How to Treat & Prevent Dry, Flaky Skin

How To
Hyaluronic Acid
Skin Care
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Whether you're an occasional dry skin type or all-year-round sufferer, one thing is for sure, dry skin must be dealt with. Dry skin not only feels uncomfortably tight, it also causes wrinkle visibility to increase and the surface of your skin to become flakey and red. Not even makeup can really cover up dry skin. Continue reading for some of the best ways to treat & prevent dry skin.

Why is My Skin So Dry?

As Shari Marchbein, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Downtown Dermatology in New York City says, "Dry skin is caused by an impaired skin barrier and dysfunction or deficiency in the necessary healthy fats in the top layer of the skin."[1] The protective barrier is the top skin layer, consisting of lipids, like cholesterol, ceramides, and fatty acids. The barrier's main function is to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). [2]  When the barrier is damaged, this loss of moisture increases and leads to dry skin. Additionally, skin becomes more susceptible to external aggressors when the barrier is weakened. Maintaining a robust protective barrier should be your main priority to achieve resilient, moist skin. 

Skin tends to become dryer with age as it loses essential proteins that give it moisture and bounciness. Nevertheless, lots of foes can dry your skin. Heat, either indoor heating or sun exposure, are two major culprits that deplete the skin of natural moisture. By the same token, cold weather draws moisture away from the skin; that's why your face may feel dryer in the winter. Lifestyle choices can also induce dryness. I know they feel great, but all of those long hot baths strip the skin's natural oils. Also, too much exfoliation or harsh skincare products can cause irritation and drying.

Signs of Dry Skin

You know when your skin is dry. It looks dull, feels tight and itchy, and might flake to the point it cracks. Applying makeup feels impossible as chances are, it won’t blend and willl look cakey.

The signs of dry skin include:

  • Rough texture
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Peeling and flaking
  • Noticeable fine lines
  • Irritations

The Best Skincare Routine for Dry Skin

When skin is dry, your routine should be tailored to restore hydration and prevent further moisture loss. Here's to a glowy, hydrated complexion. 

Quit using skincare products filled with drying alcohol, fragrances, and other ingredients that strip moisture from the skin. Always say pass to salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and SLSs.

Cleanser? Opt for a non-foaming formula that aims to moisturize such as a cream or balm. 

Pro tip: Use a pH-balancing toner before slathering on any serum. It will help your skin better absorb what you apply, therefore intensifying the benefits — a blessing for dry skin. 

Your serum should focus on humectants, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. They help draw moisture to the surface and retain water, the key to keeping skin hydrated. Barrier strengthening elements like ceramides, peptides, squalane must also be on your radar. Or, for dramatic results, you can appeal to an intensive treatment with supercharged ampoules — we can't get enough of Babor Hydra Plus Ampoule Serum Concentrates, a 7-day hydration replenisher, a special treat for dry skin.

Next, you need a rich, thick, moisture-trapping moisturizer. You may have heard about occlusives and emollients, the heroes for dry skin. Occlusives are oily and waxy agents that form a veil on the skin's surface to hinder TEWL and encourage barrier recovery. The best examples are petrolatum, shea butter, argan, jojoba, and olive oils. On the flip side, emollients (fatty acids, lipids, oils, and butters) aid in softening and repairing cracks. Is there an ingredient that does both? Yep, squalane is an occlusive emollient, chock full of fatty acids that replenish lipids in the skin — exactly what you need. We bet on Biossance Squalane + Omega Repair Cream, loaded with shea butter, ceramides, sodium hyaluronate, and vitamin E, the MVPs for preventing water loss and repairing dry skin. 

Exfoliating dry skin is a two-edged sword. Not doing it can allow dead cell buildup, flakes, and impurities that will make your complexion look dull, but overdoing might dry the skin even more. Dry skin needs a gentle exfoliator such as lactic acid. Lactic acid, the mildest among AHAs, acts delicately on the skin thanks to its large molecule that doesn't allow it to penetrate the skin, hence operating less aggressively. But that's not it. Lactic acid has humectant benefits, too, meaning it pulls water into the skin, increasing hydration. The moral of the story? Exfoliation is still necessary for dry skin, but you’ll need a delicate exfoliant once or twice a week and you should never use physical exfoliators on the face.

Find the Best Skincare Products for Dry Skin at Exponent

At Exponent, our mission is to set a new standard for effective skincare so you can cut through the clutter and choose products that actually work. We packed our own serums with  Quadruple Hydration Hyaluronic Serum that will help any parched skin feel quenched. Our Calm Revival Green Tea Resveratrol Serum is great for reducing inflammation and irritation. We also compiled a list of the best skincare products for dry skin from a plethora of products we've tested for efficacy. Happy hydration!

Exponent Beauty Classically Flawless For Dry Skin


  • Everyday Health, 10 Surprising Causes of Dry Skin. Source
  • Grubauer G, Elias PM, Feingold KR. Transepidermal water loss: the signal for recovery of barrier structure and function. J Lipid Res. March 1989. Source


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