If your complexion is feeling worse for wear—think tight, dry, and ultra-sensitive—it’s likely because your skin barrier is stripped and can’t effectively safeguard against harmful external aggressors, such as smoke and pollution.
“The skin barrier is designed to keep moisture in and external irritants out,” explains New York City board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., very matter-of-factly. “When we strip the skin of its natural oils, this disrupts the skin barrier and weakens it, which can lead to increased moisture loss and subsequently dry, sensitive, and irritated skin.”
Many factors can contribute to a stripped skin barrier, Dr. Garshick says, including washing your face with harsh soap, swimming in a chlorinated pool, and over-exfoliating, as they all rob the skin of its natural oils. [Editor’s note: click here for a deep dive on the signs of over-exfoliation.]
“You know your barrier is stripped because the skin will typically feel tight, itchy, and really sensitive,” says Dr. Garshick of symptoms to look out for. “It may also appear red, flaky, and dry.”
In order to prevent injuring or stripping your skin barrier, Dr. Garshick recommends avoiding harsh cleansers and exfoliating too often, and stresses the importance of listening to your skin and what it needs (and what it doesn’t).
“Look for ingredients that help to support and strengthen the natural skin barrier, such as ceramides and free fatty acids,” she advises. “Additionally, using a good moisturizer after cleansing can help to replenish lost moisture, especially if the formula includes humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin, which help to draw moisture in.”
On top of that, Dr. Garshick says the use of topical antioxidants like vitamins C—as found in the 15% Vitamin C + Clean Caffeine Energy Serum—and E are proven to protect the skin against oxidative stress from pollution and UV radiation, both of which negatively impact the skin barrier and cause premature signs of aging. Another barrier-supportive ingredient Dr. Garshick recommends incorporating into your routine is glucosamine, which she says “works to boost hyaluronic acid synthesis and improve hydration, while also helping to strengthen the skin barrier.”
All this to say, if you’re looking for a solid daily routine that both helps repair and support your skin barrier, start by using a gentle, antioxidant-packed face wash like Youth To The People's Superfood Cleanser, followed by a hyaluronic acid-rich serum or facial spray, such as the Adaptogen Soothe + Hydrate Activated Mist. Next, apply an ultra-nourishing moisturizer like the Adaptogen Deep Moisture Cream and then finish with two to three drops of the Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Oil to lock everything in. So long as you’re consistent with your regimen and avoid stripping products and over-exfoliation, your skin barrier will stay happy and healthy. It’s as simple as that.