I learned to take care of my dry skin the hard way.
It all started when I moved to London. The harsh winters, the unrelenting winds that blow all day long, and the high temperatures indoors were no match for my dry skin: they sucked all the moisture out of it, leaving it all dry and flaky.
And SO thirsty. It always demands I give it more water. MORE. MORE. MORE. ALL THE TIME. It’s like nothing can quench its thirst.
That’s how it feels, anyway. But it IS possible to treat dry skin and turn it all soft and supple again. Here’s the best skincare routine for dry skin:
- What Is Dry Skin And How Do You Know That’s Your Skin Type?
- What Causes Dry Skin?
- The Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin
- When Should You See A Doctor?
What Is Dry Skin And How Do You Know That’s Your Skin Type?
Dry skin is a skin type that doesn’t produce enough sebum (your skin’s natural moisturiser) on its own.
Here are the symptoms of dry skin:
- Skin flakes like a bad attack of dandruff, and why is it always so rough?
- You wish you didn’t have to wash your face, it feels so tight and uncomfortable afterwards.
- Inner glow? What’s that? You skin is as dull as dishwater.
- You’re no stranger to itchiness and redness.
- You develop wrinkles, and deeper ones too, earlier than your oily-skinned girlfriends. So unfair!
- On the plus side, your pores are so small, you’re not even sure you have them.
Related: How To Determine Your Skin Type (Plus Free Test!)
Struggling to put together a skincare routine that banishes dryness and makes your skin supple and dewy? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin” to get started (it features product recommendations + right application order):
What Causes Dry Skin?
Wondering why you have to deal with all those symptoms? Your skin is damaged.
Your skin has a protective barrier that keeps moisture in and germs, pollutants and other skin enemies out. When this shield is broken down in pieces, moisture evaporates.
Adding moisture back in won’t work. It’ll just evaporate through the cracks again. That’s why your skin is thirsty all the time.
Here’s what damages the skin’s protective barrier:
- Central air conditioning or heating
- Cold and humid weather
- Genes (yes, you can inherit dry skin)
- Harsh and irritating skincare products
- Unprotected sun exposure
It all gets worse as you age. As you get older, your levels of estrogen decrease. This makes your skin thinner and unable to retain moisture well. *sighs*
Related: How To Strengthen Your Skin’s Protective Barrier (And Why It Matters)
The Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin
The key to saying “arrivederci dry skin” is to fix the skin’s protective barrier. Here’s how:
1. Choose A Moisturizing Cleanser
Foaming cleansers and bar soaps are terribly drying for your skin type. They strip the little oil your dry skin naturally produces, wreaking more damage on its protective barrier. Ditch them.
Opt for cream cleansers, cleansing milks, and cleansing oils (my absolute fave). They cleanse just as well AND replenish the little oil they’re stripping away. Afterwards, your skin feels soft and supple, NOT tight and uncomfortable.
- CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser ($14.99): available at Dermstore, Feel Unique, Ulta and Walmart
- La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo Cleanser (£8.75): available at Dermstore and Feel Unique
- Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Softening Cream Cleanser ($17.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice
Related: How To Choose The Best Cleanser For Your Skin Type
2. If You Must Use A Toner…
(And you totally don’t) opt for a hydrating formula. Anything with glycerin and hyaluronic acid is a good idea – they kiss your dry skin with moisture.
Instead, avoid astringents (toners with alcohol/witch hazel and little else) like the plague. They’re terribly drying.
- Cosrx Galactomyces 95 Tone Balancing Essence ($20.00): available at Revolve, Sokoglam, Ulta and Yes Style
- Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Toner Normal To Dry ($21.00): available at Feel Unique and Paula’s Choice
- Paula’s Choice Resist Weightless Advanced Repairing Toner ($24.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice
Related: Why You Don’t Need A Toner
3. Exfoliate With AHAs
The best way to exfoliate dry skin? No, it’s NOT apricot or sugar scrubs. Get rid of those.
I’m talking about glycolic acid. The star in the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family, glycolic acid effortlessly dissolves the bonds that hold dead skin cells together, so they can slough off. When they’re gone, dry patches disappear and your complexion gets a radiant glow.
But, that’s something that every good exfoliant does. What sets glycolic acid apart is its ability to hydrate skin. A godsend for your skin type.
P.S. 10% and higher concentrations of glycolic acid also boost collagen production. That means fewer wrinkles, lucky you.
- Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($90.00): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Resist Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% AHA ($33.00): available at Dermstore, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
- The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution (£6.80): available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
Related: The Complete Guide To Glycolic Acid: What It Is, How To Use It & Where To Find It
4. Use A Hydrating Serum
The best way to hydrate your skin? A serum with hyaluronic acid (or its close cousin sodium hyaluronate).
You can find them in plenty of toners and moisturizers, and should use those too. When it comes to hyaluronic acid, your skin can’t get enough. 🙂
But I like to use a separate serum with hyaluronic acid because serums contain a higher dose that makes them work better and faster. Bonus points if they’re loaded with antioxidants and soothing agents (my best picks are 🙂 ).
- La Roche Posay Heal B5 Hyaluronic Acid Serum (£27.75): available at Feel Unique and Look Fantastic
- Niod Multi-Molecular Hyaluronic Acid (£25.00): available at Beauty Bay and Cult Beauty
- Paula’s Choice Resist Hyaluronic Acid Booster ($34.00): available at Dermstore, Nordstrom, Paula’s Choice and Selfridges
Related: Why You Should Add Hyaluronic Acid To Your Skincare Routine
5. Lock Moisture In With A Rich Moisturizer
It’s not enough to drench skin in moisture. You need to make sure that moisture stays there, too. Hard to do when your skin’s protective barrier is damaged.
That’s why you need rich moisturizers loaded with occlusive humectants, like mineral oil and shea butter, that can create a protective barrier on your skin that locks moisture in.
The best ones also contain skin-repairing ingredients. This is the stuff – like ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids – that makes up the skin’s protective barrier. They fill in the holes, stitching your barrier back together.
- CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($15.99): available at Asos, Dermstore, Feel Unique and Ulta
- Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream ($60.00): available at Cult Beauty, Sephora, and SpaceNK
- Paula’s Choice Clinical Ultra-Rich Moisturiser ($31.00): available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice
Related: Dry Skin? Here’s What Your Moisturiser Should Contain
You know what’s constantly attacking your skin’s protective barrier? Yep, the sun. Those pesky UV rays give you wrinkles, dark spots, and cancer, AND destroy your skin’s natural protective barrier.
Rain or shine, pile on that sunscreen!
- Drunk Elephant Umbra Tinte Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30 ($34.00): available at Sephora
- Elta MD UV Lotion Broad-Spectrum SPF 30 Plus ($35.00): available at Dermstore and Walmart
- Niod Survival 30 (£25.00): available at Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, and Feel Unique
Related: 6 Myths About Sunscreens Busted
7. Avoid Irritating Ingredients
Harsh and irritating ingredients are another thing that can destroy your skin’s natural protective barrier. The main offenders are:
- Alcohol Denat
- Citrus oils
- Sodium lauryl sulfate
- Witch Hazel
Related: Is Witch Hazel Good Or Bad For Skin?
8. Take Short Baths And Showers
Man, I hate this one.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE long, hot baths. But, they are SO drying for my skin. If you can, don’t spend more than 15 minutes in shows or bath tub.
I know if it sucks, but your skin will thank you.
9. Get A Humidifier
My last tip is to get a humidifier. Low humidity causes dry skin skin, too. If you live or work in a place where the central hair conditioning or heating is always on, your skin’ll get stripped of the moisture it so badly needs. A humidifier will add moisture back into the air quickly.
When Should You See A Doctor?
Don’t panic just yet. You don’t need to see a doctor just because you have dry skin.
It’s when dry skin becomes red and inflamed that you need a dermatologist. This is a sign of dermatitis and you need the help of a professional who knows what to do.