Step By Step Skincare Routine for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists

Step By Step Skincare Routine for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists

Dry skin is a common concern characterized by a lack of moisture, resulting in a rough, flaky, and tight feeling. While some people experience dry skin seasonally, others have it year-round. Dry skin can be uncomfortable and itchy, but the good news is that you can improve its condition by tailoring your skincare routine to replenish hydration.

What Causes Dry Skin?

The outermost layer of your skin called the epidermis, acts as a barrier to protect your skin from environmental elements and retain moisture. Dry skin occurs when this barrier weakens, causing excessive water loss. Several factors can contribute to a compromised skin barrier and dry skin, including:

  • Climate: Cold, dry winters and hot, dry summers can strip away moisture from your skin.
  • Hot showers and baths: Hot water can remove natural oils from your skin, leaving it dry and irritated.
  • Harsh soaps and cleansers: Products containing strong detergents or alcohol can disrupt your skin’s natural moisture balance.
  • Sun exposure: UV rays damage skin cells and contribute to dryness and wrinkles.
  • Underlying skin conditions: Eczema, psoriasis, and certain medications can also cause dry skin.

Building a Dry Skin Skincare Routine

Dermatologists recommend a multi-step skincare routine to combat dry skin. Here’s a breakdown of an essential morning and night routine, along with additional tips:

Morning Routine for Dry Skin

  1. Gentle Cleanser: Start your day by washing your face with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser that removes dirt and oil without stripping away moisture. Look for cleansers containing hydrating ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, or glycerin.
  2. Toner (Optional): Toners are not essential for dry skin, but if you prefer to use one, choose an alcohol-free formula with soothing and hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, or aloe vera.
  3. Hydrating Serum: Serums deliver concentrated doses of active ingredients. Choose serums with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides, or panthenol for dry skin to boost hydration and strengthen the skin barrier. Hyaluronic acid serums work best when applied to damp skin for maximum moisture absorption.
  4. Eye Cream: The delicate under-eye area is prone to dryness. Look for hydrating eye creams with peptides to add moisture and address concerns like fine lines. Consider eye creams with antioxidants like vitamin C and SPF to protect against sun damage.
  5. Moisturizer: This is the cornerstone of your dry skin routine. Apply a rich moisturizer with ceramides, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, shea butter, or squalane to lock in moisture and repair the skin barrier.
  6. Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher): Sun protection is crucial for all skin types, including dry skin. Choose a moisturizing sunscreen with mineral or chemical SPF to shield your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent premature ageing.

Nighttime Routine for Dry Skin

  1. Gentle Cleanser: Use a gentle cleanser to remove makeup and daily grime. Consider using a gel cleanser or cleansing balm at night for additional makeup removal power without compromising moisture.
  2. Toner (Optional): You can use the same hydrating toner from your morning routine or skip it altogether.
  3. Hydrating Serum: Apply a hydrating serum with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, ceramides, or peptides to replenish moisture and support skin repair overnight. Dry skin types can also benefit from using an exfoliating serum with AHAs (lactic acid is gentler than glycolic acid) one to two times a week to remove dead skin cells and promote smoother texture.
  4. Retinol (Optional): Retinol, a vitamin A derivative, can improve skin texture, reduce fine lines, and unclog pores. However, it can be unpleasant for dry skin. If you use retinol, start with a low concentration and apply it gradually, sandwiching it between layers of moisturizer for better tolerance.
  5. Eye Cream: Use your hydrating eye cream or a richer formula with peptides for added moisture. For additional benefits, you can also consider an eye cream with retinol or niacinamide, but be cautious of irritation on dry skin.
  6. Moisturizer or Night Cream: Night creams are typically thicker and more emollient than moisturizers, making them ideal for nighttime repair. Look for night creams with hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides, or AHAs to hydrate and promote cell turnover deeply.
  7. Face Oil (Optional): Applying face oil with fatty acids like argan or coconut oil at night can add extra moisture to dehydrated skin. Rosehip oil may be a good option for sensitive skin.

Additional Tips for Managing Dry Skin

  • Limit Exfoliation: To avoid irritation, exfoliate your skin one to two times a week using a chemical exfoliant. While exfoliation removes dead skin cells for a smoother texture, it can also remove moisture.
  • Use a Humidifier: Especially during dry winter, a humidifier adds moisture to the air, helping prevent dry skin.
  • Spot Test New Products: Dry skin can be more sensitive to specific ingredients. Do a spot test on your wrist before applying a new product to your face. Apply a small amount and wait a day or two to see if you experience redness, burning, or itching.
  • Avoid Hot Water and Rubbing: Hot showers and baths can strip away natural oils. Use lukewarm water and dry your skin with a soft towel instead of rubbing.
  • Choose Gentle Laundry Detergent: Harsh chemicals in laundry detergents and fabric softeners can irritate dry skin. Opt for fragrance-free, gentle products designed for sensitive skin.

Best Ingredients for Dry Skin

Look for these dermatologist-recommended ingredients when choosing skincare products for dry skin:

  • Humectants: These ingredients attract and bind water to the skin, increasing hydration. Examples include glycerin and hyaluronic acid.
  • Emollients: These ingredients fill in gaps between skin cells, creating a smooth surface and preventing moisture loss. Examples include ceramides, shea butter, and squalane.
  • Soothing Ingredients: These ingredients calm and reduce irritation in dry skin. Examples include niacinamide (vitamin B3), panthenol (vitamin B5), and aloe vera.


Dry skin is a manageable condition. By following a consistent skincare routine with hydrating cleansers, moisturizers, and serums and incorporating these additional tips, you can improve your skin’s moisture barrier and achieve a healthy, radiant complexion. Remember, consult a dermatologist if your dry skin is severe or worsens despite following these recommendations. They can provide personalized advice and treatment options.

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