Skincare Basics for Dry Skin

Skincare Basics for Dry Skin

Wdewy, glowing face has been all the rage in the beauty world for a few years now, but not everybody has an easy time achieving it. If you’ve got naturally dry skin, you’ll know what I mean. Dry skin can be nice to have when even the stickiest summer doesn’t leave you greasy, but drier climates and cooler seasons can turn it into a curse. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to hydrate and replenish your body’s largest organ so it looks its best.

How Does Dry Skin Work?

I talked about oily skin a couple of weeks ago, and how every pore on your face has a sebaceous gland underneath it. These glands secrete sebum, which is an oil that keeps the skin shielded and hydrated. Folks with oily skin have overzealous sebaceous glands, but if you have dry skin, those glands just aren’t putting in the work. A little bit of dryness is a part of life, and it can come and go depending on a lot of factors, like the weather where you live, your age, and the kinds of chemicals you’re regularly exposed to. But if your skin feels parched 24/7, it can be a big pain—literally. People with this skin type often suffer from flakiness, redness and cracks, sometimes so severe that they bleed. Not only that, but dehydrated skin tends to look dull, and makeup layered over it gets patchy. So, what to do about it?

What to Avoid

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: no alcohol! Denatured and isopropyl alcohol aren’t great for any skin type, but it’s maybe the worst thing you can put on a dried-out face. It might not hurt in small amounts, but if the top of the ingredient list includes ethanol, methanol or propanol, put it back on the shelf.

If you happen to have combination skin, meaning you have both oily and dry spots (the struggle is real), you might incorporate acne treatments into your skincare routine, but many of those products have ingredients that are too harsh on dry skin. Avoid products with retinoids and benzoyl peroxide, two major players in acne products that are known to cause flaking, redness and irritation.

Finally, steer way clear of cleansers with sulfates. They’re common in foaming cleansers, and they work great for lots of people with more normal or oily skin, but not so much for dry. Dr. Mona Gohara warns readers of Well + Good that harsh cleansers with sulfates “disrupt the epidermal barrier” which is key for keeping moisture locked in on your face. Keep an eye out for sodium laurel sulfate, and if its on the list, give it a pass.

What to Look For

Now that you know the no-gos, what are the go-tos?

I was actually a little too hard on alcohol just now. There’s an exception—fatty alcohols are members of the alcohol family with occlusive and emollient properties, meaning they soften and soothe the skin and prevent water loss. Look for cetyl, stearyl or cetearyl alcohol on that bottle of moisturizer, because those can actually work wonders for dry, flaky faces.

In general, look for humectants, which are products that water clings to. The most famous one on the market right now is probably hyaluronic acid, a naturally-occurring compound that can hold 1000 times its own weight in water. Another old standby is glycerin, commonly found in moisturizers from the drug store to high-end shops. These are safe bets for getting your skin hydrated and keeping it that way.

If you’re looking for more trendy ingredients, keep an eye out for anything with ceramides. These compounds are an important part of the stratum corneum, the skin’s outermost layer. Skin often has trouble with dryness because of issues with that natural barrier, so introducing some extra ceramides into your skin’s ecosystem can help balance it out. The same goes for squalane, the hydrogenated form of squalene. Sebaceous glands naturally produce squalene, and squalane is a more shelf-stable version of it. This natural oil can settle in between your skin cells, smoothing out your face and helping to bind moisture to the skin without feeling sticky.

Dry skin also tends to have problems with flaky, dead patches, but exfoliating can just irritate the skin and make the problem worse. Instead of hard scrubbing, try lactic acid instead. It’s a polyhydroxy acid that dissolves dead skin cells without any damaging friction, and it hydrates the skin as it melts away the gunk. These can be found in special chemical exfoliants and face serums.

So, there you go! Be sure to know your skin type as the seasons change, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Speaking of which, check out our skincare collection. Japanese skincare products are top-notch, so chances are, we’ve got just the thing to get your skin looking great in time for summer.

Rowan Thompson - June 7, 2021

Bornholtz, Kristina. “5 Ingredients to Avoid If You Have Dry Skin.” Women's Health, Women's Health, 11 June 2019,

Jacoby, Sarah. “7 Skin-Care Ingredients That Will Actually Help Moisturize Dry, Dull Skin.” SELF, 26 Feb. 2020,

 Somerville, Kate. “5 Best Ingredients for Dry Skin.” 5 Best Ingredients for Dry Skin | Kate Somerville, 30 Sept. 2020,

Weiner, Zoe. “A Dermatologist Is Begging You to Stay Away from This Ingredient If You've Got Dry Skin.” Well+Good, 28 Dec. 2019,

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