As we approach the colder months of the year, dry skin sufferers may be noticing an increase in their symptoms. Cold, dry air can take an already-pesky problem and turn it into a constant source of annoyance.
But don't think this is a regional issue - even those who live in a warm climate year-round can suffer from dry skin. While innate biological factors can definitely play a role in how likely someone is to develop dry skin, your daily hygiene routine can either improve or worsen the situation.
If dry skin is plaguing you, we're here to help. Here are some time-tested, straightforward strategies to deal with the problem.
Use a gentle cleanser
If you have dry skin, it's crucial to use the right cleanser that won't strip all the natural oils from your face. Most foaming and acne-fighting cleansers can be too drying for your skin. If your face feels tight after cleansing, it's time to switch to something less harsh.
Find a cleanser with a cream or lotion-based texture, or one that's designed for dry skin. Look for words like gentle, soothing or hydrating and ingredients like hyaluronic acid or ceramides. A cleansing oil can also be a good option for dry skin.
Make sure not to wash your face too often, ideally one or two times a day. You should use a cleanser at night to remove dirt, makeup and other impurities from your face. Some people with dry skin may prefer to rinse their face with water in the morning instead of using a cleanser.
If you work out during the day, it's a good idea to use a cleanser to remove sweat. Keep some wipes on hand if you're at the gym or in a hurry. Also be sure to moisturize afterwards.
Find a serum
Those with dry skin should add a serum to their skincare regimen. A serum is like a hydration boost and should be layered under a moisturizer. Give the serum a few minutes to absorb before adding the moisturizer. Look for serums that have hyaluronic acid or glycerin.
Use the right moisturizer
Use a cream-based moisturizer, one with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, emollients or ceramides.
Some people think that a thicker moisturizer will lead to more acne, but that's not the case. Finding the right moisturizer can decrease dry skin and acne at the same time.
When you use harsh products or skip moisturizing, your skin will produce more oil to compensate. This can lead to more acne. If you moisturize regularly, your skin will stop overproducing oil and your acne will decrease.
Many people forget to moisturize their bodies, especially in the summer. Using a body moisturizer is a necessary step in the skincare process. Use a heavy moisturizing cream and if that's not enough, try layering with an occlusive like petroleum jelly to lock in the hydration.
Add a sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is crucial to every routine, whether you have dry skin or not. If you do have dry skin, find a daily sunscreen that also includes moisturizer.
Using sunscreen regularly will prevent discoloration, age spots and even skin cancer. Put on a sunscreen after you've moisturized and let it sit for 15 minutes before going outside.
Have the right night routine
The right nighttime routine is crucial for those with dry skin. First, start by removing any makeup from your face. You can do this with a hydrating cleanser or make-up remover followed by a cleanser.
Next, apply your moisturizing serum and moisturizer. Some people use a thicker moisturizer at night, especially if they're worried about their face or body looking too shiny during the day. Then, you can add a retinol for anti-aging purposes.
If you have dry skin on your body, apply petroleum jelly as a moisturizer. It will soak in while you sleep. If you don't want to apply it everywhere, stick to the driest parts of your body like your knees, elbows and lips.
Facial sleeping masks can also provide more hydration than a typical moisturizer. These masks will be the final step in your routine and lock in any other moisturizer or serum you've applied.
What to avoid with dry skin
When treating dry skin, avoiding the wrong products is as important as buying the right ones. Alcohol-based toners can be overly drying and harm your skin's moisture barrier.
It may be tempting to scrub flaky skin away with a physical exfoliant, but they can be too harsh for dry skin. Stick to chemical exfoliants if you have uneven skin, acne scars or age spots.
You should also avoid washing your face and body with hot water. Hot water can remove the natural moisture from your skin and cause further problems, especially if you have eczema. If you can stomach it, take cold showers. If not, try to take the coldest shower possible and limit shower time to less than 10 minutes.
When you get out of the shower, pat your skin gently with a towel. Avoid rubbing too hard, as that will further exacerbate your issues. Apply a moisturizer immediately after.
Don't use products that have dyes or perfumes. It might be fun to have margarita-flavored body wash, but fragrant products can be irritating to dry skin. Check and see if your shampoo and conditioner have harsh ingredients or scents.
When you have dry skin, being consistent with your routine is important. It's not enough to moisturize once in a while - you have to make it a regular part of your daily life, like brushing your teeth.
Talk to a dermatologist
If you adopt a gentle routine as illustrated above and still have painful, flaky skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist.
They can determine if you're dealing with something more serious than dry skin and prescribe more powerful products if needed. For example, a fungal infection could look like flaky skin and require antifungal drugs. If you've been using more moisturizer and are still having severe dry skin, talk to a professional before buying any new products.
Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A Certified Financial Health Counselor and Student Loan Counselor, she also works as a money coach helping people one-on-one at Conscious Coins. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.