Flaking, itching, taught and drab-looking skin are just no fun. Some, like yours truly, struggle with it more than others. We can blame our genes up to a point, but there's a lot we can do on our own for good-looking skin, like following a skin care routine that includes moisturising.
Factors That Dry Out Your Skin
We previously helped you choose a face wash, which should be based on your skin type. To recap, your face naturally produces oil, or sebum, the amount of which varies from person to person. Some sebum is good, since it helps you retain water in your skin, leaving it nice and smooth, but it's also the stuff that, when you have too much on your skin, causes blemishes and breakouts. However, overdoing scrubbing away sebum when you wash your face (or hands) could dry out your skin.
Dry skin typically happens when your skin lacks oil, water, or both. You'll know you have dry skin when your skin looks a bit dull, has visible fine lines, and just feels uncomfortable and tight. If you're dark skinned, you'll even get 'chalky' or 'ashy'. You've probably noticed more dryness in the winter when the climate overall goes bone-dry. Even if you've nailed a perfect face-washing regimen, environmental factors like low humidity and blasting the heater will still get the best of your skin.
In extreme cases, dry skin can lead to cracking and bleeding, itch like crazy, and cause some bad rashes. These are usually related to skin diseases, the most common of which are eczema and psoriasis.
Choose the Right Moisturiser For You
Moisturising saves the day (and your skin) by providing a little bit of water and uses oil to trap existing moisture. Corrin O'Brien from Galderma Australia, the company that makes Cetaphil moisturiser, suggests moisturising daily, ideally when skin is still damp, to lock in moisture and prevent dryness.
Moisturisers usually can be found as a lotion, oil, ointment or cream. Just as you did with your facial cleanser, choose your moisturiser based on your skin type. You'll know if a moisturiser fits your needs almost immediately. It should feel nice and pleasant when you apply it. A moisturiser that doesn't agree with your skin type usually leaves you still dry and uncomfortable, or worse, stings shortly after applying it.
For People with Oily Skin
Even though oily skin means you can retain moisture better than some other skin types, you're still susceptible to the cold, harsh weather, or wind and dry environments in warmer months. You probably want to avoid oils (like coconut oil) to minimise that "heavy" feeling and greasy shine. Dr. Cynthia Bailey, MD, a board-certified dermatologist from the US, told me that oily skin types would do great with oil-free moisturisers that have hyaluronic acid and glycerin. She recommends Clinique Dramatically Different Gel. Also, check out Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture, which doesn't feel too greasy while leaving skin feeling soft.
For People with Dry Skin
Those of us with conditions like eczema are more prone to very dry skin, but sometimes it's not enough to just slap on gobs of moisturiser over and over through the day. Lotions and moisturisers that contain shea butter, jojoba oil, or coconut oil work well. For really, really dry skin, look for urea, lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, lanolin, or mineral oil in the ingredients label.
For People with Sensitive Skin
Truly sensitive skin has a weakened immune function, as those with eczema and psoriasis have. This means they're more easily irritated by certain ingredients and fragrances (even ones labels claim are "natural") in the moisturiser. Unscented, hypoallergenic moisturisers that contain aloe or chamomile are awesome. Dr. Bailey suggests avoiding "anti-ageing" ingredients, such as retinoids, alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), and beta hydroxy acid (BHA).
For People with "Normal" Skin
If your skin is neither too oily or too dry, you have normal type and are the envy of people with other skin types. Keep your moisturiser neutral, light, and non-greasy. Most moisturisers made for normal skin contain lightweight oils or silicone-based ingredients, such as cyclomethicone, an ingredient used by Simple Skin Care. Look into moisturisers by brands like Aveeno.
For People with 'Combination Skin'
Combination skin refers to having normal skin type around your cheeks but an oily forehead and area along your nose, also known as the T-zone. You probably don't need extra moisturiser along your T-zone, but Dr. Bailey recommends the heavy-duty moisturising stuff for other areas like your cheeks, chin, and sides of your jaw. Similar to those with normal skin, simple, neutral, and light moisturisers like Cetaphil do the trick.
Adjust Your Moisturiser with the Climate
Don't be surprised that what worked for you in one season doesn't seem to do diddly squat for your skin another season. As an eczema-sufferer, I currently switch between a thinner gel moisturiser, which feels light and still hydrating for summer; and a cream from Laneige for the winter when I need something heavier to trap my skin's precious moisture. In super-chilly climates, ointments are more effective and also less irritating than lotions.
Believe me, it can sometimes feels like a life-long science experiment to find the moisturisers that will work for you year-round. I'm still discovering new products to try myself. Be open to trying new products and brand names, but take caution if you have particularly sensitive skin. Do patch tests with any new products by getting a dab and rubbing some on the side of your neck. If it's ok on your neck, it should be ok on your face.
If the greasiness doesn't faze you, plain old Vaseline, or any product with petroleum jelly is another option. Additionally, some moisturisers double up as moisturiser and sunscreen, so skip the extra moisturising step if you have oily skin. If using both, the order in which you apply is still up in the air: some say sunscreen before, some say after. I put sunscreen on last and call it good.
Ultimately, you can't go wrong with choosing a moisturiser because in most cases, it comes down to whether you like the feel and smell.
To give your dry skin a helping hand in dry environments or climates, consider using a room humidifier, taking quick, shorter showers in warm water rather than a steaming hot shower; turning down the heater a little, and of course, following a face wash routine that doesn't make your face prone to more dryness in the first place.
If all else fails, you may need to follow a specific prescription-strength regimen. Talk with a dermatologist to come up with an action plan together to overcome your dry skin.