How To Build a Skincare Routine for Dry, Dehydrated Skin

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Your skin is just as unique as you are — making it essential to embrace a skincare journey tailored to your specific needs. But when it comes to dry skin, the path to a radiant, hydrated complexion can be filled with twists and turns.

The shortcut? A consistent regimen designed to quench parched skin. Join us as we share essential tips for caring for dry skin and explore a nourishing routine.

Let’s get started.

What causes dry skin?

Normal, oily, combination, or dry. Having one skin type or another depends on a few factors (genetic and hormonal, among others) that are mostly out of your control. What is in your hands? Understanding your skin type and how to care for it.

Dry skin lacks water, but it’s also running on a low supply of natural oils. And these natural oils (AKA sebum) help keep your skin barrier functioning at its best. What makes the skin barrier so noteworthy? This brick-and-mortar-like structure is your skin’s first line of defense against the outside world. And its main job is to protect you from pathogens while balancing your skin’s moisture levels.

Basically, your skin barrier helps keep the bad stuff out (irritants, pollution) and the good stuff in (water, oils). But, when you have dry skin, the layer of skin that your barrier calls home is permanently altered. This means that your skin cells lose some of their power to retain and replenish water.

What does dry skin look (and feel) like?

It’s sensitive (think itching, peeling, and flaking)

You have refined, barely-visible pores

It feels tight, especially after washing your face

You’re used to a matte complexion (without shine)

Sometimes these signs appear all over or only in one specific place, such as the nose or cheeks. Either way, a targeted skincare routine can help relieve dryness and set you on the path to smooth, comfortable skin.

Your step-by-step routine for dry skin

When building a skincare routine to combat dryness, the mantra is simple (and maybe a little obvious): hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Reach for products which help replenish lost moisture while working to keep your skin hydrated throughout the day.

Step 1: Nourishing oil cleanser

If your skin is dry and irritated, choosing the wrong cleanser could exaggerate things. Harsh cleansers can strip the skin of its natural oils, further damaging the moisture barrier and contributing to dryness, flakiness, and in some cases, irritation.

Choose a gentle cleanser which respects your skin’s moisture barrier. Wondering where to start? An oil cleanser is your best bet for a deep clean that doesn’t strip the skin. Oil attracts oil, making it ideal for gently removing greasy residues, waterproof makeup, or water-resistant sunscreen. Most importantly, look for oil cleansers with the softness of an emulsion. This mild texture helps to keep dry skin comfortable while cleansing and afterwards.

Step 2: Revitalizing eye cream

Our everyday environment can affect our skin more than we realize. These skin-affecting factors are called the exposome and include things like UV radiation, temperature, stress, and pollution.

Unfortunately, all of these daily factors can mess with our skin barrier. One of the thinnest areas of skin on your entire body, the delicate under-eye area, is particularly sensitive to these stressors — making it even more important to hydrate and protect it.

Your eye contour also tends to be one of the first places wrinkles show up (think of the countless emotions your eyes help to express each day). So, if fine lines are something you’re still working to embrace, add a moisturizing, revitalizing eye cream to your routine.

Step 3: Hydrating serum

Both morning and evening call for a hydrating serum to help boost natural moisture levels in the skin. Serums can also help to calm the skin, as the intense moisture can help to reduce the feeling of dryness associated with dehydration. Look for formulas featuring humectants such as hyaluronic acid and glycerin.

But what are humectants exactly? These hydration heroes work by drawing in water molecules and binding to them, retaining moisture in the skin. Hyaluronic acid also adds volume to the skin and offers a plumping effect, counteracting loss of elasticity — making hyaluronic acid serums a popular choice.

Step 4: Targeted moisturizer

Now it’s time to seal in the moisture with a comforting formula. This step helps to keep in all the hydrating goodness of a serum, plus minimize moisture loss as the day goes by. Where to start? A lightweight yet hard-working moisturizer can help to deeply hydrate, protect your natural moisture barrier, and support well-aging.

Step 5: Broad spectrum sunscreen

No matter your skin type, sunscreen is a must. Daily use helps protect your skin from damaging UV rays, and can help put a pause on any further dehydration or dryness due to the sun’s harsh effects.

Mineral formulas are a good choice for dry, sensitive skin, as they are generally suitable for a wide range of skin types. Choose a mineral formula with moisturizing ingredients such as vitamin E to help keep your skin protected and boost its natural defenses.

You’re not the only one wondering: Can I exfoliate if I have dry skin? It’s a common myth that you shouldn’t. But following a few tips, exfoliation can be an essential ally for dry skin.

First, let’s clarify this myth: the golden rule is to avoid manual exfoliation. Some exfoliating scrubs and brushes can irritate the skin and lead to more dryness and redness. With dry skin, chemical exfoliants like AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) are typically a good choice, especially in gentle formulas.

Ever heard of glycolic acid? It’s an AHA exfoliant with water-attracting properties, meaning in lower concentrations it’s effective while still being kind to dry skin. Try getting started with glycolic acid one or two nights a week and then build up from there if needed. Just remember to wear sun protection without fail, as exfoliation can make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

Sources and references:Hashizume H. Skin aging and dry skin. J Dermatol. 2004 Aug;31(8):603-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1346-8138.2004.tb00565.x. PMID: 15492432.

Van Smeden, J., Janssens, M., Gooris, G. S., & Bouwstra, J. A. (2014). The important role of stratum corneum lipids for the cutaneous barrier function. Biochimica Et Biophysica Acta (BBA) – Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids, 1841(3), 295–313.

Tončić, R. J., Kežić, S., Hadžavdić, S. L., & Marinović, B. (2018). Skin barrier and dry skin in the mature patient. Clinics in Dermatology, 36(2), 109–115.

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Editorial Team

Our namesake embodies the spirit of embracing life and all its wonder. As wellness journalists, we explore topics that invigorate the senses and keep curiosity alive. We believe that glowing skin is the result of a healthy body and mind. Weaving beauty with science, we aim to inspire you to live young at every age.

Medical Communication Manager

In addition to ten years as a primary care doctor, Aurora has over 23 years of experience developing and communicating healthcare products, most recently in dermo-cosmetics. She has co-authored many publications in dermatological journals and spoken at international health & beauty conferences. Ref: Colegio de Medicos de Madrid numero 282840102

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