The Best Products to Support and Protect Your Skin Barrier, According to Dermatologists

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The skin’s protective barrier (the outermost part of the epidermis, aka the stratum corneum) faces so many challenges on a daily basis: dehydration, transepidermal water loss, friction from wearing masks, or touching your face. Even walking outside on a windy day can leave skin feeling burned or chapped. “It’s so important to fortify your skin barrier—that film on the skin—to make sure your skin is really well protected,” says New York dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD. “Your skin’s microenvironment changes every day, so some days your skin may need different barrier support than others.”

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Alastin Skincare Ultra Nourishing Moisturizer ($78)

“This is a fabulous advanced skin-care product that’s excellent for dry skin and has anti-aging, skin-rejuvenating benefits,” says Southlake, TX dermatologist Janine Hopkins, MD. “It calms, nourishes and hydrates. It also helps support the production of new elastin and collagen.”

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AlumierMD HydraCalm ($77)

“This rich moisturizer contains sea whip, boswellia, aloe and honey to soothe skin—they’re also great for protecting the skin barrier,” says New York dermatologist Doris Day, MD. “It also has low molecular weight hyaluronic acid, niacinamide and a copper peptide, which helps strengthen the look of compromised skin.”

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Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Advanced Repair Barrier Cream ($48)

“This is a rescue product for dry skin that you can also use every day if that’s what your skin needs and requires,” says Dr. Henry. “It contains anti-inflammatory and soothing colloidal oatmeal, which creates a film on the skin to help lock in moisture. That’s why you find this ingredient in every good anti-eczema product. It also contains beta glucan, which really helps to suck in moisture, and also creates a film to fortify the skin barrier. It’s so different from typical barrier creams: It’s breathable and lightweight.”

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Avène Mineral Tinted Compact SPF 50 ($38)

“This is a mineral sunscreen with a potent antioxidant formula and skin barrier–protective properties,” says Miami dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. “The SPF protects your skin barrier by blocking the sun’s UVA, UVB, and blue light radiation from being absorbed by the skin.” 

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Doris Day MD Skincare Dew Drop Ultra ($85)

“It’s a rich gel moisturizer, which is hard to find,” says Dr. Day. “It helps hydrate, but it’s not occlusive. It makes the skin feel dewy and soft. It has a combination of fatty acids and cholesterol to help restore and replenish the skin’s natural moisture barrier. It is also enhanced with oil-derived squalane, which leaves the skin hydrated and radiant.”

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Avène Cicalfate+ Restorative Protective Cream ($42)

“This is a rich, nourishing cream infused with postbiotics to help protect skin from external aggressors while maintaining proper hydration so the skin can restore itself,” says Dr. Hopkins. “It’s also safe to use on babies and kids. This is one of my favorite barrier repair creams for the face, lips and body, and I even use it on patients after laser and microneedling procedures.” 

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Doctor’s Daughter Skincare Extremolyte Stem Cell Serum ($108)

“This serum is rich in antioxidants. It contains resveratrol—an anti-aging molecule—extremolytes glycoin and ectoin—rare defensive ingredients—which provide optimized barrier protection and antioxidant performance,” says Dr. Longwill. “This serum is like your invisible shield. It is your go-to formula for light pollution protection, hydration, environmental stressor protection, and cell revitalization, and it decreases the loss of skin elasticity.” 

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