    Epionce Intense Defense Serum


    WHY SYDNEY LOVES IT: This is the vitamin C for those with any skin sensitivities or rosacea. It has a derivative of ascorbic acid called THD Ascorbate, which makes it more appropriate for the most sensitive skin. It also serves as an anti-aging serum and has all vitamins A-E found in our skin- that means niacinamide too. This can be your go-to serum for everything twice daily.

    DETAILS: An Epionce fan-favorite and NewBeauty Award winner for “Best Botanical Serum”, experience the most complete multivitamin for your skin safely and with fast results. Intense Defense Serum is a highly advanced anti-aging serum using botanical sources of Vitamins A, B, C, D and E for healthier-looking skin. Clinically proven serum visibly improves the signs of skin aging better than leading professional-strength serums.

    • Clinically proven anti-aging results against leading serums
    • Visibly reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
    • Cosmetically elegant, non-irritating botanical formula

    HOW TO USE: Apply to clean skin 1-3 times daily.


    • Niacinamide- increases firmness, calms inflames skin, improves moisture barrier by increasing ceramide production
    • Bidens Pilosa (Spanish Needle)- used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine, it is anti-inflammatory with vitamin A activity to stimulate cellular renewal to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.
    • Cucumis Melo (Melon) Fruit Extract- provides the pre-cursors for vitamin A, B and C synthesis along with photo-protective propertie
    • Shiitake Mushroom- provides vitamins A, B, C and D, while diminishing surface microbial counts
    • Flax Extract- anti-inflammatory and skin firming properties

    View Details

    at the drugstore: Naturium Niacinamide Face Serum

    Step 4: Sun Protection

    Shielding your skin from harmful UV rays is vital for a robust skin barrier. Explore the impact of UV rays, the importance of broad-spectrum SPF, and recommended sunscreen products to ensure comprehensive barrier protection. I've got tons of great blogs on Sun Protection

    Step 5: STOP active ingredients

    Stop any treatments that have ingredients to treat acne. These products typically have acids, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoids. I even recommend stopping vitamin C.

    Now, niacinamide is an exception. It’s the only active ingredient that can improve a compromised barrier. Hyaluronic acid can also be beneficial for some, depending on the formulation.

    Step 6: Patience and Consistency

    Restoring and strengthening your skin barrier is a journey that requires patience and consistency. Set realistic expectations of two weeks at least, participate in regular skincare practices, and monitor progress so you can adapt your routine as needed.

    Common damage to the skin barrier

    I also want to shed light on common skincare mistakes to avoid and identify potential irritants or harsh ingredients that can compromise your skin barrier. Gentle and mindful skincare practices are the key to success.

    • Over-exfoliating: Scrubbing your skin too aggressively or using harsh exfoliants can damage the skin barrier. Stick to gentle exfoliation methods and limit it to 1-2 times per week, especially when in barrier repair. Consider chemical exfoliants only or a natural physical exfoliator with enzymes like papaya.
    • Using Harsh Ingredients: Avoid skincare products containing alcohol, sulfates, and fragrances, as they can strip the skin and compromise its protective barrier. Opt for products labeled "fragrance-free" or "suitable for sensitive skin."
    • Ignoring Sun Protection: UV rays can further weaken the skin barrier. Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to shield your skin.

    Remember, consistency and a mindful approach to skincare are the cornerstones of maintaining a healthy skin barrier. 

    Listen to your skin!

    Knowing when to avoid certain ingredients and navigating your routine when your skin is giving you signs it needs a break is an art… but not a difficult one. See the steps above and repeat as necessary.

    Try a step-up approach by first creating a simple, nourishing cleansing and moisturizing ritual with products without active ingredients then slowly adding those with active ingredients to improve skin concerns like breakouts and discoloration.

    By following the essential steps outlined in this article, you are well on your way to rebuilding and strengthening your skin's protective shield. Remember, skincare is a holistic journey, and prioritizing your skin barrier health will yield remarkable results. You've got this!

    I’m always here for you too!

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