Four Easy Steps to Cure Dry Skin


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‘.”  But in the midst of my celebration I became extremely upset, like a cat just realizing you changed his Fancy Feast to Friskies.  My usually hydrated/smooth skin was unrecognizable overnight.  It was so horribly rough and dry I basically looked and felt like a turtle who’d never seen the ocean.

Self-portrait courtesy of
Self-portrait courtesy of

Why did this bother me so much?

Because my friends, I believe that you only need great skin and a rocking haircut to look fantastic (and maybe a bad ass-sword with knee-high boots).  I spent months trying to figure out what steps were necessary to fix my volcanic-rock-like skin, and, 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 I use will be at the end of this post!

Four Easy-Peasy Steps to Fight Dry Skin

Step #1:  Wash less and use creamy cleansers.

Unfortunately we’ve been taught (evil cleansing companies, I’m talking to YOU) that the more we cleanse, the better our hair and skin will look and feel.  That is just simply not the case, especially for people who suffer from dry skin.  The more you wash, the more natural oils you remove from your face, which leads to drier skin, which leads to skin being more susceptible to microscopic abrasions, which leads to bacteria crawling into your face, which leads to zits.  It’s very common for people to have dry skin in combination with acne due to over-washing and/or using harsh cleansing agents.

  • Avoid washing your face more than twice per day.  I usually wash with a cleanser at night to get rid of makeup, but then only wash with water in the morning.
  • 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 either strip off your skin’s protective barrier or irritate your skin and cause it to freak out.  When cleansing dry and impaired skin you want to 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 it contains SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) that is known to be harsh, drying, and irritating.  LIARS!

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 magical additions they throw in like BHA, green tea, and magical silk extracted from the butts of silk worms in Thailand is on your face for less than a minute before it’s washed off.  You really need to worry more about gentle ingredients in your face wash as opposed to amazing antioxidants, acids, silk worm poop, etc.

Step two: Apply moisturizer to damp skin.


This is SUCH an important and commonly skipped step that this tip alone could possibly make the biggest difference in healing dry skin.  Usually we dry off our skin and then apply moisturizer.

Now, 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 either act as a barrier by adding a layer of moisture on top of your skin or have skin identical ingredients that help your body 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, a.k.a. the skin companies intended, apply the moisturizer to a damp face.  That way, the moisturizer is literally sealing in the water so the water doesn’t evaporate and can properly hydrate your skin.

Step Three:  Make use of hydrating Toners, Serums, and/or Carrier Oils.

If the damp skin trick isn’t enough for you, you can take it to another level by applying a toner, serum and/or carrier (not essential!) oil(s) to your face before applying your moisturizer.

Back in MY day… when phones still had cords and Debbie Gibson’s perfume was the coolest thing evar (we were so cool back then!!!), toners were not only useless, but generally harmful as well.  They were alcohol-based, full of irritating ingredients, and would make your face feel like you just went apple-bobbing in a vat of acid.

But those days are gone friends.  Today’s toners can be a powerful tool in your dry skin arsenal, gently adding back skin essential ingredients after you cleanse such as fatty acids, ceramides, and antioxidants.  They can remove that last speck of makeup you missed, prep your skin for absorbing all the great ingredients in your serum/moisturizer, and add even more hydration (water) to your face before slapping on a moisturizer.

Serums are basically super concentrated forms of a moisturizing product containing numerous ingredients that help repair/protect your skin’s cells and lock in hydration.  Click on this link to learn more about serums and which serums are the best for you!

Carrier oils (any oils that aren’t essential), e.g. 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 during the winter months 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.  And if nothing is on top of the oils to “lock them in”, your skin will return to its dry state in a matter of hours.

If you don’t believe me, do a fun little science experiment.

  1. Rub pure 100% olive oil, coconut oil, argan, etc. on your dry/chapped lips.  No other ingredients are allowed!
  2. Check lip moisture lvl in an hour or so.
  3. Observe horribly dry lips, slap forehead, and shout, “Why is Lana right ALL the time???”

You’ll benefit more from oils if you pat a couple drops on damp skin and then apply a protective layer in the form of a moisturizing product. But take care to avoid essential oils, e.g. lavender, peppermint, orange, etc. because they have been proven to cause skin irritation at such concentrated levels.

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
    • Petrolatum (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
    • Hyaluronic acid
    • Sodium Hyaluronate
    • Cholesterol
    • Ceramides

Apply a moisturizer that has some, if not all, of these components on your face AFTER your face is already moist (either from water, toner, serum, and/or oil) and you should be good to go.

Again, a list of recommended products are below!

Optional Step: Exfoliate with acids.

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

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

BHAs are better suited for those who have skin that are prone to blackheads, acne, and zits where 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 ant-inflammatory!

Choose which one is right for you and experiment with frequency.  There’s no right/wrong frequency, just whatever works best with your skin.  If you notice that your skin feels tight, irritated, and/or is rough no matter how perfectly you follow the steps above or exfoliate, 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 or are recommended:

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

Products I haven’t used but are highly recommended for those of you who want options:

  1. Trader Joe’s All-in-one Nourishing Cleanser (While this is a foaming cleanser, it doesn’t contain SLS so it’s not irritating or harsh).
  2. Yes to Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser
  3. Clinique Liquid Facial Soap Extra Mild
  1. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Toner

Products I haven’t used but are highly recommended for those of you who want options:

  1. Clinique’s Even Better Essence Lotion
  1. Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Serum

Products I haven’t used but are highly recommended for those of you who want options:

  1. Olay Regenerist Serum-Fragrance-Free
  2. Dr. Dennis Gross Clinical Hydration Booster
  1. Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Moisturizer
  2. Bioderma Crealine AR
  3. Oil of Olay Pro-X Repair Lotion with SPF 30

Products I haven’t used but are highly recommended for those of you who want options:

  1. CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM
  2. Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream, Night
  3. Clinique Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturizer for Dry/Combo Skin
  4. MAC Strobe Cream
Chemical exfoliates:
  1. Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
  2. Resist Weekly Resurfacing Treatment With 10% AHA

Debbie Gibson and I thank you for making it this far…