If your complexion is dull, dry or just a bit meh, here’s what to do
Trying to figure out how to turn around a dull complexion can be frustrating, especially when you have dry skin. And it’s winter. And you feel like your whole face is about to flake right off.
If your skin is feeling tight and uncomfortable no matter what kind of product you’re piling on, it could be time to switch up your routine and try a few different steps and ingredients to get it back to its plump, happy self. In winter especially, environmental factors such as cold weather and dry air can cause a whole lot of havoc, resulting in flaky, uncomfortable, itchy skin.
To find out exactly what someone with dry skin should be doing to survive the winter weather with their glow in-tact, including the type of skin care products they should be using, we asked Dr Keturah Hoffman from the Cosmetic Physicians College of Australasia, Dermatologist Dr Rebecca Saunderson from Drummoyne Dermatology in Sydney, and Ultraceuticals Global Education Ambassador Tracey Beeby for their expert advice.
Signs you might have dry skin
Before we get into it, it’s probably handy to check if you *actually* have dry skin. While an expert opinion is always best, there a few simple signs that can help you suss out if this is your skin type. “When your skin is dry, it can feel tight, and even crinkly, especially after being exposed to water, such as after a swim, bath or shower,” says Dr Saunderson.
“Dry skin can look dull, rough and scaly or flaky, and may also feel rough to touch. Very dry skin can feel itchy, and may be irritated and appear red,” she says.
Sound familiar? Below are some of the top tips for dry skin that these experts swear by.
#1/ Opt for a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser
What cleanser are you using right now? If it’s not super gentle (or worse, soap!), put that stuff down. Dr Hoffman tells us to look for something that’s not aggressive (no grainy cleansers!) and drying. She recommends “cleansers with nourishing or emollient ingredients such as natural oils like rosehip. Choosing a cleanser with minimal detergent will dry skin less and only cleansing enough to get the dirt off rather than trying to get squeaky clean is a better way to cleanse dry skin. Cream-based cleansers are generally more gentle and hydrating.”
Dr Saunderson says, “Cleansers with an optimal pH balance and that retain the natural oils in the skin are best, such as QV Gentle Cleanser, Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser, and CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser, which contains ceramides that help to keep the skin moist. All help to keep the skin barrier intact, reducing dryness.”
#2/ Choose a serum with hydrating benefits
Let’s talk serums. These guys are great for nourishing the skin and targeting specific skin problems because they can deliver a very high concentration of active ingredients. If you’re looking to soften and hydrate your skin, you’re going to want to pick a serum that is chock full of moisturising ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides.
“Most serums have a high level of active ingredients in the form of vitamins, peptides, ceramides and other moisturising ingredients,” says Dr Hoffman. “Depending on whether you are seeking to thicken the skin by encouraging growth or hydrate it by locking in water, you might choose a serum with vitamins or peptides (for growth and thickening) or hyaluronic acid (for hydrating).”
“An absolute must for a dry skin is the [Ultraceuticals] Ultra B2 Hydrating Serum,” says Beeby. “This oil-free serum utilises the power of pro-vitamin B5 (panthenol) and vitamin B3 (niacinamide) combined with high levels of hyaluronic acid to synergistically help restore vital moisture balance and provide long-lasting hydration. Other treatment serums in the range utilise the ingredients retinol, ascorbic acid and AHAs and BHA. These serums can also assist dry skin but must be recommended into a homecare program slowly by your clinician.”
#3/ Upgrade your moisturiser
If you’re anything like us, whenever your skin is showing the first signs of dehydration or dryness, you tend to whack on a thick, creamy moisturiser. And it usually delivers immediate results. So, does that mean a face cream with a thicker/creamier texture is necessarily better? According to Dr Hoffman, thicker creams are actually more effective because they have more emulsifying wax than thinner creams. “The emulsifying wax is not usually active on the skin but will assist in creating a barrier between the skin and the environment that decreases water loss,” she says. “Once the cream has soaked into the epidermis, its thickness becomes irrelevant.”
However, if thicker moisturisers just aren’t your jam, don’t worry! Just about any texture of cream will be helpful for dry facial skin. Dr Saunderson says, “Thicker moisturisers are better at keeping the moisture in your skin, but if you don't like the greasy feel, and won't use it, then you're much better placed using a lighter moisturiser that you will use.”
Aside from the texture of a cream, there are also many active ingredients in them that can predict their moisturising abilities. Beeby says, “Clinical research states that in order to provide essential moisture to restore the outer layer of the skin (epidermis) as it should be, the moisturiser should contain ingredients that mimic the components of the skin. That is called ‘biomimetic’.” She adds, “These ingredients include linoleic and linolenic acid, hyaluronic acid, and cholesterol, to name a few. The amount of active ingredients within [a] formulation would need to vary depending on the skin type it is formulated for, whether oily or dry.”
#4/ Incorporate oils into your routine
If you want to adopt a comprehensive dry skin care routine, don’t overlook this step. Oils can stay on the skin longer than your moisturiser, and are actually better at keeping moisture in – so they’re a must for your winter skin care routine.
“Because the epidermis is waterproof, it is more likely that oil-based products will penetrate the top layers successfully and protect them. Creams often include some oil and some water and can therefore balance penetration of the epidermis as well as transit through the dermis. Oils in skin care will generally keep the epidermis moistened for longer, but the key is the right balance of water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients in the formulation.”
#5/ Switch to short, warm showers
While it may be tempting to take a long, steamy shower when it’s chilly outside, your skin will appreciate it if you turn the temp down and use warm water instead. “The easiest steps to implement are to keep hot showers to a minimum and never have the hot water hitting your face directly,” says Beeby.
#6/ Avoid over-exfoliating
Guys, if you have flaky skin, scrubbing the life out of those dry patches won’t help! It’ll actually make your dry skin worse. Dr Hoffman says, “Dry skin may seem like it needs exfoliation, but this is not always the case. So be wary of too much scrubbing to try to get the flaky bits off, as this may be counterproductive.” If you’re worried about flakiness, Dr Hoffman suggests looking for products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) as these will help remove dead skin cells and loosen the dry surface to reveal healthy skin underneath, without the irritation. “Furthermore, the AHA molecules can penetrate the cells and act with osmotic pressure to increase cell hydration.”
#7/ Invest in a humidifier
If you’re serious about kicking dry skin to the curb this winter, Saunderson says it could be worth investing in a humidifier. Using a humidifier in your home or office will add moisture to dry winter air and help keep your skin hydrated.
#8/ Eat right and stay hydrated
You’d be surprised by how much drinking enough water can improve your skin. Water is essentially fuel for your body, and when you’re sufficiently hydrated, your cells work harder, meaning your skin is healthier. “Try and drink as much water as you do in summer and reduce hot comfort drinks like excess coffee whilst maintaining a healthy diet,” says Beeby.
Looking how to improve other skin conditions? Check out our five foolproof tips for oily skin.
Do you suffer from dry skin? What are your top tips? Share with us in the common section below.
Main image credit: @sarasampaio
Erin Docherty is a Beauty Writer for BEAUTYcrew, Beauty Editor for Women's Health magazine and a Grooming Writer for Men's Health magazine. She has a keen interest in cosmeceutical skin care and is currently working on minimising her 9-step skin care routine – because ain’t nobody got time for that. When she’s not writing about the latest beauty news, or applying copious amounts of serum, you can find her spending all her money in Sephora.