The 6 Biggest Mistakes People With Dry Skin Make

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
The season of dry skin is upon us and many people, no matter their skin type, will be experiencing the harsh and visible side effects of arid, cold air.
But, what exactly is dry skin? Your skin has a moisture barrier made of natural lipids that keep moisture in and irritants out. When this barrier is damaged, it creates tiny, invisible cracks in the skin that allow essential moisture to escape (causing dryness and flakiness) and irritants to enter more easily (often causing even sensitive skin products to inflame the skin). Here are my expert tips for repairing dry skin so it can be soft, smooth, and calm even during the cold months ahead.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Cleaning With Foaming Soaps Or Cleansers
Washing with a bar soap or strong foaming cleanser is a big no-no. These types of cleansers are too harsh — even for oily skin types — as they strip the skin of protective water and oil and cause dead surface cell build-up, which can leave the skin feeling tight. Instead of a foaming formula, try using a gentle sulfate-free cleanser. Specifically, look for cleansers with hydrating and soothing properties, such as those containing glycerin and allantoin.

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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Using Toner With Drying Ingredients
Using any toner with commonly found ingredients like SD alcohol 40, denatured alcohol, ethanol, and isopropyl alcohol can make dry skin conditions worse. Like bar soaps and foaming cleansers, alcohols also strip skin of much needed water and moisture. As an alternative — because you still want to tone — switch to an alcohol-free formula. In addition to removing chlorine, minerals, and leftover makeup that can irritate the skin, toners give skin an instant boost of hydration.

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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Using Inappropriate Ingredients
Using a moisturizer containing mineral oil or petrolatum may have a pore-clogging effect on the skin, particularly for oily and acne-prone skin types. While these ingredients will alleviate the tight feeling and dryness temporarily, they may lead to another problem, such as clogged bumps under the skin. Dry skin needs moisturizers containing protectants and emollients to provide a shielding layer to prevent moisture loss. Choose moisturizers with ceramides, like shea butter, beeswax, squalene, jojoba oil, sunflower seed oil, and carrot oil. If you prefer to use a skin oil, ingredients like cranberry oil, evening primrose oil, passion fruit seed oil and rose hip oil all work beautifully to condition and repair dryness.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Leaving Skin Bare After Cleansing
Another big blunder is allowing skin to go more than 60 seconds without toner, serum, or moisturizer after cleansing the skin. If skin is bare for more than a minute, it will start to dehydrate. The reason for this is because when the air is dry, and moisture is not present (hello, fall and winter!), the air draws moisture from wherever it can — and that means it's actually zapping moisture right from your skin. To prevent this from happening, be sure to always tone after cleansing, and then follow with moisturizer right after that. And, if you're going to use a serum, make sure to put it on damp (freshly toned) skin to increase its effectiveness. The toner + serum + moisturizer may help alleviate any feelings of tightness or excessive dryness.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Skipping Night Cream
I often hear clients say they don’t apply moisturizer at night because the want to allow their skin to breathe. But since skin does not actually have a respiratory system to perform the breathing function, this practice does not benefit the skin — it actually harms it. Because the skin does most of its repairing work at night during sleep, not using a night cream will only lead to increased moisture loss. For dry skin in particular, applying a night cream is highly important. Look for creams with hydrating ingredients like glycolipids, evening primrose oil, borage oil, and hyaluronic acid.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Over-Moisturizing
I've found that many people with dry skin tend to over-moisturize. Using thicker coats of moisturizer may result in clogged pores for oily, acne-prone skin types. It’s also a waste of product because your skin can only absorb so much. Instead of over-moisturizing, increase exfoliation: Remove dry skin cell buildup by using a gentle acid serum with glycolic or lactic acid underneath your night cream three nights a week to reveal fresh, new, hydrated cells. Then, apply a moisturizer formulated specifically for dry skin types to keep these cells moist and protected.

Avoiding these common dry skin mistakes will help keep dry skin healthy and glowing — no matter what climate you’re in. In the coming weeks, I'll be addressing the common mistakes made by people with oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin.
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