Beauty In A Tik logo

TikTok’s ‘Skin Flooding’ Hack Is What My Dry Face Badly Needed

Welcome to Beauty In A Tik, where each week we put TikTok's viral beauty hacks and innovative trends to the test.
There are lots of things to look forward to when winter rolls around. Think mulled wine, giving and receiving gifts, and The Holiday on almost every TV channel. Dry skin is not one of them yet for many, it is inevitable when the temperature plummets.
If you're a Beauty In A Tik regular, you'll know that there's a smart TikTok remedy for parched lips, feet, and even nails. But the face is notoriously difficult to treat. Maybe it's because the skin here is a little more sensitive than elsewhere, while going overboard with rich creams can clog pores and result in breakouts.
If this sounds familiar, you might want to try TikTok's latest viral skin-care hack, which involves lightweight layer upon layer of moisture to quell dryness and dehydration, making skin gleam. We're coining it 'skin flooding.'

The process

There are a couple of different versions of this hydrating hack, which isn't exactly brand-new (it's already a must-do among dermatologists, facialists and aestheticians alike). But if tight, dry skin is your nemesis right now, take inspiration from TikToker Madi Prettyman aka @chooseyourglow.
After using a gentle cleanser to wash their face, Prettyman applies The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 to damp skin ('damp' being the key word here), which locks in moisture. While the skin is still a little bit wet, Prettyman follows with a niacinamide serum (The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%), then a hydrating moisturizer in the form of e.l.f. Happy Hydration Face Cream. During the day, you can then apply SPF.
Others on TikTok, like @skincarebyraph, add a face mist into the mix between serum steps to boost hydration, while some swap their hyaluronic acid for polyglutamic acid — a similar ingredient which is said to be even more hydrating. R29 editors recommend The Inkey List Polyglutamic Acid.

The science

So is it legit? "Layering hyaluronic acid with niacinamide has scientifically proven benefits," says nurse and skin-care expert Dawn Attewell, founder of Dawn Attewell Aesthetics at Therapy House. Attewell says that niacinamide is a type of vitamin B3, an antioxidant that offers many benefits to the skin, including hydrating and brightening. "It has also been known to help reduce acne and breakouts," she says. This is because it minimizes excess oil production.
"Hyaluronic acid (also known as HA) helps skin retain moisture, keeping it hydrated," continues Attewell. "As it's water-soluble, it's an excellent choice for combining with other ingredients." Attewell is also a fan of polyglutamic acid (PGA on some ingredients lists) and says that layering these ingredients will undoubtedly give you a potent dose of hydration. Attewell explains that ingredients like the above (especially hyaluronic and polyglutamic acid) are great on damp skin in particular, as they help to increase hydration, resulting in plumper, healthier-looking skin.
Thanks to the turn in the weather, central heating, and my acne creams, my skin is not in a good way. It often feels tight, as though it might crack, and I've noticed flaky patches around my mouth, nose, and on my forehead where makeup tends to cling. It seems I'm not alone. 'How to stop dry skin on face,' 'characteristics of dehydrated skin,' and 'why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize' have been commonly Googled skin-care enquiries in the past week.
"When your skin lacks water, it becomes dehydrated, which can show up in many ways," explains Attewell. "Your skin can feel tight, become flaky, and often the tone may appear dull-looking. Dehydrated skin can also look less supple than usual." This is me down to a tee so I had nothing to lose and everything to gain from TikTok's skin flooding trend.

My review

I started with The Nue Co. Barrier Culture Cleanser, which cleanses deeply without stripping skin. Also try CeraVe Hydrating Cream To Foam Cleanser, if you have less to spend. On damp skin, I layered Lumene Nordic Hydra Quenching Aqua Serum, which contains hyaluronic acid (try Bondi Sands Thirsty Skin Hyaluronic Acid Serum, if you're on a budget).
While my skin was still damp with serum, I applied The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, and on days when my skin felt particularly thirsty, I followed up with The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, which is one of my favorite, no-frills moisturizers. Again, my skin was a little damp with serum before applying this. Whether you layer sunscreen on top is up to you, but as I spend most of my day indoors and away from any windows, this was enough for me. It's a good idea to apply SPF to dry skin once all of your other products are fully absorbed.
In short, it goes: damp skin, serum one, serum two, moisturizer.
After trying this new routine for just over two weeks, my skin showed a vast improvement. Appearance-wise, it's now a lot more dewy and glowing, rather than dull and ashy. My makeup looks ten times better, too. It applies seamlessly and doesn't collect in any flaky patches — mostly because there are none!
You don't need me to tell you that there's nothing wrong with wrinkles, but the fine lines underneath my eyes must've been signs of dehydration, as they're now much less obvious. I've also noticed a reduction in breakouts on my cheeks and forehead, which I put down to looking after my skin barrier better. Little did I know, spots are actually a common complaint alongside the redness and sensitivity typical of a damaged skin barrier.
The only real downside of skin flooding is that it requires a handful of products, and it takes time in the morning and evening to massage everything in. Happily, though, you don't have to spend a lot. I used The Ordinary mostly, but I'm also a big fan of other affordable brands: The Inkey List, Cetaphil, CeraVe, and Simple, which offer up some brilliant serums, moisturizers, and mists containing hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid, and niacinamide.
Of course, you might not want to use a dedicated hyaluronic acid product at all. As we recently reported, many good face mists, serums, and moisturizers already contain the ingredient, which experts say is a pretty basic requirement in any hydrating skincare product.
There is an exception to the skin flooding rule. It is advised not to layer potent ingredients like exfoliating acids (such as glycolic, lactic, azelaic, and salicylic acid), as well as any form of retinol over damp skin. This is because the moisture could speed up the rate at which they absorb into the skin and potentially cause irritation. Keep it to the gentle ingredients, as mentioned above.
For me (and judging by Google, plenty of others right now), TikTok's skin flooding hack couldn't have come at a better time. I'll be practicing this routine well into spring.
This story was originally published on Refinery29UK.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

More from Skin Care

R29 Original Series