Rationally, I understand that any day where the temperature is around 60 degrees Fahrenheit is going to be a pleasant one. But if you were ever to grab some standing room in the office building across the street from my apartment and watch me get dressed on an early autumn day (please, don’t do this) you’d have a good vantage point to see my brain short circuiting. I get that 60 degrees is good, but I don’t actually know… if it’s warm out? Chilly? Both? The solution to keeping comfortable and all my marbles is layering—a tee, with a light sweater, and the option to add a jacket later is pretty much foolproof. But the transition period between scorching summer and biting winter affects my skincare routine too, and I can't just throw a lightweight sweater over my face and call it a day. (Unless...?)
The easiest way to modulate your routine for the changing seasons is with a barrier serum. Barrier serums capitalize on microbiome-friendly ingredients to strengthen your skin’s natural protective functions, and pretty much all hinge on ceramides, fatty molecules that already make up around 50-percent of the skin’s outer layer. Recent studies have linked a decrease in natural ceramides to skin conditions like irritation and eczema, and leave your skin susceptible to bad bacteria and breakouts galore. Replenishing them is an easy way to support your skin's health, and will probably help it stay level when the weather's changing.
Because they boost the barrier and not completely augment it (that’s what creams, petroleum jelly, and oils do) they feel lightweight on skin and non-greasy—that's what makes them the perfect layering piece to be worn alone in the summer, and under heavier moisturizers come the first chilly frost. Several recent launches in the category means more options across every budget—find your perfect match here, and never feel confused about seasonal skincare again.
The Top 25 Winner: Dr. Jart Ceramidin Liquid
Last year, ITG crowned this goopy serum best of the decade. There was no nepotism involved—just ceramides, glycerin, and lots of soothing panthenol and centella. A nearly water weight version of their cult favorite Ceramidin Cream (which writer Harling Ross uses to dim the brightness on her rosacea and skincare maven Diarrha N’Diaye relies on during wintertime), the Ceramidin liquid plays well with others and leaves skin with a hydrated sheen. The only reason to avoid it is if you’re particularly sensitive to bergamot oil.
Babyfacial’s New Best Friend: Bejbi Skin After Acid Serum
Did you know that niacinamide, in addition to helping soothe breakouts and smooth texture, has actually been proven to help strengthen the skin’s natural barrier too? Bejbi pairs it with ceramides, nourishing squalane and borage seed oils (among others), and a plethora of peptides for a multi-pronged approach to barrier health. The oilier texture feels particularly good after a peel or deep clean.
Your Skin, Bottled: Marie Veronique X Kristina Holey Barrier Restore Serum
If you’re looking to trust one brand with your life, might I suggest Marie Veronique Nadeau’s? A chemist by trade, Nadeau takes a no-nonsense approach to skincare formulation that’s all about efficacy and not about fluff. Her take on barrier serum, made in collaboration with holistic aesthetician Kristina Holey, is uniquely biomimetic—remember how ceramides make up 50-percent of your skin barrier? The other 50 is made up of other natural moisturizing factors like saccharide isomerate, urea, sodium PCA, and amino acids, all of which feature in this small brown bottle.
The Super Soother: Evenprime Barrier Serum
Those with acne may feel inclined to practice scorched earth skincare—you know, when you burn off all traces of acne-causing bacteria with all the acids, benzoyl peroxide, and scrubs at Sephora. But might I consider a different approach? Coddle your skin by strengthening its barrier and bringing down inflammation. Evenprime includes centella asiatica and artemisia capillaris extracts, two botanicals known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and copper tripeptides for this very reason! The before and afters are impressive, to say the least.
A One-Step Texture Solution: Beekman 1802 Milk Drops
Not all skincare brands started out of a goat farm, but this one did! The link is crucial because goat’s milk actually has a slightly acidic pH that matches your skin’s, which makes for a microbiome-friendly product base. This serum, which pairs goat’s milk with probiotics, colostrum, and those darn ceramides again, also contains a wee bit of lactic acid via the milk that helps your skin produce more ceramides on its own. The texture smoothing benefits of a gentle AHA alongside barrier boosting staples is a no-brainer recipe for success.
The Personal Favorite: Krave Great Barrier Relief
I first wrote about this serum a couple months ago—it was peak pandemic, and my skin was not OK. (Did you know high levels of stress can actually cause your natural barrier to deteriorate and your skin to get drier? I didn’t, but now I do.) Then Krave’s Great Barrier Relief came into my life, and its high levels of ceramides and niacinamide immediately soothed my blotchy red patches. This stuff gets my ultra sensitive, stressed out skin back to neutral quickly, and for that reason I’ll always keep it around. Plus, at under 30 bucks, there’s no need to be too precious with it.
Photo via ITG