Dry skin is a skin type, where skin lacks natural oils. Because dry skin doesn't produce enough sebum, it doesn't have the lipids required to retain moisture and so it can't defend itself against the environment or external aggressors and irritants. And, it’s generally uncomfortable and might feel itchy, flaky and scaly, or be prone to cracking. Dry skin can impact any part of the body, but is usually found on the limbs, scalp (hi, dandruff) and, annoyingly, parts of the face, like around the eyebrows, nostrils and mouth.
Dehydrated skin is a skin condition, where skin lacks water. This means that any skin type, even oily skin, can experience dehydration (oily skin that’s dehydrated will have high sebum levels and low water levels). There are a number of reasons why skin might be dehydrated, like not drinking enough water or consuming too much caffeine or alcohol, and it can show up on skin as congestion or a lacklustre complexion (it also slows digestion, causing compromised elimination, so more waste gets reabsorbed by our bodies). Dehydration is usually easily fixed by drinking more water (obviously) and quenching skin with hydrating skincare.
But we're here to talk about dry skin, and the best skincare routine for this skin type. Is that you? Read on!
The best facial skincare routine for dry skin
The aim of the dry-skin game is keeping moisture in (and everything else out), so look for skincare that's loaded with ingredients that function as emollients, which lubricate and soften skin while also preventing water loss. These include plant and mineral oils and shea and cocoa butters, as well as humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin which behave like sponges that attract and hold onto water. Another good bet: ceramides, which are the lipids that help skin hold onto moisture.
In the morning, start with a gentle and non-foaming cleanser that won't strip the skin, before layering a couple of serums and a moisturiser on top to form a seal and keep all that moisture in. And of course, top it off with sunscreen. If you're extra-dry, look for a sunscreen that functions as a moisturiser, too, for an extra hydration hit.
In the evening, reach again for your non-foaming cleanser (you can preface this with a balm or oil cleanser to melt away makeup and sunscreen), and layer on your hydrating serum, as well. You can use a richer moisturiser overnight, maybe a balm or cream, and you can also seal everything in with a sleeping mask or facial oil. Or try slugging: coating your face overnight with a layer of petroleum jelly (it's an emollient) that forms a protective seal to trap water and moisture in the skin.
Once or twice a week, treat dry skin to a nourishing and moisturising mask. Most of the masks formulated for this skin type will be of the ‘apply and tissue off the excess’ variety, but you might find that your skin drinks a lot of it up and there’s nothing left to tissue off!
The best body skincare routine for dry skin
Just like you would for the dry skin on your face, you’ll want to lavish dry body skin with loads of moisture, so again, look for products formulated with humectants and emollients.
A gentle body cleanser is a must, and then, before stepping out of the shower or bath, massage in a generous amount of moisturiser or body oil. Ingredients like cocoa butter, glycerin, or jojoba oil, are a good bet, and don’t be afraid to double up with a thicker balm or ointment over particularly scaly areas, like elbows, knees and heels.
And you'll want to buff off that flaky skin! The build-up of dead skin cells on the surface of the skin can impact the absorption (and effectiveness) of your products, so it’s best to commit to a weekly shedding. Exfoliate using a body brush (be gentle!), a chemical exfoliant (if you're particularly sensitive) or a physical exfoliant (just don't apply too much pressure and allow the granules to do the hard work).
And don’t forget…
- Apply products, whether for the face or body, straight out of the shower: damp skin absorbs product more effectively and some ingredients will actually help seal in any water that’s sitting on the surface of your skin.
- Keep a hand cream handy and use it often, but especially every time you wash your hands (soaps can be drying).
- A hydrating facial mist is the quickest way to give skin a tall drink of water at any time of day (and it won’t mess up your makeup).
- Turn down the water temperature, whether you’re showering, bathing or doing the washing up, as heat can further dry out the skin.
- A humidifier might be a worthwhile investment: these add moisture in the air and help reduce the evaporation of moisture from your skin.