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Dry skin is something most of us have experienced at some point; whether it’s because you’re prone to it and no amount of face cream can fix it, or the change of season has brought it on. But the secret to fixing dry skin isn’t just about piling on moisturizer, your whole cleansing routine needs to be on point. That means using the right type of cleanser, toning, avoiding certain ingredients, and tailoring your products to your skin type. Fortunately, we have the ultimate cleansing routine to help you get your skin hydrated, smooth, and actually glowing, once and for all!

Step 1: Cleanse the right way

First off, get your water temperature right! Always use warm water, as hot water can dry the skin, and try to keep hot showers short (10 minutes). If you’re wearing makeup, do a double cleanse to make sure your makeup is thoroughly removed, but always use the right cleanser. Steer clear of foaming face washes, which are too harsh for your skin (they’re better for oily skin), and stick to milk, oil, and cream cleansers, which are more moisturizing. Micellar water also makes a brilliant makeup remover as it attracts dirt and makeup instead of using strong ingredients that strip your skin.

Ingredients to look out for: Vitamin E, Jojoba oil, Shea butter, cucumber, sodium hyaluronate, almond oil, grapeseed oil.

Top tips: Start with an oil cleanser to remove and dissolve your makeup – it’s the gentlest way of removing dirt from your skin and relies on the ‘oil attracts oil’ theory, so there are no harsh chemicals or soaps to irritate or dry out your skin. Finally, use a milk or cream cleanser to get rid of any residue. Always pat your skin dry.

Step 2: Exfoliate – gently!

Physically: You might think that by scrubbing your skin you’ll get rid of all the flakes, but over exfoliation will only dry out your skin more. Look for a polish, which has finer grains that aren’t overly abrasive on your skin. Some scrubs have larger particles (like the size of a grain of sugar) that can be too abrasive for dry skin types. We love Dr. Lancer’s Polish, for sloughing dead skin cells away without overdrying. Aim to exfoliate two to three times a week – always after you’ve cleansed.

Chemically: AHAs like lactic acid and glycolic acid work to dissolve dead skin cells, and will leave your skin feeling incredibly soft and smooth. They also work after the initial application, penetrating into the deeper layers of the skin. Lactic acid is the most hydrating of AHAs and is FDA approved to treat dry skin (look for lac-hydrin). You can easily make a DIY face mask with yogurt, a natural form of lactic acid.

DIY Lactic acid mask: Mix one tablespoon of greek or natural yogurt, a teaspoon of honey, and a tablespoon of mashed avocado (optional). Leave on cleansed skin for 15 minutes and wash away or remove with a damp washcloth.

Step 3: Tone

Not all toners will strip your skin, but you need to choose the right one. Toners can add extra nourishment and improve your skin’s protective barrier while making it easier for your thirsty skin to absorb moisturizers. Avoiding a high alcohol content is key, as this can be drying to your skin. A very low percentage of alcohol is okay, so check your labels; if alcohol is one of the first ten ingredients on the list, it’s likely it will irritate your skin. Instead, look for toners packed with ingredients like rose water, vitamin E, Aloe vera, hyaluronic acid (the ultimate hydration hit), chamomile, and glycerin.

Top tips: Apply your toner while your skin is still damp – it’s ten times more permeable than when your skin is dry, which means your skin can absorb the goodness in your toner more easily.

Avoid: Fragrances, alcohol

Step 4: Hydrate

As soon as you’ve toned, hit your skin with a surge of moisture, preferably while it’s still warm or damp to help the product sink in better. For long-lasting hydration look for a rich cream and oil-based formulas, which provide better absorption into the deeper layers of the skin. Finally, try a hyaluronic acid formula, it can hold 1000 times its weight in water, and as a humectant, it draws water into your skin, so it’s the perfect step before your moisturizer. We’re loving The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% +B5, $11, which is also perfect for mixing into your moisturizer when you’re in a hurry at 8 am.

Ingredients to look out for: Sodium hyaluronate/ hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, Glycerin, olive oil.

Step 5: Oil-up

Face oils are the new hyped about beauty essential and for a very good reason! Oils are not only hydrating, but they’ll stop your skin from losing moisture as well. Shea butter and cocoa butter are richly moisturizing formulas packed with vitamins that help feed skin and retain moisture – but steer clear if you’re acne-prone. Rose-hip oil and squalane oil are super moisturizing and help to maintain hydration and boost elasticity, smoothing out wrinkles and plumping your skin.

The best natural oils for dry skin: Squalane, Maracuja oil, Sweet Almond oil, Avocado oil, Argan Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Jojoba oil.

Top Tips:

  • Sleep on silk: It sounds extravagant but it will actually make a big difference to your skin. Cotton can not only absorb moisture from your skin but also any hydrating products that you apply. Get more deets on why silk pillowcases are the bomb here.
  • Use hydrating masks: Sheet masks rich in aloe vera, honey, rice milk or hyaluronic acid can be a great way to deliver an intense hit of hydration to your skin. You can do a few a week, or even more. Check out more about why sheet masks are awesome here.
  • Give yourself time: Apply all face creams and oils at least 30 minutes before bed – this will give time for your products to sink in so that they aren’t absorbed into your pillowcase.
  • See a dermatologist: If you’re doing all the right things and your dry skin won’t go away, take a trip to your doctor. If you have dry skin on more than just your face, it could be a sign of another condition.
  • Drink more water: If you’re not drinking enough water during the day, one of the first places it will show is in your skin. Aim to drink around two liters of water a day (you should drink no less than 1.5 liters or 8 glasses) and if you haven’t been getting your daily dose, you’ll see a big difference in hydration. Here’s why you really NEED to drink more water.