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, aka lipid barrier, is responsible for locking in moisture and keeping your skin hydrated and healthy. But when it’s damaged or compromised (as in: your skin can’t hold on to moisture), it can cause serious 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 Dr. 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 — and 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 to repair your moisture barrier and get the healthy, hydrated skin you deserve.
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.
Sleep 8 to 9 hours
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 it’s moisture barrier.
In one 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.
Drink lots of water
Your skin is made up of 30 percent water, and increasing your water intake — especially if you’re not a big water drinker — can offset water loss and increase hydration in the skin.
“Drink lots of water. It is as easy as that. The more moisture we give to our body from the inside, the better our protective barrier works,” says Andrea Weber, head of research and development for skin care line BABOR.
Avoid coffee and alcohol
In addition to drinking plenty of H20, you’ll also want to avoid any coffee or alcohol as this can dehydrate you, and dehydrate your skin in the process.
What to do today
Switch out your pillowcases
If you’re sleeping on a cotton pillowcase, it could be exacerbating the issues with your moisture barrier.
Swap out for a softer, more forgiving fabric to protect your skin. “Using nonabrasive fabrics like silk pillowcases... will help prevent further trauma to the weakened barrier,” say Prystowsky.
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. Avoid gels or foams. I recommend an oil-based cleanser and an herbal elixir that are tailored to your skin condition,” says Weber. “Together, they cleanse gently and nurture your skin while protecting the gentle lipid barrier that protects your skin.”
When to go to sleep: 11 p.m.
You might be tempted to make it a late night — it is Saturday, after all! — but get to sleep early. 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: 8 a.m.
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 your favorite sushi spot and stock up on 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
Throw some beans on your salad
If you want to up the moisture-barrier repairing benefits of your lunch, throw some beans on top of your salad. Beans are high in zinc, which can boost collagen production in the skin and speed up the repair process.
What to do today
Stock up on the right products
Yesterday, you ditched the cleansers that are sucking 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, a humectant, which is an ingredient that binds moisture and helps to slow down the rate at which water evaporates from the skin (HA can bind up to 1000 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,” says Prystowsky. “Oils like sunflower oil, olive oil, and even corn oil [are effective] for... moderate moisture barrier disruption.”
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 will soothe any 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
Indulge in some homemade sweet potato fries
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. When dealing with 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 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. So if you want to repair your moisture barrier, 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 jumpstart to an improved moisture barrier. While you’ll definitely see results by the end of day 3, if you want lasting improvement to the skin, you’ll need to keep up good habits.
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 more 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.
As a reminder, 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 be doing your skin’s natural barrier any favors! In fact, many products need at least six weeks before that long-lasting glow takes hold.
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.
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.