If you have dry skin, you know how important it is to keep hydrating, moisturising and treating your skin. It needs TLC to prevent it from flaking, peeling or itching. If slathering on moisturiser isn’t working, you might need to change things and add some extra steps to your routine. 

First, figure out if your skin is dry or dehydrated

Dry skin is a skin type—it is usually just innate. It is characterised by a lack of oil, which messes with barrier function. This causes flaky, dry skin pieces that come up the surface, causing itchy skin and overall dryness, especially near the eyebrows and around the corners of the nose and mouth. Look for products with ceramides, fatty acids and petroleum, which will work best to soften skin, moisturise and repair barrier function.

Rather than lacking oil, dehydrated skin lacks water. It looks flat because of surface cell deflation, because there isn’t any moisture in the cells to hold them up. It usually shows up as tiny, triangular fine lines on the surface, and the skin feels tight and dull. This skin condition requires TLC to solve—you’ll want to load up on humectants to hydrate, and then emollients to seal. 

Always cleanse well

A good face wash should cleanse without stripping oil from the face, and must maintain your skin’s pH balance. Look for calming ingredients. Incorporate aloe vera, rose water, glycerin and hyaluronic acid and stick to textures that are creamy or milky. Skip very stripping foaming cleansers, because these will over-dry your skin and worsen dryness. 

Buff your skin (gently)

Over exfoliation is damaging to the protective skin barrier and triggers an inflammatory response in the skin. This causes long-term inflammation and barrier damage, which can be worse if you already have dry skin. But buffing your dry skin is important. You want to get rid of the dead, dry skin cells on the top, so the hydrating ingredients can actually get to the newer, younger ones. Use scrubs with very fine granules (so you don’t create microtears in your skin) or a washcloth if you like to physically exfoliate. If you prefer chemical exfoliation, lactic acid and glycolic acid (in a buffered, pH adjusted formula) are a good call. Use these in a serum, peel or toner form for best results. Finally, then follow with a moisturiser and oil, as your skin is more adept at holding in moisture post-exfoliation.

Hydrate, moisturise and seal

In the day, it is best to use a lightweight serum and continue with a moisturiser + SPF combo that’ll brighten, hydrate and balance.

At night, it’s time to pull out the big guns. During the day, the skin is in protection mode, and it is working to fend off UV rays and pollution. When your skin is at rest at night, its permeability is the highest. So, it allows active ingredients to absorb deep into the skin. After cleansing and toning, you’ll want to use a lightweight humectant to draw water into itself and hydrate the skin. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are the most popular ingredients to serve this purpose. They are best applied on damp skin so the molecules have enough to pull in and hold on to. Always apply lighter, watery products on damp skin. Then layer thicker products on top to trap the water in, it allows for hydrated, supple and bouncy skin. Next, apply a moisturiser with barrier-boosting ingredients like lipids, ceramides and fatty acids. These serve as emollient ingredients that fill up the spaces between your skin cells and smooth out the skin. Last, finish with a face oil that has light oils and antioxidants—it’ll scavenge free radicals while holding in all the goodness of the moisture sandwich you previously created. 

Look to antioxidants like Vitamin C and Vitamin E

Include antioxidants into your skincare routine, because free radicals are able to reduce cellular function, which can reduce collagen and elastin production, therefore leading to wrinkles, fine lines and a loss of elasticity. Topical antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E and resveratrol are a good call, and you can layer them into the serum step of your routine. 

Focus on preventative anti-ageing

Dry skin doesn’t cause wrinkles, but it can make wrinkles and fine lines look more pronounced. Hydrating and moisturising will plump the skin and reduce the look of them, but you’ll want to use a collagen-boosting ingredient like retinol too. Retinoids reduce fine lines and wrinkles by increasing the production of collagen and elastin, and they also stimulate the production of new blood vessels in the skin. However, in the process of improving cell turnover, they also reduce oil production in the area, which can cause dryness and flakes. Struggling with retinol-induced dryness? Pair it with soothing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, or apply it mixed with the product in a 1:1 ratio.