What Your Skincare Routine Should Look Like if You Have Dry Skin

Updated: Apr. 29, 2021

Skin as dry as the Sahara? See the healthy habits that will keep it hydrated and happy.


Watch for signs of dryness

Watching for symptoms of dry skin when they first appear can help you begin caring for your skin immediately, before the problem worsens. The most common symptoms of dry skin are a feeling of tightness or itchiness. You may also notice rough patches, flaking, or even cracking and bleeding, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Related: If you have dry skin, don’t miss the 10 makeup mistakes that could make your face look even drier.)

iStock/Robert Herhold

Know the causes of dry skin

Caring for dry skin may be as simple as eliminating harsh environmental factors or kicking an old habit to the curb. Being exposed to dry air regularly and spending time in the sun without protection can cause skin to dry out. Bad habits including smoking or poor hydration are surefire contributors to dry or itchy skin, according to the National Institute on Aging. But aging itself is a cause of dry skin, as over time, the skin begins to thin and lose sweat and oil glands. Stressful life circumstances may also aggravate dry skin in certain individuals. If you can’t pinpoint the cause of your dry skin, or you know it is caused by something beyond your control, try adopting a specialized skin care routine or consult with a dermatologist. Check out these dry skin home remedies.


Cleanse gently

Even if you have dry skin, you should still commit to washing your face daily to avoid breakouts. Using the right cleanser is important, according to Debra Jaliman, MD, board-certified dermatologist, who suggested gentle cleansers free of harsh soaps, alcohol or benzoyl peroxide, such Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (or try making your own natural cleansers), that won’t strip away any precious natural oils. Use warm, not hot water, to avoid drying out the skin further.


Toning is optional

Toner is a water-based skin product that follows your cleanser, like the last step in washing your face. Typically, toners serve the purpose of making sure your skin is properly cleansed and may also have ingredients targeted at dealing with pesky skin problems, like acne breakouts or excessive oil. Pay attention to the type of toner you buy, as the wrong one could further dry out your skin. Dr. Jaliman advises choosing an alcohol-free toner—try Jane Iredale Beauty Prep Face Toner, which moisturizers and restores pH balance to skin.


Moisturize AM and PM

After cleansing your skin and applying a toner, immediately follow up with a moisturizer to lock in hydration, Dr. Jaliman recommends. If you have dry skin, you should moisturize both day and night. Consider starting with a layer of face oil, preferably a blend of botanical oils, like Paula’s Choice Resist Moisture Renewal Oil Booster, followed by a super hydrating moisturizer at night, such as Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Replenishing Moisturizer. You can also try any of these 10 best face oils for dry skin.


Refresh your towels

No matter your skin type, switch out your washcloth and face towel daily. Bacteria can easily build up on the surface, according to Dr. Jaliman, potentially causing irritation or breakouts.


Block the sun

Exposure to UV rays damages the surface of your skin, not just putting you at risk for skin cancer, as you know, but also accelerating aging and drying out your skin. Any time you spend time outdoors, make sure your skin is properly protected from the sun. Board certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, recommends applying a sunscreen with an SPF of no less than 30 every single day, rain or shine, summer or winter.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest