I've Gone Too Hard on Actives. How Do I Fix My Skin Barrier?


I've Gone Too Hard on Actives. How Do I Fix My Skin Barrier?

Step away from the retinol. Dermal Therapist Yadira Cauchi shares how to repair an impaired barrier in four steps.

Yadira Cauchi

Dermal Therapist

0 minute read

Fun fact: clients with damaged skin barriers is the number one issue I see in clinic.

And the thing is, a lot of people don’t even realise they’re damaging their skin barrier until it’s too late. 

So, how do you damage your skin barrier? 

In my experience, the main cause is overusing harsh acne products, and/or stripping cleansers, as well as overusing ingredients like retinoids - or even clay and detox masks. For some skins, even alcohol based toners can be too harsh.

Lifestyle factors such as diet, alcohol or stress have the potential to contribute as well. 

It is super important to pay attention to where your skincare actives are in your routine, and what you’re using and/or why and when, because our skin barrier matters

You need to think of your skin barrier as a bit of a body guard. It’s the outermost layer of the skin and its job is to protect us from external factors like environmental stressors, harmful bacteria and pollution.

It is also responsible for our skin’s ability to retain moisture and prevent water loss too - again, super important. 

If you’ve damaged your skin barrier, you may be experiencing any of the following: 

+ Severe dryness/dehydrated skin

+ Redness and inflammation

+ Rosacea

+ Increased breakouts

+ Rashes or eczema flare ups

+ Irritation, itchy skin or flakiness

+ Overall dullness 

How to fix a damaged skin barrier

So how can it be treated? The best ways to start are below...

Ease up on your actives

This may mean cutting them out altogether for at least four weeks

While active skincare is great to be including in your skincare routine, once you go overboard you cannot be using it at all - until your skin heals.

If your skin is feeling tight, red or itchy, continuing to use your actives will make things worse and it could even trigger acne. Over-exfoliation places a lot of stress on the skin - and it’s what got you here in the first place. 

Focus on hydration

When your skin barrier is damaged, you need to give your skin a whole lot of TLC and while retinoids, exfoliating acids and clays may be out - hydration is in.

So focus on delivering lots of it via your serums, like a great hyaluronic acid or B5 serum, gentle cleansers and don’t forget to moisturise!

A dehydrated skin barrier means your skin could be struggling to hold onto water. And without proper hydration, your skin could start to flake - or in worst case scenarios even crack. Hydration is so important in the healing process. 


Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Intense - a hydrating serum like this morning and night will provide the skin the adequate hydration that it needs. Always follow with a moisturiser. 


Hydr8 B5 Intense

Harnessing all of the hydration power of our best seller, Hydr8 B5, with added Natural Moisturising Factors alongside a potent triple-action hydration booster which recharges the skin’s internal moisture source.

Use gentle, non-stripping cleansers 

The cleanser you use when you have a damaged skin barrier is vitally important and again, it shouldn’t be an active one.

Bland, gentle cleansers are always best for morning and night when your skin barrier is damaged. And any active cleansers should be placed on hold. 


Mesoestetic Hydracream Fusion - A balancing, anti-pollution cleanser for dry and sensitive skin. The cream to oil consistency is easily absorbed, leaving no greasy residue.

Try: Cerave Hydrating Cleanser - this is a very gentle, hydrating cleanser great for all skin but especially beneficial for a drier more sensitive/sensitised skin.


Hydracream Fusion

This nourishing formulation is rich in squalene, aiding elasticity, while post-biotic active ingredient, Lactobacillus Ferment, obtained from fermentation of a bacterium, enhances the balance of the microbiota to strengthen and preserve the skin barrier.

Use calming ingredients to heal an impaired skin barrier

The best ingredients to use when your barrier is damaged have a few things in common, and most often you’ll find they contain calming anti-inflammatory ingredients like niacinamide (vitamin B3), cica (full name centella asiatica), ceramide, glycerin, vitamin b5 (panthenol) and/or colloidal oatmeal.


Medik8 Clarity Peptides -  this is a very gentle and hydrating niacinamide formula that can calm redness and help restore clarity. It can be used twice a day.

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast B5 Ultra Repair Serum - the newest addition to the LRP cicaplast range is this hydrating and calming serum. Containing 10% panthenol b5 it is designed to nourish/hydrate and reduce any sensitivity that is often associated with damaged skin barriers. 

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 - the ultimate moisturiser for calming irritated skin and healing impaired barriers. 

Yadira Cauchi

Dermal Therapist


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