Dry, Red Skin? How to Fix the Problem You Don't Even Realize You Have
Redness. Irritation. Dehydration. Flakiness. If you've experienced one or more of these skin conditions or symptoms, chances are your skin's moisture barrier may be impaired.
The skin's outer layer (AKA the moisture barrier) acts as a shield between you and the outside environment. Not only is the moisture barrier responsible for keeping your skin looking and feeling hydrated, but it also helps protect your body from outside irritants and bacteria. That's why it's super important that you keep your moisture barrier well-protected and hydrated. If your skin starts to feel dry, itchy, irritated, or inflamed (when it normally feels comfortable and balanced), then you may have yourself a case of a damaged moisture barrier. There are many different factors that could have compromised your barrier function including: over-exposure to the sun, extreme climate conditions, and/or frequent use of high-strength exfoliants and cleansing detergents.
Being a skin-care fan with relatively unproblematic, tolerant skin, I'm constantly trying new products and am always on the hunt for the next-best thing. While my skin can generally tolerate any ingredient you throw at it, I finally discovered my limit when I made the rookie mistake of introducing both pure vitamin C and retinol into my routine at the same time — not to mention in the dead of winter. Once a crop of flaking, irritated patches appeared on my cheeks overnight, I knew I needed to do some serious damage-control. Here is the skin-care routine that helped bring my moisture barrier back to life.
Step 1: Cleansing Oil
NIOD Low-Viscosity Cleaning Ester ($30) is an oil-based cleanser that uses avocado and sugar-derived fatty acids to remove impurities, makeup, and sunscreen from the skin. This product can be used with or without water and leaves behind a hydrating cushion on the skin, which makes it the perfect cleanser for sensitive or dry skin conditions. Since traditional cleansing agents can often leave the skin feeling dehydrated after rinsing, I wanted to avoid double-cleansing and LVCE was the perfect 2-in-1 cleanser and makeup remover to get the job done!
Step 2: Restoring Toner
Instead of using my usual exfoliating toner, I started using MISSHA Super Aqua Ultra Waterful Active Toner ($20). Unlike traditional toners, this one has a super silky, gel-like texture and is packed with fortifying and renewing ingredients like niacinamide and an Anarctic ferment extract. If you use ingredients that strengthen the moisture barrier and encourage healthy cell-renewal on a regular basis, then your skin will become increasingly healthier and hydrated over time.
Step 3: Hydrating Serum
When I was browsing the natural beauty section at Marshall's, I stumbled across a super affordable serum from a brand called Absolute Organics. Since my skin was feeling super irritated and dehydrated, I figured the Organic Ocean Aloe-Vera Face Serum ($249, or much lower if you can find it at Marshall's!) would do the trick seeing as it's formulated with aloe vera and hyaluronic acid for a hydrating and soothing effect.
Step 4: Protective, Antioxidant Serum
When your moisture barrier is compromised, it leaves the skin even more vulnerable to environmental aggressors, which is why it is important to use products that offer antioxidant protection such as a Vitamin C serum. Having learned the hard way that pure Vitamin C can be irritating to even to the most tolerant of skin types, I reintroduced The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F ($18) into my routine. This serum uses a less potent, non-irritating Vitamin C derivative in a hydrating base of squalane, coconut esters, and jojoba oil. It has a dry-oil texture, absorbs super quickly, and leaves your skin with a radiant glow.
Step 5: Blend of Emollient Oils
We all know that using a facial oil is great for making the skin feel supple and moisturized — but using the right blend of oils is like applying a multi-vitamin to your skin. I applied a cocktail of The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil ($10) and Jamieson Vitamin E Oil (prices vary). Marula and vitamin E combined offer environmental protection with a variety of antioxidants, as well as help speed up the recovery of inflamed, vulnerable skin.
Step 6: Double Moisturizer
If you're thirsty, it's only natural to drink two glasses of water instead of one. If your skin is thirsty, then why not use the same logic? My thirsty skin adored Stratia Liquid Gold ($24) because it's packed with so many moisture barrier friendly ingredients like ceramides and fatty acids. I used two pumps of Liquid Gold mixed with a dollop of Pond's Dry Skin Cream ($8), the classic drugstore moisturizer. Filled with protective ingredients to lock in moisture (like mineral oil, glycerin, and fatty alcohols), this rich and creamy formula is dry skin's oldest and most reliable best friend.