Ask a Beauty Editor: What Is the Best Skincare Routine for Dry Skin?
Plus the most effective and affordable dry skin products.
Ever wanted to pick the brain of a beauty editor? Or get beauty product recommendations from someone who has tried them all? You've come to the right place. In our weekly series, Ask a Beauty Editor, beauty editor Hana Hong answers your biggest skincare, haircare, and makeup questions, all submitted by Real Simple readers. Tune in every Tuesday and submit your own burning beauty questions here for a chance to be featured.
Reader question: My skin is really dry—what would you recommend as a cleanser and moisturizer? - Sue de Battista
If years' worth of dermatologist and esthetician visits (and being a beauty editor) have taught me one thing, it's this: Dry skin is ridiculously complicated. While it's certainly not the rocket variety, there is a science to keeping skin hydrated. That's because having dry skin usually means a lot of different things: (A) redness, (B) flakiness, (C) dullness, or (D) all of the above. And let's not forget about breakouts, which don't seem to discriminate between dry and oily skin.
Dry skin is also frequently misunderstood, so first it's important that we distinguish the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. To put things simply, dryness refers to a skin type, and dehydration refers to a skin condition. "When you have dry skin, your face has fewer oil-producing glands; therefore less sebum is present," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "Dehydrated skin is a condition when your skin lacks water, as opposed to an impaired skin barrier." People with dehydrated skin don't necessarily have dry skin—it could be oily, combination, or normal skin that is simply lacking hydration.
When dealing with dehydrated skin, you should be adding a moisturizer with humectants to attract and bind water molecules. This can draw water to the skin from the environment and enhance water absorption from the top layer of the skin.
However, if you have dry skin (usually characterized by flaking and cracking of the top layer of the skin), the key is creating a skincare routine geared towards repairing the skin barrier. People with dry skin are also more likely to experience disruptions in pH. True soaps have an alkaline pH and can be damaging to the skin, so the most important thing is finding a gentle cleanser that is pH-balanced to the skin's acid mantle. As for moisturizer, you're going to want to apply a ceramide-rich cream within 60 seconds of washing.
And I know you didn't ask about facial serums, but I'm going to strongly advocate for one here. It's the best way to get the heaviest hit of hyaluronic acid, which works by drawing in moisture to give your skin barrier a smooth, almost plumped out appearance (making fine lines and wrinkles less prominent). In other words, it's great for your hydrating and anti-aging goals.
Now that we've reviewed the basics, let's get into specifics. Keep reading for an affordable, editor-approved list of the best products for dry skin.
1 Best Soap for Dry Skin: Dove Beauty Bar
If you wear makeup on the reg, I recommend double cleansing (even for dry skin). Bar soaps tend to get a bad rap for being overly stripping, but don't let them be overshadowed by its liquid-foam alternatives. Not only are they more eco-friendly, you can also find options that produce the same satisfyingly sudsy effect as liquid soaps. Exhibit A: Dove's Beauty Bar is dermatologist-recommended for super dry skin since it's infused with one-quarter moisturizing cream. It's also pH-balanced, and free of parabens and sulfates.
2 Best Cleanser for Dry Skin: Fresh Soy Cleanser
For your second cleanse (or main cleanser if you're strictly anti-bar soap), try this cult-favorite formula. The pH-balanced formula is full of amino acid–rich soy proteins, cucumber extract, and rosewater, all of which have calming and balancing properties that soothe dry skin.
3 Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream
Chances are that if your face is dry, so is your body. Luckily, CeraVe's multipurpose cream can be applied on both. The gentle formula (it's even eczema-approved!) is buffed with three essential ceramides to help restore and maintain the skin's natural barrier. Despite being super hydrating, the quick-absorbing texture defies its assigned "cream" category by never behind a greasy feel. Plus, it will give you a seriously covetable glow under makeup (no highlighter needed).
4 Best Serum for Dry Skin: La Roche-Posay Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum
My dry-skin serum of choice will always be hyaluronic acid, which works to both attract and seal much-needed water (read: moisture) into the skin. La Roche-Posay's Hyalu B5 Pure Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum contains, not one, but two types of pure hyaluronic acid—and vitamin B5—which work in conjunction to hydrate skin immediately and over time.