"Skin Flooding” Is The Derm Secret To Juicy, Hydrated Skin Year Round

Expert Advice


If you’ve spent any time on #SkinTok in the last few weeks, there’s a solid chance you’ve encountered the term “skin flooding” in your scroll. If you’re unfamiliar or not quite up to speed, we’ll just dive right into the juicy center: Skin flooding is all about layering moisture as a way to get the most delicious, plump, and hydrated skin of your life. Basically, you apply a thin layer of moisturizer over damp skin, or on top of an essence or serum. Best of all, fam, is that the results are immediate

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Skin flooding technically isn’t anything new. In fact, dermatologists have been shouting about this method of applying skincare for ages – the process just happens to have received a buzzy TikTok label that helped catapult its brilliance into worldwide fame. Let’s dive into the topic a bit more. 

How Skin Flooding Works 

@jacquelinekilikita Skin flooding for dry, dehydrated winter skin #skinflooding #winterskincare #dryskin #dryskinhack #skincarehacks #beautyinatik ♬ Cozy Beat – Aesthetic Sounds

To get to the bottom of how skin flooding works, we reached out to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Audrey Kunin. To put it simply, “Layering moisturizer over damp skin seals in moisture by preventing evaporation of the water laying on top of the skin,” she says. 

If you were to hop out of the shower or finish washing your face and then wait 15 minutes before applying skincare, the water sitting on your skin would evaporate pretty quickly. By applying a layer of moisturizer on top, you seal in that H20 while also reaping the rewards of a face cream. It’s basically a double whammy of hydration. 

@janell.roberts My skin use was HORRIBLE before skin flooding – and it only got better when I started applying my products on wet skin #skintransformation #skinflooding #kiehlspartner @Kiehl’s Since 1851 #kiehlsus #ad #skintok #skinaesthetics ♬ Summer – Aesthetic Sounds

“These smaller molecule hydrators ensure the deeper layers of skin are getting the hydration they need,” explains master esthetician Jennifer Adell. “In the winter, this especially helps to repair and strengthen the skin’s barrier and keep you hydrated. You can expect to see an improvement in dry, rough skin and most times, see the glow right away.” 

Step-By-Step Skin Flooding Routine 

@urbanskinrx Let’s give #skinflooding a try 🤓 #urbanskinrx #hyaluronicacid #squalane #skintok ♬ original sound – urbanskinrx

Here’s a quick rundown on how to do skin flooding, along with some skin expert insights on which ingredients to look for and best practice pro tips. 

Step 1: Cleanse & Lightly Pat Dry (Key Word: Lightly) 

Start with a gentle, hydrating cleanser per usual. Don’t overly scrub your face, but do make sure that you’ve removed all traces of dirt and makeup. 

Some of our top ultra-hydrating picks include WISHFUL Clean Genie Cleansing Butter, $35, Versed Skincare Gentle Cycle Hydrating Milky Cleanser, $15, Shani Darden Skin Care Cleansing Serum, $38, and Glow Recipe Avocado Ceramide Moisture Barrier Cleanser, $28.

“After you wash your face, barely pat dry so that your skin is still damp,” advises Dr. Tanuj Nakra, a double board-certified facial and ophthalmic plastic surgeon. “You do not want your skin dripping wet since this will dilute next steps.” You also don’t want to wipe away all the water. 

Step 2: Slather a Hydrating Serum

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This skin flooding step is technically optional since water itself acts as an excellent hydrator, but if you’re in that overachiever mindset (or your skin could really use a drink), then take 30 seconds to add a layer of a hydrating serum or essence.  

Dr. Kunin says to look for serums that contain hyaluronic acid and polyglutamic acid. Both are humectants, meaning they draw moisture to your skin. Another benefit is that each absorbs thousands more times its own weight in moisture, which means you’ll really be raking in those hydration points. Some other good ingredients to look for include squalane and niacinamide, notes Addell. 

Try The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid, $15, Biossance Squalane + Copper Peptide Rapid Plumping Serum, $68, Good Molecules Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $6, and Summer Fridays Dream Oasis Deep Hydration Serum, $44.

Step 3: Apply a Thick Moisturizer

Wait about 30 to 60 seconds after applying your serum, then layer on a dime-size amount of a moisturizer. This acts as a seal for the water and serum you just applied.

“If your skin can handle a more occlusive moisturizer, that will work best to get the benefits of layering and flooding,” notes Dr. Nakra. “I like thick moisturizers that have active ingredients for skin turnover and recharging the skin overnight. For daytime use, a thinner moisturizer – hopefully with UV protection – works best for most people.” As an alternative, you can apply an oil instead. This tends to work best in the evenings, though. 

As for the best moisturizers for skin flooding, our pros recommend products with ceramides, peptides, lipids, butters, and oils. Some top-tier choices include Dr. Loretta Anti-Aging Repair Moisturizer, $70, Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Skin Barrier Moisturizing Cream, $48, EADEM Cloud Cushion Plush Moisturizer with Ceramides + Peptides, $58, and Naturopathica Manuka Honey Whipped Oil, $72. 

Step 4: Cash In 

Bask in the glorious, hydrated rewards. Selfie optional!

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Dealing with a case of dehydrated, uncomfy winter skin and need all the help you can get? Check out these five skin-soothing ingredients ASAP. 

Disclaimer: Every product we review has been independently selected and tested without bias by our editorial team. Although some brands allow affiliate links, we never take payment to review products, so we may earn a commission if you purchase a product by clicking on one of our links.