by Chloe Fitzgerald
Skin problems affect everyone, as much as we all hate them. There is no clearer reflection of this than the fact that there are millions of people giving skincare advice out there, all using different terms and recommending different things. You end up asking yourself: do I really need all 27 of these products that are supposed to be good? Surely at least some of them do the same thing as each other?
Personally, I first became interested in skincare at university. I was lucky not to suffer too much with teenage acne, but when I started university I noticed dryness, coupled with a few too many spots for my liking. Thus began a journey with skincare which was going pretty well before 2020, but levelled up in the successive lockdowns.
However, this all has involved trawling through a lot of skincare advice. It felt like I never bought the same product twice, because if one didn’t work perfectly, there was always a new one being proclaimed as a holy grail. I have switched up my routine a couple of times now, and I’ve finally landed on some key steps that everyone with dry skin should be including in their routine.
Makeup removal … (evening)
Many people use makeup wipes to remove makeup because they are easy to use. But they are single-use products which can take more than 100 years to decompose, not to mention how harsh they are on the skin: they strip the skin of its natural defenses against dirt and impurities. The good news is that there are many more sustainable and skin-friendly options out there, so there really is no need to use wipes! Cleansing balms and cleansing oils are both fantastic options for dry skin as they have hydrating properties. (This also sets them apart from micellar water, which is better for oily skin). Whether you prefer to use a balm or an oil is really down to personal preference, as the only difference is in the consistency.
Cleanser … (morning & evening)
The ideal cleanser for dry skin is one that adds moisture to your skin, but is also gentle and won’t clog your pores. A lot of cleansers contain strong ingredients such as salicylic acid – these products are aimed at people with oily skin because they reduce oil secretion. However, on someone with dry skin, these kinds of cleansers will be far too harsh and drying. That’s why the most important thing when choosing a cleanser is to look at the ingredients it includes. Ideally, you want one which contains hydrating and soothing ingredients, such as squalane, hyaluronic acid, coconut oil, olive oil, or glycerin. However, avoid essential oils because these can irritate the skin.
Toner … (morning & evening)
There is some debate in the skincare world as to how necessary toners really are. However, when it comes to dry skin, a good toner can add a boost of hydration (along with other benefits depending on the ingredients it contains). The best toners are water-based, as these contain the most soothing ingredients, such as glycerine, fatty acids and ceramides. They also often contain ingredients such as niacinamide, which protect the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
Serum … (morning & evening)
This step is a great opportunity to tackle your specific skincare concerns. For dry skin, this is primarily going to be hydrating the skin. Hyaluronic acid is therefore your best friend! It is a humectant, meaning it reduces the loss of moisture, and it does a pretty good job of it – just one gram of hyaluronic acid can hold up to six litres of water. Another good thing about hyaluronic acid is that pretty much every brand offers a serum including it. This means you can be picky – maybe you’d like a serum that also contains vitamin C, which brightens the skin, or one that includes fake tan. Other hydrating ingredients to look for in a serum are glycerin, panthenol, niacinamide, and botanical water/oil – though this is not an exhaustive list!
Moisturiser … (morning & evening)
It’s important to have both a hydrating serum and a moisturiser. This is because there is a key difference between hydration and moisture. If a product is hydrating, that means it is water based and adds hydration to the skin. If a product is moisturising, it is oil based and helps to seal hydration in. Which one you need to prioritise depends on your specific skin concerns. If you are struggling with dullness and fine lines, your skin needs more hydration. If you are struggling with dry, flaky skin, your skin is not sealing in moisture, and you should prioritise moisturising products. However, on the whole, it’s good to include both hydrating and moisturising products in your skincare routine. So, once you’ve applied your hyaluronic acid to hydrate the face, it’s a good idea to use a moisturiser to seal it in. Some ingredients to look out for in a moisturiser are squalane, shea butter, and avocado oil.
SPF … (morning)
I’m sure we all know why applying SPF each day is important, but just in case you don’t, SPF can protect you not only from premature aging, but also potentially skin cancer. It’s worth taking those few seconds to apply it! When it comes to SPF, the most important thing to bear in mind is the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens. Chemical sunscreens contain products which go deep into your skin to stop UV rays from causing any damage. While this is of course effective, the effects on your body of absorbing such chemicals have not been studied. Mineral sunscreens only work at surface level, but the downside is they often leave behind a white cast. This leads to the temptation not to apply too much so as to reduce this effect, which in turn means that you aren’t adequately protected from the sun. Whether you go for chemical or mineral sunscreen therefore comes down to personal preference; most dermatologists say they recommend both kinds to patients.
Face oil … (evening)
This step is definitely not essential, but I’ve found it helpful during times when my skin has been particularly dry. There are a lot of nice facial oils you can put on at night and wake up with a dewy glow. For example, argan oil contains lots of fatty acids, which make it ideal for sensitive skin; or if anti-aging is a priority for you, rosehip oil contains linelaic acid which can protect against signs of aging. Plum oil is another nice option because it contains antioxidants; this makes it ideal for people who are exposed to a lot of pollution or UV rays. However, there are plenty of great options out there and it’s worth finding an oil that works specifically for your skin goals.
Getting a routine that’s right for you
I have landed on these skincare steps over the course of the last few years. I’ve found that this is how I can include as many beneficial ingredients as possible in my routine, without needing any harsh ones. In terms of the products themselves, the most important things are to focus less on how products are marketed and instead to look at the ingredients they contain. This way, you can make sure all the products you use are aimed at hydrating or moisturising dry skin. Beyond that, it’s up to you to have fun and treat yourself to a few new skincare products!