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?
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.
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.”
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:
Spread this lotion everywhere for tons of hydration. "This has a wonderful combination of ceramides, glycerin, shea butter along with La Roche-Posay’s Thermal Spring Water, which has been shown to rebalance the microbiome thus further helping the skin barrier," says Turegano. "This is safe for babies two weeks of age and up."
"I love this for irritated, dry skin," says Turegano. "This has vitamin B5 (panthenol), madecassoside, glycerin, and dimethicone and shea butter to nourish and calm the skin."
"This luxurious cream has a combination of colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, and ceramides," says Turegano. "While it’s a pretty thick cream, I find it absorbs instantly."
If you have dry eyes, this eye cream is for you. "This has a nice balance of mango seed butter, hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and peptides to hydrate and moisturize your skin," says Turegano. "It also has a cool ingredient, which is a patented MEP Technology that addresses the signs of aging brought on by loss of estrogen without any additive hormones."
"This is one of my favorite occlusive ingredients," says Turegano. "The main ingredient is petrolatum, but it also has hyaluronic acid and ceramides to further moisturize."
This cult-favorite serum has peptide-rich plasma, hyaluronic acid, manuka honey, and glycolic acid. "Using exfoliative products with glycolic acid can also help to remove the outer layer of dead skin cells," says Nakhla.
"Sometimes, simple things like plain petrolatum are used to create an occlusive barrier," says Nakhla. "This barrier prevents something called 'transepidermal water loss,' which is literally water evaporating from your skin’s surface. Occlusive therapy keeps the water from being lost in your skin and allows deeper fluid to hydrate your skin cell."
This is one of my all-time favorite body lotions. It's packed with intensely nourishing oils (marula, cacay, meadowfoam) that leave skin nourished and supple.
It's a splurge, but this luxurious cream is worth every penny. Evening primrose oil, which is packed with omega fatty acids and linoleic acid, locks in hydration while soothing skin.
This oil is basically instant radiance in a bottle. Just add a few drops over your moisturizer for a dreamy glow and so much hydration.
Glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide work together to intensely moisturize your skin.
I rely on this hand cream to soothe my dry, cracked knuckles in the dead of winter. Hyaluronic acid helps draw moisture into the skin while argan oil seals it in.
Smooth this on as the last step of your skincare routine for an extra hydration boost right before you sleep.
For more skincare tips, check out One Serum to Rule Them All—Bye, Fine Lines, Hyperpigmentation, and Dullness.