How to repair the skin barrier: Best products to use

“Our skin needs to be gently but effectively cleansed, ‘watered’ with hydrators and ‘fed’ with replenishing oils. It’s that simple”

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Ellie Davis23 June 2023
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In a short amount of time, our approach for problem-solving stressed skin has evolved dramatically.

We may have once believed that harsh chemicals and abrasive formulations were the answer, but now consumers are wising up to the importance of caring and nourishing for the skin barrier. It’s all about TLC.

According to Aveeno’s The State of Skin Sensitivity report, an overwhelming71 per cent of adults have sensitive skin. It’s something that’s so relatable that on TikTok, that the topic has over 2.2 billion views and counting - that’s equivalent to a nearly a quarter of the people on Earth. This highlights the growing interest in solves that will support the skin and the gentle, healing formulas that won’t exacerbate the situation.

The skin barrier is the gatekeeper of the skin. It is the physical shield that bears the brunt of the UV rays, pollution, blue light and skincare trial and error - whether that’s using face wipes as a quick fix or going too harsh with active acids, coarse scrubs or drying foaming washes. These all have an impact on the skin’s own natural oil production and can alter its functionality, leading to irritation, inflammation, dehydration or even premature ageing. Treat your complexion instead to skin-loving ingredients like ceramides or hyaluronic acid.

Skincare specialist Jane Scrivner says, “maintaining a strong skin barrier shouldn’t be overcomplicated. Our skin needs to be gently but effectively cleansed, ‘watered’ with hydrators and ‘fed’ with replenishing oils. It’s that simple”.

To decode everything you need to know about the skin barrier and its healthy functions, we consulted Dr Vanita Rattan, CEO and Cosmetic Formulator at SkincarebyDrV to find out more.

What type of barrier is the skin?

”A healthy skin barrier is a protective layer compromised of ceramides, lipids, cholesterol, and fatty acids. It is a shield to our external environment, protecting us from irritating substances, allergens, and bacterial infections. Also, it is a moisture barrier, keeping hydration locked into the skin for a supple, youthful complexion”.

How to know if your skin barrier is damaged

“You may notice that your skin feels dry, flaky, sensitive, inflamed, itchy or hot to touch. When you apply skincare products, you may also notice a stinging or burning sensation. It’s not always the case that you have dry skin with a damaged skin barrier. The sebaceous glands may go into overdrive to compensate for the moisture loss caused by the damaged barrier. This excess sebum production can make the skin appear oilier.

“When the weather conditions change, our skin can change too. A damaged skin barrier is more likely in winter as central heating and cold winds continuously dry out and chap the skin. Over bathing in hot water, using high pH soaps and harsh physical scrubs can also damage the skin barrier as it can strip away the natural lipid components, which leads to more water loss to the skin. Using too many skincare products is also a common culprit”.

How to repair the skin barrier

”The first thing you need to do is prevention. Don’t use anything that is harsh on the skin such as alkali soaps that can strip the skin of its moisture and physical scrubs that can cause microtears. Skin sensitisers like essential oils as fragrance is the number one cause of contact dermatitis. Also, avoid any actives that can irritate the skin if you know you are prone to a damaged skin barrier. For example AHAs, BHAs and vitamin A derivatives.

“The number one rule when repairing your skin barrier is to always wear a minimum of SPF50+ to protect your skin from natural aggressors, such as the sun’s harmful UV radiation. I would recommend Inzincable (Zinc Oxide) broad spectrum mineral sunscreen with PA++++ rating, as it is an anti-inflammatory with no penetration of actives.

“As we age, we have reduced ceramides in our skin which means we have less fat content, more trans-epidermal water loss, more dehydrated skin and a weakened skin barrier. Incorporate more humectants into your skincare routine as you age, these are water magnets which lock in moisture and aid repair to the skin barrier. Key humectants like glycerin, urea and sodium hyaluronate are great to incorporate into your skincare routine, alongside anti- inflammatory ingredients such as aloe and panthenol. Antioxidants will also mop up any free radicals which happen due to inflammation that would otherwise cause premature ageing.

“Finally, I would recommend simplifying your skincare routine - make sure there is no alcohol, essential oils or irritants in your products. When you are washing your face, ensure you are using a hydrating micellar gel wash cleanser rather than harsh soaps or over exfoliating. When you wash your face, use cool water to soothe the skin rather than hot water which will further dehydrate the skin”.

How long does it take to repair the skin barrier?

”This depends on the severity of damage! Typically, it can take between 2-4 weeks for the skin to naturally repair its barrier function. In more severe cases, it will take longer. Consistently following a gentle skincare routine, avoiding irritants, and providing adequate hydration and nourishment to the skin can help expedite the healing process.”

Shop products to nourish the skin’s barrier below

Cellcosmet Ultra Vital Cream (50ml)


If you thought you’d heard it all in the world of skincare, think again. Forward-thinking Swiss skincare label Cellcosmet is on the forefront of innovation, bringing cosmetic science and expertise in revitalisation to a results-driven range that is powered by postbiotics and the brand’s signature (and trademarked) CytoPep Cellular Extracts. The entire collection is created to work holistically to support the skin barrier and optimise its functionality.

The Ultra Vital Cream is deeply moisturising and long-lasting - whether you apply during the day or at night (it works for both). The formula and the complex of postbiotics creates a protective film over the complexion that means blue light, pollution and the likes cannot compromise the skin barrier. It also has a lifting and firming effect meaning it provides two for the price of one for anti-ageing benefits too.

Yes, it’s expensive - but ground-breaking technology rarely comes cheap.

Buy now£360, Harrods

Tula 24-7 Ultra Hydration Triple-Hydra Complex Day & Night Serum


Layer this serum under your barrier repair creams to double down on the protection. The serum is made up of hyaluronic acid with three molecular weights included for ultra hydration as well as polygutamic acid, a supercharged ingredient taking over the skincare space for its plumping effect. There’s also enapsulated squalane pearls that make this a cool glass of water for the complexion. This cocktail of skin-loving acids are mixed up with Tula’s own S6Pro complex of six pre and probiotics that balances the skin and leaves it silky smooth.

Buy now£41, Tula

Weleda Skin Food


This is a cult product that has stood proudly in bathroom cabinets around the world, beloved for the intense moisturisation that it provides. The Weleda Skin Food is perhaps one of the most nourishing products on the market, providing a quick-fix solution for dryness and compromised barriers with its natural formulation.

While imparting moisture, it’s also soothing and strengthening, leaving your complexion silky soft in the process. The ingredient line-up includes lanolin, beeswax and glycerin that are stepped up a few notches with sweet almond and sunflower oils to give the skin barrier what it needs to function and repair.

Buy now£13.50, Cult Beauty

E45 Itch Relief Gel 100ml


Some of the signs that external aggressors may have affected your skin barrier are dry patches, itchiness and bacterial infections. This can be caused by environmental stresses like UV rays or an overload of products. E45 has the solution for the latter, counteracting irritation with its reparative formula of skin-loving ingredients.

The gentle components include panthenol B5, lauded for its ability to draw moisture to leave skin firm, plump and calm, while glycerin minimises water loss and vitamin B5 supports the skin’s own ability to attract and retain hydration.

The gel texture is instantly cooling, an effect the brand suggests taking to the next level by keeping it in the fridge. As is the case with the entirety of the E45 collection, it is suitable for all skin types, even and especially those with dermatitis, psoriasis and acne-prone skin.

Buy now£9.99, Boots

Byoma SPF 30 Gel Moisturiser 50ml


This is a daily moisturiser that provides a shielding layer for the skin barrier. First and foremost, there’s SPF30 with broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. While doing so, it is part of the new guard of sun creams that aren’t laborious to rub in, won’t dry out your skin and don’t leave a white cast in their wake.

Instead, your complexion glows and feels hydrated, the latter due to the combination of hyaluronic acid and beta glucan that are moisturising and plumping. These work in tandem with the brand’s proprietary Tri-Ceramide Complex which is the component responsible for barrier support. One to be worn on makeup-free days as you may find it pills.

Buy now£15, Boots

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Balm B5 Multi-Purpose Repairing Balm 40ml

La Roche-Posay

Soothing sensitive skin is French pharmacy label La Roche-Posay’s bread and butter - and it does so in the most luxurious way possible. Whether you are prone to irritation due to rosacea or eczema, have overused active ingredients or due to menopausal skin dryness, employ the nurturing benefits of this multi-purpose balm.

As a treat to the skin’s barrier, it is formulated with cicaplast and vitamin B5 that care for and fortify it, while also locking in hydration to start repairing on first application. The cream forms a protective layer on the skin against external aggressors and encourages a more effective recovery - all while remaining lightweight enough. It can be used on all skin types, even acne-prone as it’s non-comedogenic.

Buy now£8.50, lookfantastic

Murad Daily Defence Cream


As part of the Murad ExaSoothe collection, this cream is instantly soothing the second it is applied to your stressed complexion. It works to ease discomfort caused by sensitivities with colloidal oatmeal that is famed for its irritation-soothing properties. There’s also a blend of hydrating mondo grass sugars that is unique and proprietary that works alongside niacinamide to balance, restore and strengthen the skin barrier. To round off the calming cream is shea butter that is rich in fatty acids and is a deeply nourishing component that will protect aganist dryness and hydrate too.

Buy now£54, Space NK

CeraVe AM Facial Moisturising Lotion SPF50 for Normal to Dry Skin 52ml


Every dermatologist you will ever speak to globally will stress the importance of wearing SPF daily. This doesn’t need to be a chore, in fact, CeraVe has created this moisturiser to be used every single day to protect your skin from stress from the sun with SPF50. It provides a broad spectrum shield to limit exposure to ageing UVA and burning UVB, while remaining lightweight.

The sun’s rays can negatively impact the skin barrier, leading to fine lines, pigmentation, uneven skin texture and loss of elasticity so this is the first and most important step that you can take to repair and protect from the aforementioned as well as prevent sensitivity, inflammation and peeling.

Buy now£13.20, lookfantastic

Kinship Kinskin Ceramide Barrier Repair Oil 30ml


A relatively new import from the US, Kinship has already been making waves on this side of the Atlantic for its clean formulations that use premium ingredients and have been clinically proven. The entire range is designed around strengthening the skin barrier as is clear by the name of this product.

The Kinskin Ceramide Barrier Repair Oil harnesses the power of a proprietary omega fatty acid blend that was created to be ultra-nourishing as well as soothing. It is set alongside a powerhouse combination of vitamin C for its glow-giving properties and an additional fatty acid-rich component of oat ceramides that mimics what is found naturally in the skin.

Buy now£34, Cult Beauty

Dermatica Nourishing Ceramide + Peptide Moisturiser


You may have heard the term peptides being discussed among the beauty community and the ingredient is one of the latest buzzwords with the tag #peptidemoisturizer reaching over 4.9 million view on TikTok.

But it’s not just our friends across the pond that are getting in on the skin barrier protecting ingredient. Dermatica is making it more accessible than ever (products with this component tend to be quite pricey) with this formula that was created in order to support the external layer, while also reducing wrinkles, calming inflammation and counteracting dryness. Providing quick relief, the star ingredient is set alongside ceramides to double down on helping the skin barrier, and niacinamide to tackle the appearance of dark spots.

Buy now£15.95, Dermatica

Farmacy Honey Potion Plus Ceramide Hydration Mask


Smelling sweetly like and with the unctuous consistency of honey, this is an upgraded version of Farmacy’s original hero mask, reformulated with extra strengthening and replenishing ingredients including ceramides.

Smooth over the skin and massage in for a couple of minutes until the gel transforms into a rich white paste and starts to gently warm up. Rinsed away ten to 15 minutes later, the skin feels soft and bouncy thanks to upcycled apple extract, while the addition of niacinamide ensures it looks brighter and more even. Ceramides meanwhile work with panthenol to fortify the skin barrier and hold all that plumping moisture to the skin.

Buy now£53, Cult Beauty