July 31, 2019

All of Those Products Are Making Your Skin Worse

When customers message Nicolas Travis, the founder of the skin-care brand Allies of Skin, with questions about their sensitive skin, he asks them what other products they’re using. Ninety-nine percent of the time, he said, it’s something with drying alcohol or harsh essential oils.

“I have to tell them, ‘You’ve just spent years of using really badly formulated products, which is like years and years of eating junk food,’” said Mr. Travis, whose company is based in Singapore and is in stores in 15 countries, including the United States. “I say, ‘Your skin isn’t sensitive, your skin barrier is just really weak.’”

Ask aestheticians and dermatologists what problem they’re seeing these days, and as often as not the answer is a broken-down skin barrier. Little wonder, then, that the new beauty buzzwords are “barrier repair” (and its cousin “barrier protection”).

A broken barrier — symptoms include inflammation and patchy, flaky skin — can eventually lead to other problems since it means the skin’s defenses are compromised. Besides sensitive skin, barrier dysfunction is also partly responsible for rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and acne, all of which are on the rise, according to epidemiological studies.