Is your Skin Dry, Flakey, and Red? You May have a Compromised Dermal Barrier

Dry skin is characteristically a part of the wintertime blues – but if your skin is getting tight and red, with dry patches popping up and not going away – read on.

If your skin stings or tingles when applying products that is a telltale sign that your dermal barrier is ‘compromised’ – or not consistently protecting the lower layers of your skin. The dermal barrier (or stratum corneum) is biologically a part of our immune system that is responsible for protecting the body from bacteria and viruses, pollutants, UV light and environmental stressors. It is also responsible for keeping water inside the skin, maintaining microbiome balance and hydration.

When this barrier is compromised – the water exits into the environment in a process called transepidermal water loss and results in dryness and undue stress and vulnerability. Dermal barrier damage has been linked to acne, inflammation leading to rosacea, contact dermatitis, eczema, the list goes on.


So how does this dermal barrier get damaged in the first place?

Largely what I see in my practice is clients that are looking to improve the appearance of their skin – so they start treating their skin with strong acids doing too much, too fast.

“The skin needs balance to be it’s healthiest and happiest. That sometimes means that we have to walk before we can run to prevent causing more harm than good. If you ignore these issues and what your skin is communicating to you - you can worsen the health of the skin and over time do real damage.”

This looks like inflammation - or swelling of the dermal barrier – and it is red, tight and super dry. usually with broken capillaries. Gone untreated, telangiectasias begin to surface and you become at risk of developing rosacea.

When I see this happening, I immediately pull my client’s regimen way back. No toners, no retinols, only a gentle hydrating cleanser and we get started on repair.

Products that repair the dermal barrier include products that help rebuild the phospholipid bilayer such as peptides, ceramides, and probiotics – in addition to humectants like glycerin, and hyaluronic acids that draw in water. I like oral probiotics as opposed to topical ones – simply because the skin is expressive and there may be another imbalance in the body that is creating a reaction, in addition to an anti-inflammatory diet.

After this shift in the focus of your regimens, you will start to see a calming effect and improvement in the dryness and irritation of the skin in about a month. Typically, in this case I will recommend returning for an oxygen treatment – in which we infuse the skin with barrier building serums and antioxidants.


Building the skin takes time, and if it’s ready to go to the next step – we’ll get started with an antioxidant like vitamin C to prevent the oxidative and environmental stressors from compromising the skin again.

This isn’t to say that I’m not an advocate of increasing cell turnover with acids and peels. Chemical peels, retinol, and alpha and beta hydroxy acids are the answer to many of the things that we are looking to correct in the skin. The goal in my practice is to strengthen the skin and it’s overall health so that it can handle these big, game changing treatments.

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