My Skin Is Dry AF—Here's What My Dermatologist Tells Me to Do

Having really, really dry skin can feel like a punishment. Sometimes, it feels like no matter how much moisture you try to throw at your skin, it still feels extremely dehydrated. I’ve struggled with dry skin my whole life, particularly growing up in Colorado, where the air is extremely dry, especially in the winter. 

Over the years, I’ve learned plenty of tricks to help maintain hydration in my skin. To help you keep your skin as moisturized as possible, I talked to top derms to learn their best tips and tricks for maintaining skin hydration, even when your skin is flaking so much that you feel like a snake shedding its skin.



What causes severely dry skin?


(Image credit: @itsheymorgan)

While we all wish we could point to one specific cause for dry skin, the reality is that there are a variety of different factors at play. According to board-certified dermatologist Mamina Turegano, MD, FAAD, dry skin can be attributed to age, cold weather, bathing for too long in hot water, harsh soap, medication, and medical conditions like eczema and allergies. 

Regardless of the cause, dry skin manifests the same way for everyone. ​​”The basic premise is the same—an inability for skin cells in the outermost layer to retain their normal function and hold moisture,” says Antony Nakhla, board certified-dermatologist, skin cancer surgeon, and founder of Eighth Day.

Is there any way to prevent severely dry skin?

Turegano recommends moisturizing while skin is still damp, like when you’re right out of the shower. She also advises using a humidifier, spending less than 10 minutes in the shower, avoiding harsh soap, and wearing gloves while you do the dishes.

Try these:

What types of products are best for severely dry skin? Are there any ingredients to look for, and why?

"The most important ingredient is ceramide protein, which is known to assist with skin cell-to-cell cohesion and water binding,” says Nakhla. "Basically, the ceramide protein allows skin cells to stick together and keep water within the cells.”


(Image credit: @cassandra.cadwell)

Not only should you look for ceramides, but you should also look for occlusives like dimethicone, shea butter, and petrolatum to lock in hydration, according to Turegano. She also recommends looking for squalane, which mimics skin’s natural sebum; glycerin, which helps soften skin; and colloidal oatmeal, a skin protectant that also has anti-inflammatory properties.

The best products for severely dry skin:

Associate Beauty Editor

Katie Berohn is the associate beauty editor at Who What Wear. Previously, she worked as the beauty assistant for Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and Prevention magazines, all part of the Hearst Lifestyle Group. She graduated from the University of Colorado, Boulder, with a major in journalism and minor in technology, arts, and media, and earned her master's degree at NYU's graduate program for magazine journalism. In addition, Katie has held editorial internships at Denver Life magazine, Yoga Journal, and Cosmopolitan; a digital editorial internship at New York magazine's The Cut; a social good fellowship at Mashable; and a freelance role at HelloGiggles. When she's not obsessing over the latest skincare launch or continuing her journey to smell every perfume on the planet, Katie can be found taking a hot yoga class, trying everything on the menu at New York's newest restaurant, or hanging out at a trendy wine bar with her friends.