Healing a Damaged Skin Barrier
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Healing a Damaged Skin Barrier

By Safina Ali
08/06/2023 | Read time: 5m

So today I wanted to talk about something we've all experienced at some point or another and that is, a compromised skin barrier. And it may or may not be because I'm dealing with it right now >_<

We’ve all been guilty of this, whether it be due to over exfoliation, product overuse, or even product sensitivity. But that itchy, irritated feeling where literally all your products sting, isn’t always the easiest to calm.

A compromised barrier is something I experienced a lot when I first got serious about my skincare journey, especially once I started using tretinoin. It’s an easy trap to fall into especially when you buy new products and you’re so eager to see results that you forgo any sort of barrier care in the hope that piling on the actives will give you quick results.

But if your skincare experience was anything like mine you slowly realised that slow and steady really does win the race. Now I much prefer skin cycling over on nights and off nights for actives. But while that definitely works well for me, there are still some days where I feel the sting of my products, and I know on those days it’s time to cut back on the actives and just focus on healing my skin. I’ve been fortunate enough to try out a multitude of Korean skincare so here are my top picks for products that help heal and calm a damaged barrier.

Of course please note, while I do find these products to be soothing and mild on my own irritated skin, it’s important to remember that everyone’s skin is different, so bear this in mind!

INNISFREE Green Tea Cleansing Oil

I just think oil cleansing is great, skin barrier compromised or not. But when my barrier is damaged I like to lay off the double cleanse which can sometimes feel extra stripping, and just stick with the oil cleanser. I like to take a few minutes extra to really focus on rubbing it into my skin to get rid of any debris.

The innisfree cleanser also has Camellia Sinensis Root Extract – green tea – as it’s star ingredient. Green tea is known for its antioxidant properties, which can help protect the skin from environmental damage and promote a healthier complexion. It is formulated without harmful additives such as mineral oil, artificial fragrances, and synthetic colorants, making it a gentle option for daily cleansing.

PYUNKANG YUL Essence Toner

Okay, if there’s one product on the list I recommend for a damaged barrier, it’s this one. It was quite an accidental discovery actually. I had a small bottle of this stuff just to use as a general toner but sort of tossed it aside in favour of hyaluronic acid based toners. But one day, my skin was so angry that all products that my skin normally loved just burned. Without thinking, I grabbed the bottle in the hope that it calmed my skin and…it did! Like magic! And with it’s very simple ingredient list, it’s not surprising.

The Essence Toner is formulated without artificial fragrances, colorants, parabens, and other potential irritants, making it suitable for sensitive skin. Despite its scent, this toner is super gentle on skin and goes a long way in helping your damaged skin heal. Now I always keep a bottle on hand for emergencies!

COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence Serum

Of course this product was going to make the list. There’s a reason why this is the top selling Korean skincare product in the west! Once you get used to the hydrating but slightly tacky texture, you’re in for a treat. This product is great, whether your skin barrier is damaged or not, simply because of how beneficial the ingredients are.

As the name suggests, the star ingredient is snail mucin which might put you off, but it really does help to moisturise skin, fight premature ageing and it also has wound-healing and acne fighting properties! I found this to be super soothing on irritated skin, especially paired with the Pyunkang Yul Essence toner! And of course it contains Sodium Hyaluronate, a derivative of hyaluronic acid, so you know it will be beneficial for your barrier!

DR. JART+ Cicapair Cream

Whenever you hear cica or centella, you immediately think barrier care, and there’s a reason for that! Cica has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe irritated and sensitive skin.

It has been shown to accelerate wound healing by stimulating the production of collagen, and it’s anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce redness and calm skin irritation, resulting in a more even skin tone. This buttery repair cream is a fan favourite, both in the west and in Korea itself.

It’s perfectly rich without feeling thick or occlusive, and just amazingly calming on damaged skin!

ILLIYOON Ceramide Ato Concentrate Cream

If you haven’t heard about this Korean moisturiser, you’ve definitely been living under a rock! This thick buttery cream is formulated with a ceremide complex that’s actually visible in the formulation in small capsules that disappear into the skin when you rub it in.

Ceramides help to replenish and retain moisture in the skin and enhance barrier function. It also contains panthenol (provitamin B5), allantoin, and other skin-soothing ingredients that help reduce redness, inflammation, and itchiness.

It is free from potential irritants, such as artificial fragrances and colorants, making it suitable for sensitive skin and reducing the risk of allergic reactions, and is overall, a great addition to anyone’s skincare arsenal.

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the many product options out there for damaged skin barriers, and just barrier skincare in general. It can be quite frustrating to fix, and also a lengthy process that can take a few weeks to fully fix.

As mentioned earlier, slow and steady wins the race and more doesn’t always mean better. Skincare is all about balance and designing a beneficial routine that works for your skin, without compromising it in the long run.

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