At first I was overjoyed when we finally dipped into the mid-20’s this year, happily unpacking all my tights, boots, scarves, and cute jackets whilst whistling, “These Boots are Made for Walkin‘.” However, my celebration was shut down pretty fast when I developed dry winter skin overnight.

It was so horribly rough and cracked that I basically looked and felt like a turtle. I needed to cure my dry skin ASAP.

Dry skin
Self-portrait courtesy of

I spent months trying to figure out how to fix my volcanic-rock-like skin. After what felt like years, I finally cracked the code. Luckily for you folks, you don’t have to do all the research because I’m here! Shall we begin?

Note: A list of all the products used will be at the end of this post!

Four easy-peasy steps to cure dry skin

Step one: Wash less and use creamy cleansers.

Unfortunately we’ve been taught (evil cleansing companies, I’m talking to YOU) that frequent cleansing is a good thing. That is simply not the case. The more you wash, the more you remove naturally-present oils. This leads to dry skin, which leads to skin being susceptible to microscopic abrasions, which leads to bacteria crawling all up in your face, which leads to zits. It’s very common for people to have dry skin with acne because of over-washing and/or using harsh cleansing agents.


Gentle for dry skin
  • Avoid washing your face more than twice per day.
  • Always use lukewarm water. Extremely hot water damages your skin’s barrier and causes irritation/dryness.
  • If it foams or comes in bar form, avoid, avoid, AVOID. These types of cleansers tend to include harsh ingredients that strip off your skin’s protective barrier and cause it to freak out.
  • When choosing a cleanser think gentle, creamy, and simple.

HOWEVER! Be careful when choosing creamy cleansers! Just because a product feels creamy and claims that it’s gentle, doesn’t mean it’s free of irritating ingredients. For instance, Cetaphil is marketed as being a gentle, non-stripping cleanser for sensitive skin, yet contains sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). SLS is known to be harsh, drying, and irritating.

Avoid these ingredients:

  • SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
  • Fragrance (You should avoid this in any type of skin care)
  • Alcohols such as SD alcohol, ethanol, denatured, isopropyl, methanol or ethyl alcohol

And just to add… You don’t need to spend a lot on face wash. All the pricey additions such as antioxidants, green tea, and magical silk extracted from the butts of silk worms in Thailand are on your face for less than a minute. Instead, focus on gentle ingredients that are non-irritating.

Step two: Apply moisturizer to damp skin.


This is SUCH an important and commonly skipped step that this tip alone could possibly cure dry skin.

Moisturizing products are a wonderful thing, but they don’t actually add any moisture into your skin or cause your skin to produce more moisture. If any products claim to do that they are big, fat, liars.

Moisturizers act as a barrier, adding a layer of moisture on top of your skin to help your skin to retain any moisture it already has. But if your skin is straight up dry before you put the moisturizer on, it’s just protecting already dry skin.

To help your moisturizing products act how God intended, apply the moisturizer to a damp face. That way, the moisturizer is literally sealing in the water to keep your skin moist!

Step Three:  Make use of hydrating toners, serums, and/or oils.

If the damp skin trick isn’t enough for you, you can take it to another level with toners, serums, or oils.

Back in MY day… when phones still had cords and Debbie Gibson’s perfume was the coolest thing ever, toners were useless and irritating. They would make your face feel like you just went apple-bobbing in a vat of acid.

gentle to cure dry skin

But those days are gone friends. Today’s toners can be a powerful tool in your dry skin arsenal. If properly formulated, they can provide moisturizing and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as fatty acids, ceramides, and antioxidants.

Serums are super concentrated forms of a moisturizing product containing numerous ingredients that help repair/protect your skin’s cells and lock in hydration. Learn more about serums here.

Carrier oils (any oils that aren’t essential), i.e. jojoba (although technically a wax and not an oil), argan, almond, coconut, etc. are AMAZING for skin…period. But what I’ve learned is that they aren’t good enough to heal extremely dry skin on their own. While they seep into your skin and add tons of antioxidants, they don’t add a layer of protection against the harsh winter weather.

However, when applied with a moisturizer, they freaking rock. They keep your skin soft, give it a nice healthy sheen, and add a lot of natural benefits as well.

Step Four: Apply a protective barrier.

This is when you finally apply a layer of some sort of moisturizing product. When you have dry skin, there are certain ingredients that you want to look for in a moisturizer:

  • Antioxidants (Vitamins C, E, A, etc.)
  • Ingredients that help skin hold onto water
    • Non-fragrant plant oils
    • Petroleum (much like eggs, it’s gotten a bad rap)
    • Fatty acids such as linoleic acid, glycerin, triglycerides, and fatty alcohols (not to be confused with other alcohols such as SD alcohol, ethanol, denatured, isopropyl, etc.)
  • Anti-inflammatory ingredients (there are a ton so I’ll just name a few)
    • Licorice Root
    • Turmeric
    • BHA (beta hydroxy acid)
    • L-asorbic acid
    • Green tea
    • Borage seed extract
  • Skin repairing Ingredients

Apply a moisturizer that has some, if not all, of these components on your face AFTER your face is already moist.

Optional Step: Exfoliate with acids.

This post is already way too long so I promise to write a separate post on exfoliating in general.

To sum it up kinda quickly:  Another cause of your dry skin might be too much exfoliating or repeated use of harsh physical exfoliants such as a Clarisonic brush, apricot/nut shells, washcloths, etc. If you have dry skin and fit the bill of using physical exfoliates, try switching to chemical exfoliants that contain BHA (beta hydroxy acid) or AHA (alpha hydroxy acid).

BHAs are better suited for those who have skin prone to blackheads, acne, and zits. AHAs are better suited for those who want to reduce fine-lines, scarring, and sun-damage. Both are awesome and gentle exfoliates if you want to remove old dry skin. Plus they’re anti-inflammatory!

Choose which one is right for you and experiment with frequency. If you notice that your skin feels tight, irritated, or is rough, chances are you’re exfoliating too much.

So good luck friends!  Fight the dry winter months with these tips to have dewy skin year round!

Products I use/have used and love:

Note: I swear I’m not being paid to promote Paula’s Choice (I wish though, call me Paula!). I’ve just used her products for decades now and love them.

Face Cleansers

  1. Say Yes to Carrots Daily Cream Facial Cleanser
  2. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Cleanser


  1. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Toner


  1. Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Serum


  1. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Moisturizer
  2. Bioderma Sensibio AR
  3. Oil of Olay Pro-X Repair Lotion with SPF 30

Chemical exfoliants

  1. Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
  2. Resist Advanced Smoothing Treatment 10% AHA

Products I haven’t used but are highly recommended if you want options

Face Cleansers

  1. Trader Joe’s All-in-one Nourishing Cleanser (While this is a foaming cleanser, it doesn’t contain SLS).
  2. Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser
  3. Clinique Liquid Facial Soap Extra Mild


  1. Laneige Skin Toner


  1. Olay Regenerist Serum-Fragrance-Free
  2. Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Hydration Booster


  1. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM
  2. Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream, Night
  3. MAC Strobe Cream

Chemical exfoliants

  1. I haven’t found any that are highly recommended yet, but will update if I do!

Debbie Gibson and I thank you for making it this far and hope these tips help you to cure your dry skin!


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