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Best 6 Ingredients to Repair Your Skin Barrier

If you’re new to skincare, the term “skin barrier” is probably throwing you for a loop. What the heck is a skin barrier and why is it important? Well, let us tell you, if that barrier is damaged then -oh boy- your skin will be sensitive and irritated. But don’t worry! We have some top ingredients, tips and insight to help you form a healthy complexion and repair your skin barrier. All thanks to info from our wonderful Picky Expert and dermatologist Dr. Meg (@drmegsison). Let’s get into it!

What Is Your Skin Barrier?

First things first, what is it? And why should you care? We have a bunch of articles already written with many of our Experts: All About the Skin Barrier, Skin Barrier Repair Routine, How Do I Repair My Skin Barrier and Protecting the Skin Barrier. Feel free to check out any of these articles to get more skincare science background. BUT if you want a quick summary….

Our skin barrier is composed of the skin’s outermost layer, also known as the stratum corneum. Why is the skin barrier so crucial you may ask? It’s because it prevents excessive water loss and entry of harmful substances from the environment such as UV radiation, harmful microorganisms, irritants and allergens. So one thing you definitely want to keep in check is that barrier!

How To Keep Your Skin Barrier Healthy?

You want to avoid upsetting this very special barrier. So to do that, it’s best to keep this helpful information in mind! One of the ways to strengthen your skin barrier, and prevent moisture loss, is through the use of moisturizers. Moisturizers are composed of occlusives, emollients and humectants. Occlusives prevent excessive water loss from the surface of our skin by forming a uniform film that effectively seals all that moisture in. Meanwhile, emollients fill the spaces in between skin cells (called corneocytes) to create a smooth surface and impart a nice, silky feel to the skin. Lastly, humectants attract and bind water from the atmosphere to our very thirsty skin. 

Now, here are some barrier repair ingredients to look for in your moisturizers!

Top 6 Ingredients to Repair Your Skin Barrier

Petrolatum/ petroleum jelly

Think of that thick gooey tub of vaseline you might have on your nightstand. This is a great example of petroleum jelly, which functions as an occlusive to coat the skin and slow down any transepidermal water loss. At the same time is also confers an emollient effect by filling in the spaces between the skin to create a smooth surface. Petrolatum is inert so you do not have to worry about having allergic reactions or irritations while using it. It is also inexpensive and readily available! Bonus tip: Petroleum jelly makes for an amazing slugging technique. Not sure how to slug? Check out our article on how to right here.


The delicious dessert your skin is always craving! Ceramides are examples of emollients and they are responsible for the permeability function of the outermost layer of the skin. Together with cholesterol and free fatty acids, this trio are the basic build up of your skin barrier. So adding more ceramides helps to keep your skin functioning. More on ceramides here and our top picks right over here.

Our Pick
COSRX – Comfort Ceramide Cream


A trusty ingredient you can find in basically any moisturizer. Often overlooked, but highly under appreciated! Glycerin is an example of a humectant and is able to draw moisture to the deeper layers of the skin thanks to its low molecular weight. Because of its humectant properties, it causes a slight swelling of the stratum corneum leading to a perception of smoother skin.

Our Pick
By Ecom – Pure Calming Ampoule

Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF)

Natural Moisturizing Factor is a bit of a mouthful, so you can just call this ingredient NMF! NMFs are molecules derived from the breakdown of filaggrin, which play an important role in hydration of the skin barrier. Acts as an osmotic agent, drawing water into the corneocytes to maintain appropriate moisture levels in the skin. Sounds very scientific, we know, but just trust us when we say it is a good ingredient to incorporate into your skincare routine.

Our Pick
The Ordinary – Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Plant Oils

To many skincare newbies, you may hear oil and think ‘why would I put that on my face?’ Oils are a great way to add more occlusivity for your skin barrier, locking in and adding more hydrating ingredients (depending on which oils you use). And yes, even those with oily skin can reap the advantages of oils. Some examples of plant oils that can boost your barrier are avocado oil, shea butter and jojoba oil. Avocado oil is rich in linoleic acid and oleic acid, making it an enriching source for dry, damaged, or chapped skin. Shea butter is a solid fatty oil extracted from the nuts of shea tree and often used in moisturizers, body washes, and as hair protection and softener. Jojoba oil is widely used in moisturizers as well as sunscreens. The high content of wax ester makes it a good barrier repair option for conditions with altered skin barrier like eczema!

Our Pick
The Potions – Jojoba Oil Serum


A reliable, multi-tasking and mult talented ingredient right here! Niacinamide, also known by the name vitamin B3, is used in various skincare products thanks to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, brightening and barrier repairing qualities. We could go on and on about niacinamide, but we’ll just leave the link to learn more here.

Our Pick
Somethinc – 5% Niacinamide Barrier Serum

You can find any of these ingredients in your skincare, whether in combination or stand-alone, to help tackle and repair that skin barrier. But when in doubt, consult with a board-certified dermatologist to guide you on how to care for your skin barrier especially if you feel overwhelmed with the skincare products available in the market.

Be Picky

If you’re not on Picky, you’re missing out! On the Picky app you can easily discover new skincare based on your ingredient, concern, or other preferences. Not to mention, our Picky skincare community is packed with excited and curious skincare enthusiasts happy to help! Don’t forget to follow our Instagram and check out our YouTube channel.

Created with

Dr. Meg

7 Responses

  1. Thanks for the information! You have no idea how I’ve been searching for barrier repair endlessly this past 2 weeks! I had started using a terrible popular skincare acne system (you know it by it’s bluish-white labels and celeb endorsed lies🙄) and it literally tore my face apart, and caused my cystic hormonal acne to pounce into inflammatory dress and that’s the least of it! I was in the end so swollen and face had peeled down to a burning , stinging and rawness!
    So I sat out to learn all I could (after promptly stopping product) and trying retinols, ceramides, peptides, and a diff aha, and bha along with vitamin c and moisturizers to heal heal my skin….and you simplified my routine and are giving me back my skin by the advices and info!! Please keep up the grand work!!

    A skin friend called Lori

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