Whether you experience it year round, or only when the temperatures drop, dry skin is very frustrating. It flakes, itches, feels uncomfortable all day long, and gets easily irritated. What it needs is a well-formulated moisturizer that can soothe it, hydrate it, and keep it in top shape.
There’s no shortage of moisturizers for dry skin on the market, but how do you know which ones are effective? To work their best there are certain ingredients they absolutely must contains. Here they are:
Dry skin desperately needs moisture. That’s why humectants are so important. This group of ingredients, which includes glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid can attract water from the environment into the skin, helping to improve hydration. Hyaluronic acid is particularly effective because it can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water and works well both in high and low humidity conditions.
2. Occlusive emollients
To attract moisture into the skin is not enough to keep it hydrated. The moisture also needs to stay there, and not evaporate again. That’s when occlusive emollients come in. They create a protective barrier on the skin that prevents water loss.
Some people are worried they can also cause breakouts. This rarely happens to people with dry skin, but if you are one of the unlucky ones that has to deal both with dryness and breakouts, experiment until you find the right combination of occlusive emollients that works best for you.
Also, make sure your skincare products don’t contain any comedogenic ingredients that may cause trouble once trapped underneath the barrier created by occlusive emollients. Occlusive emollients include olive oil, jojoba oil, mineral oil, petrolatum, and shea butter.
3. Skin-identical ingredients
Your skin has its own natural protective barrier. It is made up of skin cells and the “glue” that holds them together. When this barrier is intact, skin looks smooth, soft, and supple.
But its glue is quite fragile, and is easily damaged by UV rays, harsh weather, overcleansing, overexfoliating, indoor heaters, etc. When this happens, skin loses moisture, and becomes dry, flaky, and itchy.
To prevent this from happening, you need to maintain and restore this glue. How? By using a moisturizer with skin-identical ingredients, ie ingredients that make up the glue. These include, to name just a few, ceramides, amino acids, lecithin, phospholipids, and fatty acids.
UV rays can cause all kinds of damage to the skin, including wrinkles, sun spots, and disruption of the skin’s natural barrier. Antioxidants, such as Vitamins C and E, green tea, and coenzyme Q10, can prevent and reduce the damage caused by UV rays, helping skin to stay hydrated and healthy.
A lot of antioxidants also double up as anti-inflammatory agents, helping to soothe signs of dryness such as redness, itching, and pain. The more antioxidants your moisturizer contains, the better. But be sure to opt for one packaged in an opaque, air-tight bottle or tube. Antioxidants lose their effectiveness when they come in contact with light and air.
What to avoid
Knowing what to look for in a moisturizer is not enough to keep your dry skin healthy, soft, and supple. You also need to know what to avoid. Alcohol and witch hazel are both very dry and irritating to the skin. Mint, peppermint, and some kinds of natural oils, particularly citrus oils, can cause irritations as well. When this ingredients are found at the top of the ingredient list, leave the moisturizer on the shelf.
Best moisturizers for dry skin
There are a lot of good moisturizers for dry skin on the market. One of my favourites is Paula’s Choice Resist Barrier Repair Moisturizer with Retinol ($29.00). In addition to preventing water loss and hydrating skin, it also helps skin fight all signs of premature ageing, including wrinkles and dark spots, and firm skin. Other good options are Dr Dennis Gross Age Erase Moisture With Mega 10 Plus ($48.00), Arbonne Calm Gentle Daily Moisturizer ($36.00), and SkinMedica Retinol Complex 0.5 ($75.00).
What’s your favourite moisturizer for dry skin?