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Skin barrier function has been the focal point of most of my conversations with dermatologists and beauty brand founders lately. The latest skin-care products, namely barrier creams, are being formulated precisely with the skin’s moisture barrier in mind — mostly because it’s what keeps your skin happy and healthy.
While it wards off irritation and redness, “the skin’s moisture barrier helps the skin to retain moisture, specifically water,” New York-based board-certified dermatologist Kenneth Mark previously explained to Allure. However, its abilities to do so can easily be affected by your skin-care routine, diet (i.e. how much water, alcohol, and caffeine you drink), and the environment, such as the sun, wind, and pollution. Breakouts, eczema, and even fine lines may strike as a result of a compromised barrier.
Instead of solely offering moisturizers, more and more beauty brands are adding products labeled barrier cream (or barrier repair cream) to their lineups. Unlike moisturizers, barrier creams are usually thick and do more than just hydrate your visage. They also maintain and repair your skin’s barrier function by protecting your complexion from irritants and drying out, Boston-based board-certified dermatologist Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip tells Allure.
Another major key to barrier creams is reducing transepidermal water loss, adds Naana Boakye, an assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. Think of skin like a broken pipe. Every second, water is trickling out of your skin, even more so at night. Layering a barrier cream on top acts almost as tape to stop it from leaking water. Boakye typically recommends doing so at night, which is optimal barrier repair time, so, “in the morning, your skin will be supple,” she says.
Who needs a barrier cream in their routine?
Now that you know exactly what a barrier cream does, you’re probably wondering if you need it. Most skin types can benefit from it, Imahiyerobo-Ip shares, but those with sensitive skin need it most. “In the current pandemic, many people are overwashing to prevent infection,” she adds. “This can increase the risk of skin irritation, which is not easily resolved with the typical moisturizing cream alone.”