When it comes to our skin, most of us worry about the things we can see — like whether our foundation is the right shade, why our forehead is so shiny and please don’t let that be a pimple.
But what we can’t see also has a major impact on the way our skin looks and feels. “Dry skin is the top skincare complaint among women of all ages,” says Dr. Kathy Fields, a dermatologist and co-founder of Rodan + Fields.
Dryness goes much deeper than a few flaky patches or tightness. When our skin doesn’t have enough moisture, research shows it gets scaly, rough and dull—and can look like the skin of someone far older. That means whether you’re in your 20s, 30s or 40s, you may want to start making sure your skin is properly hydrated now, long before you’re celebrating a milestone birthday.
How did my skin get so dry?
Everyday life and the environment can do a number on our skin: sun, wind, harsh heaters in wintertime and cleansers that strip away the skin’s protective oil layer can leave the epidermis parched and fragile. And poor lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking too much alcohol can make it even worse.
And that’s just where skin troubles start.
“When you have all that dry skin, moisture leaks out and the environment can come in,” says Dr. Katie Rodan. “Your skin gets these little fissures or tears and it gets chapped and cracked. Pollution, hot air, cold air, bacteria, pollen can get in and touch the vital live skin and that’s when you get redness and irritation.” Plus, dry skin is more prone to showing little fine lines. And dryness prevents skincare products from working as well as they could.
“When the skin is dry, it usually has a pileup of dead skin cells; it’s like having flakes on top of your skin,” says Mary Radford, RN. “Your moisturizer sits on top.”
Research backs this up. The University of Kiel in Germany conducted a study and found that dry skin, even in young people, acts like older skin. The 1997 study measured classic signs of dryness including scaliness, loss of smoothness and loss of elasticity in test subjects age 20 to 35 versus a group over age 60. They found that dry skin was equally scaly in young and older test subjects. And young people with dry skin had rougher skin than older subjects with dry skin. But the good news is that both younger and older skin felt equally smooth once it was properly hydrated.
Fight dryness with this dream team
Exfoliation is an important part of combatting dry skin; clearing away dry, dead skin cells makes it easier for skincare products to be most effective.
Then follow up with the anti-dryness dream team of a hydrating serum followed by a moisturizer. Moisture and hydration skincare products may seem synonymous, but these products do different things.
“What a moisturizer does is it stops water loss. A hydration product brings water to the skin,” says Dr. Tim Falla, PhD, vice-president of research and development for Rodan + Fields.
So, if you want to show off a healthy glow at any age, make sure you give your skin the right combination of exfoliation, moisture, and hydration.