Doesn’t it seem like most of the skin care advice out there applies mostly to those with “normal” or “combo” skin? I mean, come on. People with those skin types aren’t even the ones with real problems. For those of us with, shall we say, more difficult complexions, many traditional skin care regimens can actually do a number on our skin’s health and beauty.
Take those of us with dry skin. If your face ever feels tight and flaky, you know that there are a few very important skincare rules to keep in mind—and some things that you should always skip. Here are 7 of the things you should never, ever do if you have dry skin.
1. Forget to moisturize
If you have normal or oily skin, it’s probably fine to skip a day of moisturizing here and there. Not so if you’re dry. If you have dry skin, you need to break out the big guns.
To begin with, you’ll probably want to consider using two moisturizers. Use a rich moisturizer in the evening after washing your face, and a lighter moisturizer with SPF of at least 30 in the morning before applying makeup. Be sure to apply moisturizer on your neck and hands as well—even Christina Hendricks does it, and her skin is amazing.
You can also amp up the hydration with natural oils on top of your evening moisturizer. Argan oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil are all great for dry skin and can be found online or in health food stores (just be sure to avoid buying anything with added fragrance or any added ingredients).
Dry skin often leads to flakiness, and the first impulse is often to scrub the flakes away. When you have dry skin, this is the worst thing that you can do, especially if you’re using an exfoliant every day. Over-exfoliating is only going to irritate (and therefore dry out) your skin more. Limit your exfoliation to one to three times a week, and avoid any products that have beads or grains that tear at your skin. For physical exfoliating, a gentle scrub (like Soap & Glory The Scrub Of Your Life) or a warm, wet washcloth will get the job done.
You could also try chemical exfoliating with the use of BHAs or AHAs, which help to get rid of dead skin without any rough scrubbing. Just be sure to use those sparingly because they can dry out your skin even more if you overdo it.
3. Take long, hot showers
Long, hot showers might save your sanity in the winter, but they’re definitely not helping your dry skin. If you’re taking a hot shower every day then it’s time to make a change (but we’re not saying you have to switch to cold showers; we aren’t monsters).
Instead, reduce the length of your showers (ten minutes max) or slowly lowering the temperature until you’ve switched from hot to warm showers. Avoid washing your face in very hot shower water (save that for the sink afterwards). You can also apply coconut oil or Vaseline before a shower to help keep skin from drying out.
4. Use products with high amounts of alcohol
A small amount of alcohol in your products isn’t always a bad thing, contrary to popular opinion. Used properly, alcohol can help increase a product’s efficacy. However, if a product—like a toner—has high amounts of alcohol, it is very likely that it will dry out your skin. The takeaway here is to make sure to always research the ingredients before buying a new product, and do a patch test first whenever possible to be sure it doesn’t dry you out.
5. Use powerful facial cleansers
It is imperative for people with dry skin to avoid stripping their skin with overly harsh cleansers. Yes, you absolutely need to do a good job of removing your makeup at night, but that doesn’t mean your skin needs to feel tight and itchy afterwards. There a lot of gentle cleansers out there, and some of them are even hydrating. Clean & Clear Foaming Cleanser for Sensitive Skin is a great budget option; Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean Deep Cleansing Milk actually softens skin while deeply cleansing (plus it comes in a huge 17 ounce bottle!); and VMV Hypoallergenics Red Better Deeply Soothing Cleansing Cream is great for sensitive, irritated, and dry skin.
6. Use a million face masks
Face masks can be a lot of fun, and sometimes you just want to post a scream-inducing mask selfie on Instagram. If you have dry skin, however, you need to be very choosy about which masks you put on your face. Many masks that promise to purify, shrink pores and remove blackheads are extremely drying. Instead, look for masks that offer hydration, soothing, or added moisture. Clinique Moisture Surge Overnight Mask and Dr. Jart Water Fuse Water-Full Hydrogel Mask are great options for those with dry skin (even if you lose out on the fun of peeling dried-out clay off your face).
Also, if you do have a few spots on your chin or blackheads on your nose, try using that face mask that’s too harsh on the rest of your face as a spot treatment.
7. Use powder or matte makeup
First, a disclaimer: we’re not saying that if you have dry skin, there is no powder or matte makeup out there that will work for you. It’s definitely possible, but as a general rule, however, you should try to stick to cream or liquid makeup that promises a dewy finish. Most matte and powder makeup will only emphasize dry skin and can easily look caked-on.
If your dry skin is making it difficult to wear makeup, try a routine of light moisturizer, BB cream or foundation with a dewy finish (we love BareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream), and a creamy concealer (such as NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer). If your T-zone gets shiny, use blotting papers instead of layering powder (e.l.f. Shine Eraser Blotting Papers are amazing) to banish oil without removing your makeup or drying out your skin.
Originally published March 2015. Updated August 2017.