I’ve got super finicky skin. It’s not sensitive in the typical sense — I don’t usually break out from new skin care products or have rosacea or anything. But I still suffer from hormonal breakouts (when will it end???), battle an oil slick of a T-zone in the summer and more recently, dry up like a desert come winter. Basically what that means is that I have to have double the skin care products — one set for oily, acne-prone skin, another for dry, dry skin. (That doesn’t even take into account all the products for wrinkles, firming and hyperpigmentation, but that’s a post for another day.)
So now that it’s the dead of winter, I’ve got my dry skin arsenal up on high gear. What I’ve discovered in the last few years when my skin suddenly got super dry is that it’s not a battle I can win with just one good cream or lotion. Like Korean skin care, it’s a matter of layering, of hydrating at every step, starting from the shower to the last thing I put on before I hit the sack. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to follow all of these steps to keep your skin hydrated; even incorporating one or two of the following tips will seriously up your hydration game. So herewith, an hour-by-hour, 24-7 guide to keeping your skin hydrated all winter long.
7 a.m. Swap out your usual body wash for a cleansing oil.
If my face is schizo in its sensitivity to the weather, my body is just consistently cray cray in its super-dry state all year-round. So I no longer use a foaming body wash because, like the skin on my face, no amount of body lotion or cream seems to hydrate my skin after I strip its natural oils with a sulfate-filled cleanser. Instead, I switched to a cleansing shower oil. Now, you may think a cleansing oil isn’t gonna give you that satisfying clean that a foaming body wash does. I thought so too, frankly speaking. But after trying Lalicious Cleansing Shower Oil, I am hooked. Not only is this shower oil not greasy at all, but when used with a mesh sponge, it lathers amazingly well, giving me that satisfying sense of clean. And yet, because it’s rich in grapeseed oil without any sulfates (or parabens or phthalates, for that matter), my skin is super soft and hydrated when I get out of the shower, even before I slather on any body cream. It’s a beauty product I’d buy again and again — and did I mention it smells amazing?
7:20 a.m. Switch to a gentle, sulfate-free facial cleanser.
Like my body wash, at the first sign of chill, I bring out a milder cleanser, even for my usually oily T-zone. I find that if I start my skin care routine with something that cleanses without stripping the natural beneficial oils from my skin, everything else goes on better after, and I’m less prone to feeling that mid-day tightness in my skin. Just remember this: If after washing your face, your skin feels tight or dry, you need to switch to a non-stripping cleanser.
This winter, I’ve been using Pur-lisse Pur-delicate Gentle Soy Milk Cleanser and Makeup Remover, which I love for its blend of soy milk and soy proteins, which help with hyperpigmentation, and creamy texture. For a more budget-friendly option, Cetaphil is also great — I use it in the mornings when I don’t need a more heavy duty cleanser.
7:30 a.m. Use a serum with hyaluronic acid.
Hyaluronic acid, a carbohydrate naturally found in the body and especially in the skin, seems to be the It-ingredient of the moment, and no wonder: It’s vital to skin hydration, binding up to 1,000 times its weight in water, it strengthens skin’s barrier, provides antioxidant defense against free-radical damage and reduces inflammation. I have to admit, I didn’t pay much attention to hyaluronic acid until Hylamide SubQ Anti-Age Advanced Serum made a complete believer out of me. Not only is the droplet packaging a giant plus (it appeals to the science nerd in me), ever since I started using this high-tech serum packed with five forms of hyaluronic compounds, my skin has never felt so hydrated, and I don’t even get that mid-day tightness in my cheeks anymore. It’s officially made the jump to must-buy on my list.
8 a.m. Apply a day mask.
After you’re done with your skin care regimen, apply a day mask. Now, I know that may sound like a lot, but day masks are actually made to stay on; in other words, you don’t have to rinse off. Just apply after your serum, then go have some coffee and check your email. After about 10 minutes, come back and you can either tissue off the excess or just leave it on. Apply moisturizer and sunscreen on top.
For a seriously luxe day mask option, go with La Mer The Intensive Revitalizing Mask — this is the product that got me hooked on day masks, and I love how it just melts into skin and deeply hydrates in just eight minutes. For a lighter alternative, I reach for Koh Gen Do All in One Refresh Gel, which cools on contact, thanks to its gel texture, and yet hydrates with aloe and algae extracts.
12 p.m. Spritz on a facial mist.
Your skin’s taken a beating all morning, thanks to the blasting heater in the office. It’s enough to make you want to douse your face in another layer of moisturizer, but of course you can’t, at least not over your makeup. That’s why this new category in skin care was created: facial mists. It’s a genius way to rehydrate your skin without disturbing your makeup. Spritzing on SK-II Mid-Day Essence Spray is like patting skin with the brand’s famed Facial Treatment Essence, which combats oxidative skin damage caused by UV rays and pollution. And the Essence Spray is actually powerful enough to penetrate through makeup, all without disturbing it, to hydrate your skin. Amorepacific Moisture Bound Skin Energy Hydration Delivery System uses bamboo sap to improve absorption of skin hydrators, while Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist is like a spray-on moisturizer with squalane, red algae and camellia seed oil. Just spritz on throughout the day when your skin starts to feel tight.
2 p.m. Keep lips moisturized.
One of the joys of having super dry skin is super dry, chapped lips. Mine are perpetually flaking and peeling, which is why I have to keep lipgloss or some other lip product on it throughout the day. (I applied lipgloss so often while backpacking through Asia, my fellow travelers thought I was a diva; little did they know it was to keep my lips from cracking and bleeding.) Of course, lipgloss doesn’t always cut it when lips are starved for moisture, so I make sure to stash La Mer The Lip Balm and Clarins Instant Light Lip Comfort Oil everywhere, from desk to purse to bedside. And when my lips are particularly chapped, I’ll give them a gentle scrub with GlaMer Lips Organic Lip Scrub, truly a treat with ingredients you can literally eat: organic sugar, unrefined coconut oil, jojoba oil and vitamin E. It smells luscious and not only are my lips flake-free thereafter, they’re pleasantly plumped from the exfoliating effect.
4 p.m. Wash hands and then slather on a hand lotion.
“People tell me that they’re slathering on lotion all day long, but their skin is still dry,” says dermatologist Dr. Shirley Chi. “Then I ask them, ‘did you wash your hands first?'” Yes, surprisingly, moisturizer doesn’t actually put moisture into the skin, according to Dr. Chi. Moisturizer prevents the moisture in our skin from leaking out. So in order for your hand lotion to work, you have to wash hands first, then apply. Try a hand cream that’s not greasy but potent like Jane Iredale HandDrink Hand Cream with SPF 15 (perfect if you’re sitting by a window all day) or the antioxidant- and omega 6-rich Ole Henriksen Empower Hydrating Hand Cream.
7 p.m. Hydrate at happy hour.
It’s been a hard day, and you really need that drink. Refresh by patting a droplet of facial oil, like Aerin Rose Oil, on top of cheekbones for a dewy glow. You can also use it to smooth stray strands and condition cuticles. (The delicate fragrance, a blend of three different roses, also acts as perfume!) While drinking, don’t forget to hydrate from the inside out with a glass of water for each cocktail.
11 p.m. Apply a sleeping mask to prevent evaporation.
You’ve made through the day, but your battle for hydration isn’t over yet. As you sleep, moisture evaporates from the skin, especially in the drier winter months. Sleep masks contain thicker, more “sealing” ingredients, which keep moisture locked in. Try Erborian Bamboo Waterlock Hydro-Plumping Mask, a lightweight aquagel mask with bamboo sap and fibers to plump up skin. (You can also use this as a day mask, making this a two-fer.) Lioele Water Drop Sleeping Pack has a light gel texture as well (you can actually see droplets of moisturizing water form as you apply it) and firms skin to reduce bloating (a must after all that holiday gorging). If you want something more heavy duty, I love Amarte Overnight Express Therapy, which is a powerhouse with retinol, my ingredient of the moment propolis, nanoencapsulated peptide-based epidermal growth factor and antioxidant-rich silk extract.
Now all you need to do is put in a good eight hours of sleep, and by morning, you’ll be set to face another day, refreshed and super hydrated.