Dry skin can feel tight, itchy, and uncomfortable. It can make your face look dull, flaky, and prematurely aged. While genetics plays a role, there are many lifestyle factors that cause dry facial skin. The good news is that with the right skin care routine and treatments, you can bring your dry skin back to a healthy, hydrated state. Read on to learn all about caring for dry facial skin.
What causes dry facial skin?
Several factors can cause dryness on your face:
- Environment: Low humidity, cold dry air, and high winds all dehydrate skin. Winter weather is especially harsh.
- Hot showers: Extended, very hot showers strip moisture from skin.
- Harsh ingredients: Some soaps, cleansers, and products contain ingredients that disrupt skin's protective moisture barrier. Examples are sodium lauryl sulfate and alcohol.
- Sun exposure: UV rays damage collagen and elastin that keep skin supple and hydrated.
- Age: Skin's ability to hold moisture diminishes as we get older.
- Medications: Certain prescription drugs like diuretics, antihistamines, retinoids, and acne treatments are dehydrating.
- Health conditions: Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, and hypothyroidism cause dryness.
How can you tell if you have dry facial skin?
Here are some signs your face may be lacking sufficient moisture:
- Flakiness, especially around nostrils, corners of mouth, forehead, and cheeks
- Itching or tight sensation, especially after cleansing and bathing
- Rough texture that's noticeable to touch
- Dull, lackluster appearance
- More visible fine lines and wrinkles
- Redness, irritation, or inflammation
- Peeling or cracked skin that may even bleed
If your face feels uncomfortably dry and exhibits any of these symptoms, it likely needs more hydration.
Key ways to hydrate dry facial skin
- Cleanse gently
Harsh foaming cleansers will strip skin. Opt for a creamy, moisturizing cleanser. Apply with gentle circular motions using your fingertips. Rinse with lukewarm water.
- Apply hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid holds up to 1000x its weight in water. Look for serums and moisturizers containing it. Apply to damp skin after cleansing.
- Use thick, creamy moisturizers
For very dry skin, look for formulas containing shea butter, ceramides, jojoba oil, or petrolatum. Avoid lightweight lotions.
- Seal it in with facial oil
Lock in moisture with a few drops of facial oil high in oleic acid like rosehip seed, marula, or jojoba. Massage in after moisturizer.
- Exfoliate (but not too much)
Gently remove flaky skin no more than 1-2 times per week. Use soft washcloths or a konjac sponge rather than abrasive scrubs.
- Always wear sunscreen
UV rays make dryness worse. Apply moisturizer with SPF 30+ each morning.
- Boost hydration overnight
Sleeping masks, overnight creams, and occlusive ointments provide intense moisture while you sleep.
- Mist throughout the day
Carry a hydrating facial mist containing glycerin or hyaluronic acid. Mist whenever skin feels tight or dry.
- Limit hot showers
Keep showers brief and tepid. Hot water evaporates hydration. Pat skin partially dry and apply moisturizer immediately after bathing.
- Use a humidifier
Run a humidifier in your bedroom when indoor heat kicks on in winter. Humidity helps prevent water loss.
Lifestyle tips for preventing dry facial skin
In addition to your daily skin care routine, implement these lifestyle habits to keep your face hydrated:
- Drink plenty of water – aim for eight 8-oz glasses per day
- Limit caffeine and alcohol which dehydrate
- Quit smoking, which restricts blood flow to skin
- Eat more healthy fats like salmon, avocado, nuts and olive oil
- Take shorter, cooler showers; avoid bath soaps
- Run a humidifier to add moisture to indoor air
- Apply moisturizer after washing hands to replenish
- Protect skin from cold, dry winds with scarves
Making facial hydration a priority and adjusting certain habits goes a long way towards warding off dry, flaky skin.
Top 5 hydrating ingredients to look for
When shopping for hydrating facial products, seek out these powerful humectants:
Glycerin – a humectant that draws moisture into skin's top layers
Hyaluronic acid – binds up to 1000 times its weight in water for plumping effect
Ceramides – skin-identical lipids that repair the moisture barrier
Oils – plant oils like jojoba, marula and squalane nourish without clogging
Shea butter – concentrated fat softens and smoothes dry patches
Scan the ingredients list for these moisturizing all-stars when choosing cleansers, serums, moisturizers, and masks.
Best hydrating products for dry facial skin
With so many products on the market, it can be tricky to know which hydrators really deliver results. Here are 10 skin saver products dermatologists recommend:
- CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
- The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
- Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream
- First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream
- Kiehl's Ultra Facial Cream
- Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream
- Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Dream Face Cream
- ISDIN Hyaluronic Booster Ampoules
- La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5
- Vaseline 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly
Look for gentler cleansers, serums and moisturizers rich in humectant and emollient ingredients. Petroleum jelly makes an ideal overnight occlusive.
Professional facial treatments
For an added boost when your facial skin needs a major moisture surge, book a professional hydrating facial. Estheticians have access to cosmeceutical-grade products and equipment that can infuse skin with hydration.
This popular treatment uses a device with serums that deeply cleanse, extract, and hydrate. Leaves skin plump and dewy.
Pressurized oxygen is delivered into the skin along with hyaluronic acid serums for instant hydration.
Ultrasonic vibration forces products containing hydrating ingredients deeper into skin.
Sheet mask facial
Estheticians apply multiple sheets soaked in essences and serums to dampen skin.
LED light therapy
Red and infrared LED light encourages skin cells to produce more collagen and elastin for hydration.
A series of in-office treatments in combination with at-home care provides longer lasting relief for stubborn dry skin.
DIY hydrating facial masks
You can also mix up ultra-hydrating masks at home using ingredients from your kitchen. Whip up one of these natural recipes 1-2 times per week:
Yogurt mask: Mix plain full-fat Greek yogurt with a little honey. Apply a thick layer and leave on 15 minutes.
Aloe vera mask: Blend fresh aloe vera gel with a vitamin E capsule and green tea. Smooth on and allow to penetrate for 20 minutes.
Oatmeal mask: Mix cooked oatmeal with almond milk and olive oil into a paste. Apply for 10-15 minutes.
Avocado mask: Mash ripe avocado with honey and argan oil. Let sit for 15-20 minutes before rinsing.
Banana mask: Mash overripe banana with heavy cream. Apply to face and neck for 10-15 minutes.
Natural ingredients like yogurt, oatmeal, and banana contain hydrating compounds. The oils and aloe vera provide additional skin-soothing benefits.
Can you be allergic to facial products?
Some ingredients in skin care products can trigger allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin. Common irritants to avoid include:
- Preservatives like parabens, formaldehyde, and methylchloroisothiazolinone
- Botanical extracts
- Emulsifiers and surfactants like PEG compounds
- Essential oils like eucalyptus, citrus, mint, and lavender
Reactions may include redness, stinging, itching, bumps, and dry patches. Always patch test unfamiliar products before full facial use. See an allergist if symptoms persist.
When to see a dermatologist about dry facial skin
While home care and lifestyle adjustments can often remedy dryness, certain circumstances warrant medical attention:
- Dryness that doesn't improve with hydrating products
- Red, flaky skin that also feels itchy or irritated
- Visible peeling, cracking, or bleeding of the skin
- Facial rashes, acne breakouts, or rosacea bumps
- Dry skin accompanied by swelling or skin thickening
- Persistent tight, uncomfortable sensation
- Skin that easily tears or bleeds when scratched
A dermatologist can assess whether an underlying condition like eczema, psoriasis or ichthyosis is the culprit behind severe dryness. Prescription medications may be needed. Don't hesitate to book an appointment if over-the-counter methods fail.
Facial for dry skin: The bottom line
While dry facial skin can look and feel unpleasant, having an effective moisturizing regimen makes a significant difference. Simple solutions like cleansing gently, applying hyaluronic serums, and using thick creams can provide daily hydration. Add in lifestyle tweaks plus the occasional DIY mask or professional facial for extra moisturizing power when needed.
Remember to drink plenty of water, eat healthy fats, limit hot showers, and apply broad spectrum sunscreen too. With diligent care, your face will look and feel soft, smooth, and comfortable even during the driest months.