What is the skin barrier, and how do I repair it once it's damaged?

Questions and Answers

What is the skin barrier, and how do I repair it once it's damaged?


I wanted to start this week’s blog with some sad news. Amy has flown the Q+A nest, starting a new job across the pond in Australia! We’re so excited for her, but she will be hugely missed by Team Q+A. She certainly leaves some big shoes to fill when it comes to the Q+A blog, but rest assured, I’ll try my best to keep you up to date and educated on all thing’s skincare!

I’m kicking it off with a blog all about the skin barrier. Seemingly overnight, it’s become one of the most talked about skincare topics, particularly what to do when it disastrously becomes damaged. Trust me, I’ve been there, but this blog isn’t going to be totally anecdotal – Faye our Development Chemist will be helping me out with science behind the skin barrier, and most importantly, how you can repair it if it does become spoiled…

Your skin is made up of multiple layers, each of which perform a unique function. The outermost layer (the stratum corneum) is made of tough skin cells – “think of it like a brick wall structure, in which the cells act as bricks, and lipids (fatty acids and ceramides) act as cement. This is your skin barrier. It’s number one job is to keep water in and irritants out,” says Faye.

Unfortunately, your skin barrier isn’t quite as strong as a brick wall, and it can be damaged quickly when the ‘bricks become unglued’ and water is lost, resulting in dehydrated and irritated skin. A tell-tale sign of skin barrier damage is a sudden sensitivity to nonactive products that you’ve used countless times before, like your moisturiser, face oil or hydrating serum.

Most of the damage comes from external factors, like too much sun exposure, dry and harsh weather conditions, and even certain types of medication. Surprisingly, the top culprit of a damaged skin barrier are your skincare choices – back to Faye for this one!

“Scrubbing at your skin too hard, stripping your skin of natural oils with harsh cleansers or acids, waxing, and using acidic DIY ingredients in your skincare regime like lemon juice are a few examples of self-inflicted barrier damage. The most common reason for barrier damage is over exfoliation, like pairing a physical scrub with an AHA or BHA in the same regime.” It can be tempting to exfoliate your skin if it appears a little flaky, in the hope of sloughing away dead skin cells, but this should be avoided at all costs. Take if from someone who has been there. Remember, you don’t need to exfoliate your skin every day, 2-3 times per week is plenty for most skin types.

If it’s too late and barrier damage has already occurred, don’t panic! You can get your skin back on track with the right skincare, but you may need to strip back your regime. When working to repair damage, rehydration should be the focus. Remember, your skin can never have too much moisture ( as long as you’re using the right ingredient for your skin type). Reduce the steps in your regime for a week or two, removing all products containing actives from your regime (like AHA’s and retinol), and stick to a simple cleanser, gentle toner, and hydrating moisturiser. You may want to add in an oil for extra repair!

So, what Q+A products does Faye recommend for a damaged skin barrier?

Faye's Top Picks


Facial Oil

Hyaluronic Acid

Hydrating Cleanser

Snow Algae

Intensive Face Cream

Faye’s top pick is our Squalane Facial Oil, and for good reason! “A natural moisturising factor, Squalane is a skin identical ingredient that forms a protective barrier, preventing water loss. It has natural antioxidant properties that will keep skin looking healthy and feeling hydrated for longer. Look for it in single ingredient form to avoid the potential for irritation.”  

Next up, she’d recommend a new launch – the Snow Algae Intensive Face Cream. This product combines deeply moisturising humectants like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera, which work together to “draw moisture into the skin and keep it hydrated”. It’s bouncy Shea Butter base is rich in fatty acids to feed the skin and build up moisture levels. It’s fragrance free too, reducing the potential for irritation even further!

When you barrier is damaged you want to keep your skin clean but avoid stripping it of any moisture. This is where the Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Cleanser comes in. “Natural, gentle surfactants like coco-betaine will lift away impurities but also condition the skin due to their high inclusion of fatty acids,” says Faye “combine that with 2 molecular weights of Hyaluronic Acid, you have a cleanser that is gentle but will provide deep hydration.”

Now your skin barrier is on the mend, you want to keep it strong and protected! The best way to do this is to stick to a consistent and simple regime, and not to overdo it with harsh actives. Follow the usage instructions on your products (if it says use twice a week, stick to it!) and introduce new products with ease – slow and steady wins the race. Layer up those barrier protecting ingredients and you’ll be on your way to your strongest skin barrier yet.

I hope you enjoyed my first Q+A blog. If you have any questions you’d like answered, our inbox is always open, so don’t be afraid to get in touch! Send an email to Team Q+A or drop us a message on Instagram.

Until next time!

Lucy @ Team Q+A

Lucy Wickham
Marketing Lead | Current favourite: Snow Algae Intensive Face Cream

Faye Purcell
Development Chemist | Current favourite: Apple AHA Exfoliating Gel