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Dealing with skin that’s dry, red, scaly, or just all-around irritated? Chances are your moisture barrier is in need of some good old-fashioned TLC.

The skin’s moisture barrier, made of cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides, is responsible for locking in moisture and keeping your skin hydrated and healthy.

When it’s damaged or compromised (as in, your skin can’t hold on to moisture), it can cause serious skin hydration issues.

“Think of your skin like a cement sidewalk. When your moisture barrier is broken, it’s like deep cracks running up and down your sidewalk,” says Janet Prystowsky, an NYC-based dermatologist. “For our skin, those cracks expose our sensitive skin layers to dry air, causing them to dehydrate.”

Luckily, moisture barrier damage isn’t permanent. With the right changes to your lifestyle, you can reverse the damage and restore proper hydration to your skin.

But the best part? You can do it quickly.

While making any long-term changes to your skin takes time, you can start to repair your moisture barrier and notice a serious boost in hydration to the skin in just a few days. In fact, you can change hydration levels in the skin in just 24 hours.

Ready to score a noticeably different complexion by week’s end? Follow this 3-day fix to begin repairing your moisture barrier and get the healthy, hydrated skin you deserve.

These quick tips are the long and short of keeping your skin hydrated.

  • Get 8 to 9 hours sleep.
  • Limit showers to 5 to 10 minutes, and use lukewarm water.
  • Drink enough water.
  • Limit coffee and alcohol.
  • Limit or avoid smoking.
  • Switch to a gentle cleanser.
  • Eat a varied diet that’s rich in essential fatty acids.
  • Use products containing ceramides, hyaluronic acid, lipids, and fatty acids.
  • Use a hydrating sleep mask.
  • Protect your skin from the sun, wind, and cold.
  • Create a moisture barrier with petroleum jelly.
  • Try to reduce your stress levels.

Before you dive in, it’s a good idea to test your skin’s current hydration level. There’s a simple test to help you do this. Using your thumb and index finger, pinch the fleshy part of your skin where the cheek and under eye area meet.

When you do this, your skin will appear “tented” for a moment, or stuck in the shape of your pinch. Your hydration level is indicated by how quickly the skin snaps back into place.

The quicker it snaps back, the higher the level of hydration. Skin that slowly returns to its usual position often indicates dehydration.

Want to super hydrate your skin over a 3-day period? Here’s how to do it.

When to wake up

Waking up early can be a good thing. But if you want to jumpstart healing the skin’s moisture barrier, it’s essential you catch up on sleep, aka 8 to 9 hours of quality shut-eye.

Your sleeping hours are when your skin repairs itself and replenishes moisture — and getting more (and better quality) sleep goes a long way in helping your skin repair its moisture barrier.

In a 2014 study, people who got high quality sleep had 30 percent greater moisture barrier recovery in 72 hours than poor sleepers.

Aim to get at least 8 to 9 hours of sleep to encourage the skin’s healing process.

What to drink today

When it comes to repairing your moisture barrier, a lot of people focus on products — but what you put into your body is just as important as what you put on your body.

So, if you want to repair your moisture barrier and replenish hydration to the skin, you need to give your body what it needs to stay hydrated.

In other words, drink lots of water.

Your skin is made up of 30 percent water, and focusing on staying hydrated — especially if you’re not a big water drinker — can help offset water loss and increase hydration in the skin.

“It is as easy as that,” says Andrea Weber, the head of research and development for skin care line BABOR. “The more moisture we give to our body from the inside, the better our protective barrier works.”

In addition to drinking plenty of H20, you’ll also want to limit coffee or alcohol intake. These are both diuretics and can potentially lead to dehydration.

A good rule of thumb is to drink a cup of water for every alcoholic or caffeinated drink you have.

What to do today

Switch your pillowcase

Consider swapping out your cotton pillowcases for a softer, less absorbent fabric to protect your skin. Try:

  • silk
  • bamboo
  • satin

Silk fabric may absorb less moisture than cotton, though there’s no science to back this up.

Still, Prystowsky is a fan.

“Using nonabrasive fabrics like silk pillowcases…will help prevent further trauma to the weakened barrier,” she says.

Check your cleanser’s labeling and ditch it, if you need to

It’s important to wash your face every day — but if you’re using the wrong cleanser, it could be stripping the skin of its protective oils and doing more harm to your moisture barrier than good.

“The first step to repairing your moisture barrier is to stop destroying it with aggressive cleansers,” says Weber.


  • gels or foams
  • antibacterial cleansers
  • exfoliating washes
  • scented products

“I recommend an oil-based cleanser and an herbal elixir that are tailored to your skin condition,” Weber adds. “Together, they cleanse gently and nurture your skin while protecting the gentle lipid barrier that protects your skin.”

Opt for gentle cleaners that are fragrance-free and botanical-free.

When to go to sleep

You might be tempted to make it a late night — it is Saturday, after all! — but get to sleep early (before 11 p.m.). The earlier you go to bed, the more shut-eye you’ll get, and the more time your skin will have to repair itself overnight.

When to wake up

Aim to wake up at 8 a.m. today. It’s late enough to ensure you get a good night’s sleep, but early enough that you won’t be cursing your life when your alarm goes off tomorrow morning.

What to eat today

Enjoy some Sunday sushi…

Hit up your favorite sushi spot and get some tuna and salmon sashimi. Both varieties of fish are high in essential fatty acids, which can help strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier.

…or some nuts and seeds

Vegan or vegetarian? No problem! You can still get your essential fatty acids from plant-based sources, like flax seed, which are rich in omega 3’s, or pumpkin seeds, which are rich in omega 6’s.

Up your nutrients

If you want to up the moisture-barrier repairing benefits of your lunch, increase your zinc intake. Zinc may boost collagen production in the skin and speed up the repair process.

Foods high in zinc include:

  • shellfish
  • beans
  • meats
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • whole grains

It’s also thought that daily consumption of collagen may benefit joints and skin, though there isn’t enough clinical evidence yet to confirm this.

What to do today

Stock up on the right products

Yesterday, you ditched the cleansers that suck the moisture out of your skin. Today, it’s time to stock up on skin care products with the ingredients that are going to replenish that moisture.

The most important ingredients to look for are:

  • ceramides to help repair skin and prevent transepidermal water loss
  • hyaluronic acid (HA), a humectant, which is an ingredient that binds moisture and helps slow down the rate at which water evaporates from the skin (HA can bind up to 1,000 times its weight in water!)
  • lipids and fatty acids to make up the moisture barrier and hold moisture in — and which you’ll need to replenish if you want to repair it

Oil up your skin

Don’t have the right products on hand? No worries — chances are, you have what you need to repair your moisture barrier in your pantry.

“Essential fatty acids and vitamin E present in vegetable- [or] plant-based oils can also be absorbed through the skin, which are helpful for all of your cell membranes,” Prystowsky says. “Oils, like sunflower oil, olive oil, and even corn oil, [are effective] for… moderate moisture barrier disruption.”

Hydrate overnight

If you really want to speed up the moisture barrier repair process, the best thing you can do is hydrate around the clock. And the best way to do that? With a hydrating sleeping mask.

For a DIY option, mix half a cucumber in a blender with a few tablespoons of aloe vera gel until it reaches a smooth consistency, then spread a thin layer over your face. Aloe vera has been shown to have hydrating properties, while cucumber soothes dryness or irritation.

When to wake up

It’s Monday, which (probably) means it’s time to head back to work — which also means less flexibility for when you need to wake up.

You might not be able to change the time you have to wake up during the week, but changing the time you go to bed — even if it’s earlier than you’re used to — can help make sure you get enough shut-eye for your skin to properly repair itself during the night.

What to eat today

For a lunch that a) tastes delicious, and b) does some serious repair to your moisture barrier, slice up a sweet potato, toss it in olive oil, and roast it in the oven.

Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C, which boosts collagen production, while olive oil is full of the essential fatty acids you need to boost your moisture barrier.

Need something more filling? You can also make sweet potato toast!

What to do today

Bring in the big guns: Petroleum jelly

If you feel like your skin still isn’t holding in moisture, it’s time to bring in the big guns — also known as petroleum jelly. If you’re experiencing more severe moisture barrier damage, petroleum jelly is one of the most effective (not to mention affordable) things you can use.

Petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) is an occlusive that forms a barrier over your skin and locks in moisture — and it can prevent transepidermal water loss by a whopping 98 percent.

Take a deep breath

Mondays can be stressful. But stress can cause impaired barrier function and delay the repair process.

If you want to repair your moisture barrier, that means you need to keep the stress to a minimum.

Next time you feel yourself getting stressed, pause and take a few deep breaths. Just a few minutes of deep breathing can trigger your body’s relaxation response and keep stress at bay, making it easier for your moisture barrier to repair itself.

Think of this 3-day fix as a jump-start to an improved moisture barrier. While you’ll definitely see results by the end of day 3, you need to keep up the good habits if you want lasting improvement to the skin.

How to hydrate your skin internally

Focus on hydrating foods and drinks. Though they haven’t been scientifically proven to moisturize the skin from the inside, there are plenty of reasons to eat a varied, nutritious diet.

Consider including these foods in your diet:

Dehydrating foods and drinks to limit include:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • refined carbohydrates
  • sugary sweets and drinks
  • salty foods

How to hydrate your skin externally

Follow these tips to keep your skin’s natural moisture locked in.

Limit bathing

A hot bath may be a wonderful way to unwind, but soaking in the tub too often can leave skin feeling dry and flaky. The water may rob skin of moisturizing oils, especially if the water is scorching hot.

The same goes for washing your face. Lukewarm water is best.

If you want a bath with added benefits, consider an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe dry, irritated skin.

To make an oatmeal bath, blend a few handfuls of oatmeal into a fine powder using a food processor and stir into your bath water. Remember: not too hot!

Carefully consider your skin care products

When it comes to protecting the skin’s moisture barrier, gentle is the keyword. That means it’s best to steer clear of harsh exfoliants and foaming cleansers that can leave skin feeling severely dry.

Instead, stock up on products that contain hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, glycerine, citric acid, and ceramides.

You may also find natural remedies helpful. According to older research, coconut oil is an effective moisturizer, though it should be avoided if you have an allergy to coconut.

Meanwhile, aloe vera is said to hydrate the skin and provide healing benefits.

Use a humidifier

The air around you can dry out your skin. A humidifier adds moisture back into the air, which can be beneficial to the skin.

Remember sunscreen

It can be easy to skimp on sunscreen, particularly if the sun isn’t shining, but SPF should be part of your daily skin care routine.

In addition to protecting your skin from sun damage, sunscreen also helps prevent stress on your skin’s moisture barrier.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s best to use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.

Use a moisturizing mask

To maintain and replenish your skin’s moisture throughout the week, you can try a simple DIY face mask, like this one with cucumber and aloe.

You can also try a store-bought mask, but remember to read the ingredients.

Tips for the rest of the week

  • Eat plenty of foods rich in essential fatty acids, like fish, nuts, and olive oil.
  • Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Ditch the harsh cleansers and exfoliants, and switch to gentle, hydrating products.
  • Get plenty of vitamin C — both in your diet and in your products — to increase collagen production and speed up the moisture barrier repair process.
Was this helpful?

There’s no overnight fix for healthier, more hydrated skin.

You may see temporary relief with a stronger product, but the product may replace your moisture barrier instead of healing it. This won’t do your skin’s natural barrier any favors.

That’s why we recommend this more holistic 3-day approach. If you follow these tips, you’ll be well on your way to healthier, glowing skin.

If you want to consistently create hydrating skin care habits, consider introducing one or two new habits at a time, creating a weekly meal plan full of skin-healthy ingredients, and purchasing a water bottle to encourage you to guzzle more H2O.

Deanna deBara is a freelance writer who recently made the move from sunny Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon. When she’s not obsessing over her dog, waffles, or all things Harry Potter, you can follow her journeys on Instagram.