Our Tips, Tricks, and Product Picks for Supporting Healthy Skin Barrier Function

Skincare without compromise for compromised skin barriers

When it comes to solving the skin’s many mysteries, oftentimes the answer could be as simple as focusing on barrier support and repair. 

Also known as the stratum corneum, or acid mantle, the skin’s moisture barrier is the outermost layer of the epidermis. It is made up primarily of corneocytes – aka skin cells – water, and lipids. It is also naturally acidic, requiring a pH of about 4.5 – 5.5 to remain in balance. 

Although the barrier layer is actually quite thin and not visible to the naked eye, it plays a crucial role in skin health by keeping hydration locked in, and keeping external aggressors out. When functioning properly, it acts as a protective shield for the entire body against harmful bacteria, allergens, pollutants, and pathogens that could potentially cause infection or illness. 

On the other hand, when this epidermal barrier becomes damaged or imbalanced, the skin may experience a number of negative effects. 

Some common signs of a compromised or damaged skin barrier include:

  • Acne Breakouts – Without proper protection against harmful bacteria, irritation, and inflammation, the skin is more vulnerable to acne. The skin may also struggle to heal following a breakout, due to lack of hydration and impaired immunity of the skin.
  • Dryness and Dehydration – Because a damaged moisture barrier isn’t able to prevent evaporation of water from the surface of the skin, dryness, scaliness, and/or rough texture are telltale indicators of compromised barrier function. This can also exacerbate the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as they tend to be more visible in dry or dehydrated skin.
  • Sensitive Skin – Improper barrier function is common in sensitive skin types, and can translate to more severe symptoms – including itching, redness, flaking, as well as reactivity to certain topical products and treatments.
  • Hyperpigmentation – When the skin becomes inflamed due to a lack of barrier protection, the body may produce more pigment as a healing response. When this happens, uneven skin tone, blotchy skin, dark spots, and discoloration can be common.
compromised and damaged skin barrie

So what causes the skin barrier to be become compromised in the first place?

Although beauty professionals understand that a number of external and internal factors contribute to imbalance in the skin, it can be helpful for clients to be aware of some of the most common ones, and to practice preventative measures when possible. 

External and internal factors and causes of skin barrier imbalances are:

  • Aging
  • Allergens
  • Certain health conditions, medications, and medical treatments
  • Chronic stress
  • Excess exfoliation and/or overwashing
  • Excess sun exposure
  • External irritants
  • Genetics
  • Harsh chemicals
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Using the wrong soaps or detergents
  • Overly dry or humid environments
  • Overuse of active ingredients
  • Pollution
  • Smoking

There is good news. Skin barrier damage is easily prevented

If all of the above seems like daunting information, the good news is that with a proactive approach to skin health, chronic barrier damage can be easily prevented, and occasional imbalances will have minimal impact. A comprehensive treatment plan will be one that includes both professional facials and a daily home care routine using the correct supportive products.

Some of our favorite tips for maintaining a happy and healthy skin barrier include:

Tip #1: Opt for a minimalistic routineThough recent skin care trends tend to favor elaborate routines, too many products can stress the skin and cause it to react negatively. Instead, a simple approach is best. Daily care should be focused around basics like gentle cleansing, hydration, and sun protection. 

Tip #2: Incorporate aggressive products and protocols sparingly – Exfoliation and potent active serums are beloved staples in skincare, but too much of a good thing can weaken the acid mantle and contribute to barrier breakdown. With this in mind, a moderate and progressive approach to introducing these types of treatments is always best. It may also be necessary to temporarily reduce or cease usage of active products in the event that the barrier becomes compromised.

Tip #3: Look to hero ingredients for hydration – To combat transepidermal water loss, humectants, emollients, and occlusive ingredients can be very helpful for preventing dehydration and encouraging the skin to hold on to badly needed moisture. A few go-tos would be hyaluronic acid, aloe, glycerin, and honey.

Tip #4: Focus on replenishing lost lipids – In addition to hydrators, nourishing ingredients that mimic the skin’s natural lipids can greatly benefit most skin types and fuel healthy barrier function. Some example include ceramides, shea butter, or plant-based oils like jojoba, squalane, avocado, and others.

Tip #5: Prioritize sun protection – Heat and UV radiation from the sun can be some of the biggest contributors to barrier imbalance, and can make matters worse when the skin is already compromised. In order to protect the skin from further damage, consistent daily use of SPF is a must, and avoiding excess sun exposure is also recommended.

How estheticians and other skincare professionals can heal a compromised or damaged skin barrier

Even with diligent care, barrier disruption can still occur, and require attention. For clients experiencing symptoms of a struggling barrier, licensed professionals can play an important role in restoring healthy function in the skin. Here is what we recommend: 

According to some recent studies, sensitive skin is becoming a common concern, with as many as 71% of adults indicating that they have sensitive skin – a number that’s up about 55% from previous decades. What this means for estheticians is that treatments catering to barrier support are likely to become more popular and should be a staple of any professional skin care services menu.

When addressing an impaired barrier in the treatment room, estheticians and other skincare providers will want to be especially mindful to choose appropriate products and modalities, so as not to cause further disruption. That said, there are still plenty of professional modalities that are perfect for addressing compromised skin and preventing barrier disruption and damage.

At the discretion of a licensed skin care professional, some forms of gentle exfoliation may still be incorporated in a facial. As an alternative to chemical peeling, enzyme exfoliation, or gentle manual exfoliation, may be more appropriate. 

You may also wish to include modalities like LED and oxygen therapies to support the skin’s natural repair and rejuvenation processes.

Lastly, intense hydration and moisture should be the focal point of any barrier repair protocol, as well as calming symptoms of inflammation and irritation. For this, we like mask formulas enriched with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, aloe, neem, turmeric, and other skin-soothing botanicals.

A few CSS favorites for professional treatment of damaged skin barrier include:

Incredible Enzymes by Hale and Hush

For clients who can tolerate mild exfoliation, Hale and Hush’s answer to enzyme therapy combines papain and bromelain enzymes, which work to gently dissolve dead skin at the surface level. The formula also leverages floral and fruit extracts to target inflammation and troubleshoot excess pigment, exactly what you need for a compromised skin barrier.

Hale & Hush Incredible Enzymes

New customers get 10% off their first purchase! 

Hush Hydrate Gel by Hale and Hush

Filled with antioxidants, hydrators, and natural anti-inflammatories from botanical extracts, Hush Hydrate Gel acts as a dual purpose product. It can be used as both a hydrating treatment mask and as a lightweight daily moisturizer. It is appropriate for all skin types and provides nearly instant relief to stressed or irritated skin.

New customers get 10% off their first purchase! 

What about at-home care for a compromised skin barrier?

Understanding that a healthy skin barrier requires consistent care outside of the professional skincare setting, it is essential for beauty professionals to assist their clients in putting together a supportive daily home care routine.

In addition to products for the treatment room, Hale and Hush offers a complete line of cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, and sun protection designed with sensitive skin and barrier balance in mind.

CSS’s retail recommendations

If you are new to the product line, a few retail must-haves for getting started include:

  1. Quiet Wash
  2. Clear Future Toner
  3. Refine Polish
  4. Soothe Essence Serum
  5. Rare C Serum
  6. Vital Lipid Lotion
  7. Hush Hydrate Gel
  8. Saffron Meristem Cream, and
  9. Broad Spectrum Natural SPF30

Or if you are looking to expand your existing spa selection for sensitive skin:

  1. Rare Retinal Serum
  2. Eye Mousse
  3. Brilliant Eye & Lip Serum, and 
  4. Mist Me facial spritz 

All are popular options that deliver excellent results. And all can be found in our store. 

Check out everything we carry by Hale & Hush for professional use and resale skincare here. We sell wholesale to estheticians and other professionals. 


Given the prevalence of sensitive skin in our modern population, it stands to reason that many common skin conditions may be linked to an imbalanced or damaged barrier.

In order to address these concerns, skin care providers can achieve even more impactful outcomes for their clients by correctly identifying symptoms of compromised skin and prioritizing barrier support in your professional practice. Because barrier balance is fundamental to overall skin health, you can never go wrong taking time to focus on this aspect of care.


New Aveeno Report Reveals 71% of Adults Have Sensitive Skin By Kaitlyn Bader for Dermatology Times

What to Know About Your Skin Barrier and How to Protect It By Rebecca Joy Stanborough, MFA Medically reviewed by Reema Patel, MPA, PA-C


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