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9 best skin barrier repair creams - plus, why you might need to apply one at this time of year

Skin barrier repair products are a hot topic at the moment - here's everything you need to know… 

The skin barrier trend has been on fire for the past few months, and it’s only just the beginning. In fact, the term "skin barrier repair" has been viewed on TikTok 129.5 million times and counting. 

But it's not just TikTok obsessives! The skincare experts often talk about the skin barrier, especially in the winter months. 

Dr Justine Hextall from specialist skincare brand La Roche Posay said: "In the winter months, the air becomes cold and much more dry. This reduces skin hydration, as does the use of central heating. Making that transition from warmer air to the cold snap can be difficult for our skin at first. Knowing how to manage this transition is very helpful to keep the skin hydrated and glowing throughout the winter.

"In skin health, taking pre-emptive steps is always important, it is always more difficult to manage a skin barrier that is already dry, irritated and inflamed." 

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But what is a barrier cream? 

A barrier cream is specially formulated for sensitive and dry skin types, and it's an intensely moisturising formula that leaves skin feeling soothed. 

Lending smoothing benefits, the formula works to improve the look of the skin tone and soften, too.

Did the pandemic lead to the rise of barrier creams?

It's no secret that your skin sometimes needs more than just a daily moisturiser and according to the WHO Report, it’s more important than ever to protect your skin barrier: "The pandemic has resulted in a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide, and as research shows, these mental health conditions impact inflammation and the gut microbiome, resulting in skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and dermatitis."

It also didn't help that people had more time on their hands to play with skincare products, which led to overuse of active ingredients. 

Do YOU need a barrier cream?

Alongside mental health, situations like sun damage, over exposure to extreme weather conditions, overuse of active ingredients and skin sensitivity can compromise your skin barrier. This can lead to increased dryness, discomfort and heightened skin reactivity. 

How do you apply a barrier cream?

Dr Justine Hextall tells us: "Step one: Protect the vulnerable skin that is dry and irritated. Firstly, before showering, apply a barrier cream to the delicate skin around the nose, mid cheeks and eye area to protect from further irritation by shower gels and shampoos. I like La Roche Posay’s Cicaplast B5 Baume.

"After cleansing I recommend adding a layer of hydration with a hyaluronic acid and then trapping that hydration with a moisturiser. This combination works well and can help to repair the skin barrier.

"The La Roche Posay Dermallergo range is perfect –  with Toleriane Dermallergo Nuit, the ingredients are created to soothe and hydrate the skin and help to prevent or help support that disrupted barrier. Importantly It also contains the patented peptide Neurosensine that helps to reduce the stinging and burning that we see with compromised skin."

What's the difference between a barrier cream and a regular moisturiser?

Barrier skin products tend to be thicker, enriched with ceramides, lipids, and fatty acids to permeate and protect the skin. You can use them as a daily moisturiser or as a before-bed treatment, and they will form a protective barrier against the worst of winter's elements. 

The best barrier creams for 2023 

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Advanced Repair Barrier Cream

Packed with Colloidal Oatmeal and Beta-Glucan, this works as an intensive treatment to fortify the skin’s barrier, instantly soothing and reducing visible redness for relieved, healthy-looking skin.

The Ultra Facial Advanced Repair Barrier Cream can be used as often as necessary (morning or night), paying special attention to the driest or the most distressed areas, and can also be used on sensitised skin, around dry lips, on windburn, around the eyes and on rough, dry skin.

Kiehl's Ultra Facial Advanced Repair Barrier Cream, £34, Kiehls


La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Repairing Balm

Best-selling La Roche-Posay’s Cicaplast Baume B5 Repairing Balm is the perfect reparative product. A multi-purpose for face and body – it's a gentle formula that will help heal the skin, prevent dryness, reinforce the skin barrier and offset any irritation, flaking and discomfort. Enriched with Tribioma, a unique prebiotic complex, as well as 5% vitamin B5 and madecassoside, it’s also packed with antibacterial and healing ingredients, like zinc, which also prevent long-term scarring.

La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Repairing Balm, £8.50, LookFantastic


OLEHENRIKSEN Hydrabarrier Nourishing Face Oil

Seal in moisture and maximise your entire skincare routine with this transformative face oil featuring peptides and Scandinavian berry oils for softer, bouncier skin. The Nordic oil blend of nourishing cloudberry, lingonberry and elderberry oils form the moisturising base; three innovative oil-soluble peptides amplify the results—minimising fine lines and wrinkles and drastically smoothing skin for a fresher, more youthful look.

OLEHENRIKSEN Hydrabarrier Nourishing Face Oil, £36, Boots


SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Essence Mist 

This soothing botanical essence mist is designed to strengthen skin’s barrier, reduce visible redness, and deliver instant hydration for calm skin. Featuring hygienic, touchless application, this mist helps correct redness, rough texture, dullness and fine lines and wrinkles.

SkinCeuticals Phyto Corrective Essence Mist, £69, SkinCeuticals


Eucerin Aquaphor Soothing Skin Balm

One of Eucerin’s hero products for a reason, the Aquaphor Soothing Skin Balm is a multi-purpose barrier cream that will soothe and protect dry, cracked and irritated skin and help with skin regeneration. The rich, balmy texture is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin and can even be used on babies. A fragrance-free formula means it won’t irritate skin as it intensively moisturises dry, irritated skin in need of some TLC. If you’re looking for a formula to tackle dry and cracked heels, knees, elbows, cuticles and knuckles, this is the one to choose because it provides a semi-occlusive barrier that allows the skin to heal.

Eucerin Aquaphor Soothing Skin Balm, £10.60 (WAS £12.50), Escentual


Murad Essential C Barrier Cream

Discover the Essential-C Overnight Barrier Repair Cream, an antioxidant-rich moisturiser that defends against environmental aggressors that can contribute to premature skin ageing. Featuring a luxurious melting texture, the formula works to nourish the skin barrier function as you rest. The formula is powered by a potent, highly stable form of vitamin C. Working in synergy with Marrubium extract, the vitamin helps to protect against pollutants, while visibly brightening the complexion. A moisturising blend of sunflower, barley and cucumber refines the skin’s appearance, encouraging a smooth, glowing look.

Murad Essential C Barrier Cream, £83, LookFantastic


Aesop Elemental Facial Barrier Cream

Aesop’s new Elemental Facial Barrier Cream is an intensely rich emollient hydrator that conditions skin and provides soothing barrier protection. Best suited to dry, dehydrated and sensitive skin, this cream is also perfect for those who have been in harsh conditions or have a compromised skin barrier. Use morning and evening, warming the product into your hands before gently massaging into freshly cleansed and toned skin, from forehead to neck. Key ingredients include Copper PCA, Bisabolol & Ginger Root.

Aesop Elemental Facial Barrier Cream, £43, Aesop


La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Nuit

This is a formula that preserves the skin’s barrier function and microbiome balance. As well as reinforcing the skin barrier function, it also provides up to 48 hours of hydration. It not only helps reduce redness and itching often associated with dry and sensitive skin thanks to vitamin B6, probiotic-derived fractions, and niacinamide, but neurosensine also helps relieve discomfort and pain. 

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Dermallergo Nuit, £21, LookFantastic


Biotherm Cera Repair Barrier Cream

Developed with research carried out in collaboration with Stanford University, Biotherm's Cera Repair Barrier Cream is skin soothing and a strengthening response to modern urban lifestyles. It brings together trademarked Life Plankton probiotic fraction and Bio-ceramides, a duo of ingredients with the power to soothe skin, boost its healthy appearance and strengthen its barrier function.

Biotherm Cera Repair Barrier Cream, £43, LookFantastic



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