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Your Skin’s Moisture Barrier & How to Repair It

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

With great joy of the holiday season comes the cold winter weather that our skin either loves or hates. Those of us with oily skin tend to see less oiliness and sensitivity. Those of us with dry skin have even more trouble maintaining moisture during these months. Regardless of your skin type, having a strong moisture barrier can help fight off bacteria and environmental stressors so that your skin remains even in tone and texture.

What is a moisture barrier?

Dr. Ranella Hirsch, board-certified dermatologist, defines the moisture barrier as a function. It is your skin’s first layer of protection when fighting off bacteria and pollutants in the air. This layer is a combination of lipids, fatty acids, and ceramides that develop over time. It also acts as a conditioning agent in retaining the moisture on your skin for a hydrated,


You can often tell when the moisture barrier is lacking because the skin will feel tight, dry, and more susceptible to breakouts. However, when the moisture barrier repairs, the skin will appear more hydrated and smooth. Much like how our skin looks fuller and more plump in the morning.

How is the moisture barrier affected?

Throughout the day, our skin loses moisture from the air, temperature, touching our face, and wearing masks. As moisture in our skin depletes, our skin becomes vulnerable to irritants in the environment such as dust, smoke, pollen, bacteria, and other environmental aggressors. With that said, factors such as sun exposure, smoking, hot water, over-exfoliation, etc. can all contribute to the lack of moisture in the skin.

Especially during the winter, we’re constantly exposed to the cold outdoors and heated indoors. Cold temperatures can dry out the skin breaking down the protective layer and irritate it further. With the high indoor temperatures, humidity drops which can speed up transepidermal water loss in the skin. This may all sound worrisome, but sure enough, there are plenty of ways to maintain and repair the moisture barrier.

Avoid These in Your Skincare

Products that contain denatured alcohols can heavily strip the skin of moisture and lead to aging. Also, you want to be sure you aren’t over-cleansing or washing your face with hot water as both can impair the moisture barrier and throw off your skin’s pH level. Stick to cleansing once in the AM and PM and use lukewarm water to rinse.

Use a Cleansing Lotion

Foaming cleansers and harsh active cleansers can actually do more harm than good if you’re overly sensitive. Although these cleansers are meant to address specific skin issues, they don’t do much to retain your skin’s moisture. Opting out for a gentle cleanser or cleanser lotion ensures you’re washing away dirt and debris built up on the face while also keeping your skin properly hydrated.

Look for Barrier-Friendly Ingredients

Products like toners and moisturizers are crucial for repairing the moisture barrier. Look for products containing oils such as jojoba, sunflower, safflower, avocado, sweet almond, etc. that imitate and develop the skin’s natural lipids. You also want to incorporate active ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides that seal the skin to keep irritants out. Apply a toner in the AM and a moisturizer AM/PM or whenever you need extra hydration throughout the day.

Pay Attention to Your Skin

Overall, you want to be aware of how your skin is reacting to different products, habits, and environments. When there’s an issue, your skin will tell you. We often use harsh products that promise to deliver perfect skin. However, sometimes less is more. It’s important to be gentle with your skin and treat it very delicately. If there are issues arising, look to pull back on ingredients/habits as opposed to adding an extra step.

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