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Damaged moisture barrier? How to fix the big skincare problem you didn’t know you had!

Apr 22, 2019

Damaged moisture barrier? How to fix the big skincare problem you didn't know you had!

Can we have a moment for my artistic photography please and thank you ?

BIGGGG long (but informative and interesting!) skincare post comin’ at you today! 

I’m going to venture out and guess that the word “moisture barrier” probably isn’t part of your everyday vocabulary, yeah? 

(Don’t worry, it wasn’t something I knew about for the longest time either)–but I’ve done a LOT of getting lost down skincare rabbit holes lately! ?

As you guys know, I’ve had my issues with insanely stubborn breakouts, chronic dry skin, inflamed skin, embarrassing flaky patches–why couldn’t my skin just be NORMAL!? 

I tried so many different kinds of products, slathered on “hydrating” creams that never seemed to actually work–used as many powerful anti-acne products that I could–AHA’s BHA’s, toner pads, witch hazel, rubbed my face raw with exfoliating scrubs trying to eliminate the flakiness–literally nothing worked. 

Ask Neal–I’ve been known to break into sobbing fits over my skin. It sounds so vain–but there is no crappier feeling than looking in the mirror and being self-conscious about your skin. Frequently dipping into the bathroom at a party to touch up your makeup to try and cover it up. Or avoiding wearing your hair up in public for years because it would make the breakouts on the sides of your face more obvious. 

Yep-those were all me. 

So many things HELPED. Switching over to clean skincare products helped, Acupuncture helped. Regular sessions at my aesthetician helped (I get both at Leah Chavie Skincare–mention my name for 20% off!) But it didn’t eliminate my issues completely. The one change that has finally helped the most? What REALLY worked to balance my freaked out skin? Learning about my skin’s moisture barrier, and finally learning what products I needed to change in my skincare routine in order to repair it. 

Turns out, the more research I do and the more of you guys I talk to–an upset moisture barrier is the root cause for tons of skincare problems! 

If you’re also experiencing the symptoms I described above, keep reading–I think I might be able to help! ??

(Note: I am definitely not a professional and certainly not giving medical advice. I am simply sharing what worked for me in the hopes that it can help you learn a bit more about your skin and the steps you can take to improve it, should you also be running into the same troubles! Everyone’s skin is so different, it will never be a one-size-fits all answer. You have to experiment and figure out what works best for you! Also, FYI this isn’t sponsored, but I do earn an affiliate income from anything you purchase through my links!) 

So–let’s back up for a second. First…

What the heck is your skin’s moisture barrier? 

I’ve spent hours and hours pouring over various dermatological articles, and honestly, I don’t have the time or energy to explain the nitty gritty here (nor am I going to pretend to understand the nuances completely), BUT it basically boils down to this: Your skin’s moisture barrier is the outer layer of the epidermis, which serves as the protective layer of your skin. It keeps bad stuff like bacteria,  pollutants, and irritants out, and the good stuff (i.e. MOISTURE!) in. A healthy moisture barrier=balanced, happy, nice skin. 

A damaged moisture barrier on the other hand? That leads to dry, tight, dehydrated, irritated, inflamed, red, combination dry/oily, overly sensitive skin that perhaps worst of all–is breaking out more than normal and NOTHING helps alleviate it. Skin may look sallow, dull, crepey, and fine lines are more pronounced. Conditions like dermatitis, rosacea and eczema are also byproducts of a compromised moisture barrier. 

How does it get damaged? Is YOURS damaged? 

Oh, lot’s of ways. When I first read all the ways we can damage our moisture barrier, it felt like I was reading off a checklist. I could’ve said CHECK to every one of these! If any of the above sound like you, you may need to take some steps to restore your skin’s moisture barrier! 

How skin's moisture barrier gets damaged

How skin’s moisture barrier gets damaged: 

Over exfoliation:

Either with physical scrubs (think apricot scrubs–aka THE WORST thing you can wash your face with! So damaging!), over-use of sonic cleaners (like Clarisonic–which can lead to damage if used too much! Yes I am so guilty of this in the past!), and wash cloths. (Yes, regular washcloths are very rough and damaging to your face–use a Norwex cloth instead!) Also, the over-use of acidic exfoliating products. Even the most natural exfoliating products when used incorrectly can lead to damage. So, don’t overdo it on the peels! 

Using products that are too harsh:


This is the most common offender–you should absolutely never under any circumstances be using a face wash with sulfates in it.

Sadly, you’ll find sulfates in the majority of soaps out there on the market right now. You’ll find a lot of controversy on whether or not sulfates are considered carcinogenic, but everyone will collectively agree that sulfates are irritating to the skin–these are what make soaps and washes foamy–and are also the same cleaning ingredients used in dishwasher and laundry detergent. If you don’t want to wash your face with Tide, I suggest you don’t use a cleanser with sulfates. Yikes!

A note on your face wash: Does your face feel tight after you wash it? That means you need a more hydrating cleanser! Your face should never feel tight after you wash it! 

Harsh chemicals: 

This is a hard one, because there are so many products out there that contain toxic ingredients that could be wreaking havoc on your skin. (Not to mention your health). Brands will often use the words “natural” and “organic” or “for sensitive skin” even though those claims aren’t regulated–anyone can use them. Make sure you’re always flipping the label around to read it! (Granted, this is why I shop mostly Beautycounter or Sephora’s “Clean at Sephora” section, because then I know all the vetting is done for me.) 

Anti-acne medications and other harsh prescriptions: 

If you’ve been using a prescription or over the counter medication for breakouts (or something like a retinol!) they can be very harsh and over-drying to your skin, therefore disrupting your moisture barrier.

This doesn’t mean you need to totally stop using them (only you can decide what is right for you), but it does make it especially imperative that you’re using the right products along with them if you do want to continue their use. (Although, repairing your moisture barrier may very well solve your breakout issues.) 

Weather/and or environmental factors: 

Cold, dry winter weather, hot, dry summer weather, hard water, sun damage, and pollution–when the seasons change, we often see a change in our skin as well. Climate definitely can play a part in your skin health, so make sure you’re paying attention to what your skin needs and adjusting your product routine as necessary! Additionally, sun exposure and pollution exposure can also play a large role in upsetting your skin’s protective barrier–another reason to always wear sunscreen (see my post on sunscreen here!) and up your antioxidants (both eating them and applying to skin) as much as possible. 

Note on hot water: If you wash your face with hot water–please cease and desist immediately! EEK!

This is single-handedly one of the worst things you can do for dry, inflamed skin. I know, hot water is good, right? It kills bacteria? **Not on your face!*** Hot water strips the good natural oils from your skin, exacerbates dryness and causes more irritation and redness. There’s a big difference between hot water and warm water, so make sure to use room temp to warm water only! 

Not enough hydration in general: 

Overall–I find that a lot of times, people just aren’t getting enough moisture in general. One simple everyday moisturizer isn’t enough for many people–and like I mentioned above, we often don’t understand that other products (aside from our moisturizer) may be disrupting our skin and throwing it off balance––no *one* magical lotion is going to be able to correct that if your other products are working against you!

So, it’s really important to look at your skincare regimen as a whole, vs individual parts. They all need to work together to give you the skin you really want! 

How to repair skin's moisture barrier

How to repair skin’s moisture barrier: 

If you think you’ve done some damage to your skin, don’t worry–you can repair it! 

Remove your makeup with organic, all natural oil: 

Have you heard of oil cleansing? It’s very effective at repairing skin and can also be very beneficial for all skin types. I use coconut oil, which I was too scared to try for the longest time because it’s a very comedogenic oil (those with acneic skin should never leave coconut oil on their face and need to ensure all traces of it are removed!) but it’s very helpful to use as a cleanser/makeup remover when used in its pure, natural form. 

I think coconut oil REALLY helps with my breakouts because it’s high in great fatty acids that contain antimicrobial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It also binds with sebum to pull out gross stuff out of your pores, and is great for nourishing and calming inflammation. 

To use: Warm if up in your hands and massage all over face, following with a warm (not hot) microfiber washcloth to fully remove all makeup. Follow with your cleanser. (See below). Jojoba oil, Evening Primrose oil are also known to be very beneficial and great for oil cleansing. 

Switch to a very gentle, hydrating, non-foaming cleanser:

Even if it’s sulfate-free, a foaming cleanser is always more drying than a non-foaming cleanser.

But how do you know if your cleanser is problematic? Here’s my trick:

Swap your current cleaner with organic honey.

(Seriously, you can buy it at the grocery store–just make sure it’s organic and natural–not the kind from the bear. If it’s all you cleansed with for the rest of your life, you’d probably be good.)

Honey is incredibly gentle–has fantastic antibacterial and healing properties and can be a lifeline for damaged skin. Wash your face with honey instead of your usual cleanser for a couple of weeks and see if you notice an improvement. If you do, you’ll know to toss your existing cleanser.

Honestly, you could wash with honey forever–but if you don’t want to deal with the stickiness (but it’s honestly not sticky once mixed with water!)–I don’t blame you. I still will occasionally wash with honey a couple times per week for the results I mentioned above! 

For non honey cleansers (?) keep reading below for what I use currently! 

Pare down your products to the bare minimum for a while:

Stick to cleanser + moisturizing products for a few weeks–that’s it. You need to give your skin a chance to chill out! Leave it be for a few weeks using only a cleanser and hydrating products (more on those in a second), and then you can slowly introduce new products back in. (If you have issues with flakiness, the next one I’d recommend introducing is the Overnight Resurfacing Peel–I did a whole blog post on it here!) You’ll find that a lot of the products that gave you reactions before will give you amazing results now, because your barrier is repaired and now they can work properly! 

Incorporate hydrating products with these healing, hydrating ingredients: Ceramides, Trigylcerides, Glycerin, Linoleic acids, Squalane, Niacinamide, Tocopheryl, Shea butter, Jojoba oil, Sweet Almond oil, Evening Primrose oil, Borage Oil, Carrot oil. These will all go a long way in soothing, calming, restoring, and locking in hydration! 

The products that healed my moisture barrier: 

Beautycounter’s Countermatch line has become a game-changer to me. (And many of you who I’ve turned onto it–I love getting your DMs knowing how much I’ve helped you help your skin! ?)

Anyway–You know those super soothing ingredients I listed above? These products contain almost all of them, which is I think why my skin started improving so dramatically after using all these products together.

I had good results when I started using them one at a time (I love them all individually) but when I started using them religiously as a regimen was when I saw a huge difference. The whole line features what they call “Bio mimic technology” which I thought was a load of marketing BS at first to be honest ?but then I tried them and it’s REALLY true! They really do adjust to the level of moisture your skin needs at a given time. 

(Also, if you buy the products in the regimen set, you can save 10% ??But you can also purchase them individually as well!)

A note on returns: Beautycounter has 60 day free returns–I know it can be scary trying a new skincare product without being able to physically hold it in your hands first, but they allow you to test out the product for two whole months before their return policy expires–which is so nice! (Because it is the WORST to spend money on a product that you don’t end up loving, right?!) 

A bit more about each of product: 

Pure Calm Cleansing Milk: 

This ultra-gentle cleanser removes makeup and impurities without surfactants that can strip away natural oils. Its conditioning formula respects skin’s balance, replenishing essential hydration so skin feels soft and nourished, never dry or tight.

Intense Moisture Serum:

A hydrating serum is ideal to incorporate into your routine because serums contain more concentrated active ingredients that can penetrate deeply into the skin, so you see immediate and lasting results. I have no idea what it is about this serum, but I feel like this really was the icing on the cake in terms of balancing out my skin–my breakouts have reduced drastically! 

The serum is infused with antioxidant vitamins C and E, plus two types of hyaluronic acid, one that plumps skin from within and a second that locks moisture in the upper layers of skin. If you want hydrated, bouncy, glowing skin, you will love this! 

Adaptive Moisture Lotion: 

Like I mentioned above, this lotion really does adjust to your skin’s moisture levels and keeps it hydrated throughout the day better than anything I’ve ever used. (I.E. you don’t look in the mirror at 3pm anymore and find your makeup is flaking off!) It’s super hydrating without being greasy or heavy–it’s very lightweight! 

And, most recently, I’ve added this one, also part of the regimen: 

Recovery Sleeping Cream:

This super rich cream has hyaluronic acid, higher percentages of plum oil, soothing Squalane (which is derived from green olives) and tara gum, which creates a protective layer to shield skin from moisture loss, majorly replenishing hydration.

*Cool packaging alert!* It also comes in the coolest packaging that I’ve never seen before, it’s basically like a pump/jar combined–they call it an “airless jar” which protects the formula so you get a fresh dose every time. 

Introducing products back into your routine: Once your skin is in a better place (i.e. after 3-6 weeks, obviously use your best judgement!) It’s very important that you add new products to your routine one at a time. That’s the only way you’ll be able to identify if something is causing an issue for you or not! 


That was a lot of info at once, right? I hope it was helpful! I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face: What worked for me won’t work for everyone. Skincare is so unique, but if you’ve experienced similar issues to me and nothing has worked, I hope you can walk away with some tips that can help change your skin for the better! 

That’s it! That’s the end of our nerdy skincare lesson today. ?What did you think? Was this informative? I hope so! Also, would love to hear what other products saved your skin if you’ve had similar issues! 

P.S. If you loved this post, hop on my clean beauty email list for more helpful tips on switching over to cleaner skincare!

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