It’s winter, and your skin feels flaky, tight, and dry — or is it dehydrated? The proper diagnosis is key to treat skin with the right products and achieve a smooth, comfortable, and radiant balance. Click through to find out how you can determine your best defense against Old Man Winter this season.
Dry skin is classified as alipidic, which means it doesn't produce sebum, or oil. Because skin relies on oil to hold moisture in, without it, skin can appear rough and flaky — and wrinkles are more pronounced. Dry skin can also lead to a damaged barrier function, increasing longterm sensitivity and inflammation, and causing a chain or biochemical reactions like collagen breakdown.
Prevention is the name of the game, here: Treat dry skin right by using moisturizers that contain emollients to provide a protective layer that prevents moisture loss. Look for formulas that contain ceramides, shea butter, beeswax, squalene, jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil and cetyl alcohol.
Wash with mild cleansing lotions and avoid bar soap or harsh foaming cleansers. Use gentle exfoliants: either acids or scrubs with gentle microbeads. Exfoliating helps remove surface flakiness and promote cell renewal, as they improve natural production of intercellular lipids for the barrier function. I also always recommend using a humidifier in the winter months to keep moisture in the air, and, more importantly, in your skin. Be sure to apply moisturizer within one minute after washing to prevent water in the skin from evaporating into the dry, winter air.
Dehydrated skin, as a skin condition, lacks water content, but may still produce oil. While it may be genetic or environmental, dehydrated skin can feel flaky and tight, and often forms fine lines easily due to the surface-cell deflation. If looked at through a magnifying glass, dehydrated skin has tiny, triangular fine lines from the lack of water, and is common among those with oily and acne-prone skin who may use harsh products that strip the skin of water.
Treat dehydrated skin by using a moisturizer that contains humectants like glycerin or hyaluronic acid, as these ingredients attract water from the environment into the skin to keep it soft and supple. Go easy on the exfoliants: Using too many acids or scrubs can make dehydration worse, causing inflammation. Cleanse with a sulfate-free gel to prevent unnecessary dehydration after washing.
Think of it like this: Because leather is dry, a leather chair needs to be conditioned with oil to prevent it from drying out. If you apply water to a leather chair, it only gets drier. Bottom line: Dehydrated skin still produces oil, but feels tight, whereas dry skin produces little to no oil and can be flakey. And, while drinking water is great for your overall health, no amount of gulping will truly hydrate your skin.
If you have any questions for me, leave them in the comment section below and I’d be happy to offer my expert advice.