Sometime around September my sun-kissed glow from summer starts to fade into a dull, rough mask. Dry patches start to pop up on my cheeks and arms, and my makeup seems to look cakey instead of dewy. In fact, this change in my skin is typically the first sign that winter is coming. Bye, bye combination complexion. Hello, dry skin. “If you have skin that easily becomes flaky, tight feeling, or even rough this is likely from dry skin,”Kally Papantoniou, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in NYC, tells SELF. When you have dry skin, you have to think about skincare a little differently. Things like physical exfoliants, alcohol, and foaming cleanser can make flaky skin even worse. Here’s a list of daily habits that could be contributing to your dry skin.
1. Using a soapy or acne-fighting cleanser. The number-one thing that could be causing your skin to dry out is your face wash. Beware of foamy and soapy cleansers, which can strip the skin of your natural oils. “There are some cleansers which are fine for normal-to-oily skin types, but if used by those with dry skin, it can be too harsh,” says Papantoniou. “Toners, face masks, and products that are used to treat acne can also be very drying.” “Oil cleansers wash away what we want to clean but leave behind natural oils and they don’t strip your skin of moisture,” she explains.
2. Turning up the heat in the shower. Although a super hot and steamy shower can feel relaxing, it can be troublesome if you have itchy, dry skin. “Hot water temperature will leech skin of oils and lead to dry skin,” says Papantoniou. The best thing is to keep your water at a warm-to-tepid temperature. Try this Delta Temp2O showerhead ($70, homedepot.com) that comes with a temperature read out built in. In winter, your space heater can also be to blame. The dry heat sucks moisture from the air and your skin. Consider investing in a humidifier, which helps balance out the humidity in the air.
3. Applying your skincare products in the wrong order. Getting more moisture is only half the battle with dry skin. You also want to use products that lock in the hydration. So, layering is key. After cleansing, apply a moisturizing serum. Then immediately top it with a cream like SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 cream ($125, skinceuticals.com) to restore essential oils and fats to the skin. “This will help to seal in the hydration and give you moisturized skin for longer periods of time, hopefully all day,” says Papantoniou. If you’re still feeling dry, add an oil as the final step. “Rosehip oil or coconut oil will create a stronger water barrier and may be more suitable for an overnight treatment or winter months.”
4. Using scrubbing exfoliants. Exfoliants that have microbeads (which are banned in the USA) and small scrubbing particles aren’t the only way to get rid of flaky, dead skin. In fact, over-scrubbing can be harsh on delicate, dry skin types. Papantoniou recommends using a chemical exfoliant that is packed with alpha hydroxy acids. “For the body a lotion with lac-hydrin or a glycolic cream will work great,” she says. “And for the face, a glycolic based cream or mild AHA will be best for dry skin types.” Try AmLactin ($23, amazon.com) as an all-over moisturizer and Philosophy Renewed Hope In A Jar ($47, nordstrom.com) on your face.
5. Buying skincare products with alcohol as a primary ingredient. Alcohol is also on the list of no-nos for sensitive and dry skin types. That is because the harsh ingredient steals moisture away from your skin. “Alcohol-based products are really good at cutting through oils and can disrupt the skin barrier, this leads to even more dry skin,” says Papantoniou. Take note that dry skin is different than eczema and psoriasis. These conditions are typically characterized by itchy, raised, red, or thick flakes that can sometimes appear crusty. And if your dry skin seems to be plaguing more than just your face, it could be a sign of something that’s internally out of whack. “Dry skin can be a sign of hypothyroidism, diabetes, some medications can actually cause dry skin as well,” says Papantoniou. “If you have dry skin all over the body—not just the face—and it is a new change, I would see a physician just to be sure.”
This story originally appeared on SELF.