How to Hydrate Your Skin, According to a DermatologistJune 30, 2023
Waking up with dry, flaky or cracked skin can be super uncomfortable. For some, it may seem like it doesn’t matter how much moisturizer you put on before bed because you somehow always wake up with dry, chafed skin in the morning. And whether it’s because you naturally have a dry skin type or environmental factors are taking their toll, it can be challenging to kick the dryness or dehydration that inevitably takes over as you get your beauty sleep. That’s why we’re sharing some tips and products that can help soothe your dry or dehydrated skin once and for all, with help from board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Dr. Ariel Ostad. Your new routine may require a bit more TLC than you’re used to, but trust us — your skin will thank you.
Why Is Skin Hydration Important?
“Hydrated skin is important because dry skin can cause wrinkles, increased inflammation and reduced levels of collagen breakdown,” says Dr. Ostad. “Moisturizing acts as a skin barrier to prevent allergens and pollutants [from setting] into skin.” Not only is hydration important in maintaining the appearance of your skin, it also feels better — dryness can lead to itchy, flaky, red and irritated skin. Hydration will also lead to a plumper, dewier appearance, which will make wrinkles and fine lines appear less noticeable.
What Causes Dehydrated Skin?
“Some causes of dehydrated skin are over washing, using exfoliating agents, lack of water intake, sweating and alcohol,” says Dr. Ostad. Dehydrated skin indicates a lack of water in the skin, internally and/or externally.
What's the Difference Between Dehydrated and Dry Skin?
Keep in mind that there’s a difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin. Any skin type can be dehydrated, including those that are oily. While dehydration is a skin condition, dry skin is categorized as a skin type. “You can be categorized as having a dry skin type if you have minimal oil production,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman previously told Skincare.com.
The TL;DR of it all? Dehydrated skin lacks water, while dry skin types lack oil.
How to Hydrate Your Skin
Don’t Over-Exfoliate Your Skin
As Dr. Ostad noted above, over-exfoliation can strip the skin’s moisture barrier and contribute to dehydration. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), those with dry, sensitive and/or acne-prone skin should look for gentle exfoliants (such as a washcloth and a mild chemical exfoliant). Those with dry or dehydrated skin can also exfoliate less frequently than other skin types. When introducing a new exfoliant into your routine, check the packaging instructions and make sure not to over-use the product — it can be smart to start by exfoliating only once a week before gradually increasing your rate of usage. You should always be sure to apply a moisturizer after you exfoliate your skin.
Add Hydrating Skincare Ingredients to Your Routine
“I would recommend staying consistent with your skincare routine and using products that contain niacinamide and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Ostad. “Using products with ingredients such as niacinamide can help hydrate your skin overnight.” (Keep scrolling for our favorite hydrating skincare products to add to your routine.)
Use a Gentle Cleanser
Over-cleansing or using cleansers that are too harsh can further eradicate your moisture barrier and worsen dehydrated skin. When in doubt, reach for a gentle, hydrating, fragrance-free cleanser that’s formulated without any exfoliating ingredients.
Minimize Your Skin’s Exposure to Hot Water
Extended exposure to hot water (yes, even during a relaxing shower or a spa-like bath) can unfortunately strip your skin of its natural oils and deplete its hydration levels, per the AAD. To keep dryness in check, the AAD recommends taking a short shower with warm, not hot, water and limiting your showers to only once a day. Apply a moisturizer immediately after drying off — the lotion will help seal in the moisture from your slightly damp skin.
Keep a Humidifier Nearby
If you live in a low-humidity environment or are often inside underneath drying heat and AC, a humidifier can be a game-changer in terms of upping your skin’s hydration. “Humidifiers increase the water content in the air helping to make the air more humid,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Caren Campbell previously told Skincare.com. “When there’s more moisture in the air, the water from our skin is less likely to evaporate.” You can keep a mini humidifier on your desk or bedside table while you sleep at night to help keep all skin types hydrated.
Let Your Skincare Products Dry Between Layers
“It's important to note that when applying your skincare products, let each layer set into your skin to get the best results,” Dr. Ostad recommends. Doing so might extend the length of your skincare routine by a few extra minutes, but your dehydrated skin will end up a little less parched in the meantime.
Our Favorite Skin Hydration Products
Give dry, extra dry and sensitive skin a sense of comfort and relief with this ultra-rich and repairing barrier cream that helps aid barrier function in as little as one hour. Made with advanced barrier technology to mimic your skin’s natural lipids, it replenishes hydration immediately and helps support your skin’s moisture barrier. This pick helps to reduce the look of redness and has a seal of acceptance from the National Eczema Association.
This velvety drugstore cream will allow you to wake up with softer, smoother, plumper and more hydrated skin by morning. Infused with antioxidants, including vitamin E, it works to soften skin, improve firmness, target wrinkles and help support the skin’s moisture barrier.
This drugstore staple is beloved by our editor with dry, sensitive and frequently dehydrated skin for its ultra-gentle yet effective formula. It helps break down makeup, oil and sweat at the end of the day without stripping your skin’s moisture levels and is certified by the National Eczema Association. Inside the formula, you’ll find hyaluronic acid, nourishing ceramides and glycerin to help your skin retain moisture.
This sensitive skin-friendly night cream lets you wake up with smoother, more hydrated skin overnight. After a week of use, it can also help target signs of aging such as fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, dullness and loss of firmness. The formula features a soothing, nighttime-friendly lavender scent and nourishing ingredients such as ceramides, hyaluronic acid and adenosine.
The skin underneath your eyes is thinner than the skin on the rest of your face, which makes it harder to maintain hydration in the area. This eye cream helps boost your skin’s moisture barrier while also targeting common under-eye concerns such as dark circles, fine lines and wrinkles. The gel-like formula is infused with bifidus prebiotic and hyaluronic acid.
Inspired by the cult-fave Vichy Minéral 89 hyaluronic acid face serum, this is an ultra-rich moisturizer that locks in skin’s hydration for up to 72 hours. It’s best suited for dry, sensitive and dehydrated skin types. Among its list of hydrating ingredients, standouts include hyaluronic acid, Vichy volcanic water, niacinamide, vitamin E, squalane and lipids.
Gone are the days of abrasive, stripping toners. Instead, look to this drugstore pick which features a gentle, milky formula that’s packed with hydrating ingredients. Ideal for dry and sensitive skin, it helps soften, soothe and hydrate before your next skincare step. The formula is alcohol-free.
“This formula contains a high concentration of ceramides and fatty acids, which are ideal for hydrating and nourishing dry, sensitive skin,” says Dr. Ostad. “Nia C+ also contains Vitamin B3, which helps improve the appearance of skin elasticity and reduce the appearance of redness, pores, and hyperpigmentation.”