Skin Flooding Is TikTok’s Answer to Quenching Dry Skin

The buzzy term teaches how to layer skin care products properly.


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Winter cold and wind can be a nightmare for skin prone to dryness and sensitivity. Sure, slathering on thick creams can help soothe the skin’s surface, but it can also clog pores and inundate the skin with unnecessary oils. As a solution to this universal plight, TikTok users are quenching their complexions by “skin flooding,” which Toral Vaidya, M.D., MPH, dermatology resident physician in New York City, says actually isn't a new idea (but it's a good one). 

What is skin flooding?

Even though skin flooding is trending now on social media, it is a long-standing concept in the dermatology community. “The foundation of skin flooding is to ‘flood’ the skin with moisture, first using a humectant to deliver hydration, and then layering an emollient to lock in moisture and prevent water loss,” Vaidya explains. 

What are the benefits of skin flooding?

The idea is that by keeping the skin damp, you allow for maximum product absorption and efficacy. “Using hyaluronic acid and other smaller molecular serums on damp skin can help them to draw moisture in, allowing them to hydrate the skin on a deeper level,” says Alice Henshaw, founder of Skincycles. “Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, meaning it acts like a sponge, pulling moisture from the atmosphere into your skin. If your skin is damp, this helps it to draw in the moisture from the surface of the skin to penetrate the deeper layers. Locking in serums with an emollient cream is an important step to retaining that moisture.” 

What skin types can try skin flooding?

According to Jennifer Linder, M.D., board-certified dermatologist, skin flooding can work for all skin types, although it’s especially beneficial for dry and sensitive skin during the harsh winter months. “If you have dry skin, the skin flooding technique can be used nightly; if you have normal to oily skin, consider doing skin flooding as your weekly treatment,” she says. Acne-prone skin should proceed cautiously and sparingly with skin flooding as excess products can clog pores and trigger breakouts.

How do you do skin flooding?

Like any good skin-care routine, skin flooding must start with a clean base achieved with a gentle cleanser. To make the process more effective, leave your skin a bit damp after cleansing and begin with layering humectants—Vaidya recommends starting with a calming thermal water mist, and Linder recommends a toner or essence designed for your skin type. 

Then continue to layer your products from thinnest to thickest, essentially flooding the skin, using hydrating water-based serums like hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and glycerin (The Ordinary makes some of the most popular, and affordable products) and being sure to avoid any alcohol-based products. You can continue layering products, although Dr. Linder recommends keeping this section of the routine to four products because the skin will eventually reach its saturation point. 

Once you’ve layered your products and flooded your skin, seal it all together with an emollient, i.e. your moisturizing cream. “Look for ingredients like ceramides, tocopherol, and shea butter. Silicones are a great option to lock in that hydration with a lighter texture too,” says Dr. Linder. Throughout the routine, it's important to look at product labels closely, being sure to avoid any irritants like retinol, glycolic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. 

This relatively simple nighttime skin care routine can be the key to healthy, moisturized skin all season long, and it isn’t just for your face. “The idea of applying hydrating ingredients to damp skin can be applied to any skin-care routine, not just the face,” says Vaidya. “When you moisturize your body, apply lotion or cream right after you shower, before your skin is completely dry.” 

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