When it's cold outside, you put on layers to insulate your body, keeping the warmth in and the chill out. The same concept should apply to your body-care routine—slather on layers of serums, creams, and oils to hydrate your skin, lock in moisture, and keep the dry air out. That's the premise that model and beauty content creator Dana Patterson used to create the "dolphin skin" routine.
"The number one thing that we're trying to do in this routine, especially during winter when we're in a lot of artificial heat, is trap water into our skin," says Patterson in a recent TikTok. This prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL), which is when moisture leaves your skin and evaporates into the air. When your moisture barrier is strong and prepped, you can retain moisture instead of losing it.
@danaisabellaaaa #stitch with @meredithmlynch also you need weleda skin food whenever you need to reapply THANK ME LATER #dolphinskin #dolphinskinshavingroutine #bodycare #winterbodycare #dryskin #crackedskin #bodycareproducts #winterskincare ♬ Elevator Music - Bohoman
Patterson's routine incorporates the "big three" types of moisturizing ingredients: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. And derms agree that this layering technique is perfect for preventing TEWL.
"These moisturizing ingredients work best when paired together," says Tiffany Libby, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Rhode Island. "Humectants help hydrate and draw moisture into skin, emollients add back moisturizing oils, and occlusives then help seal in moisture to prevent moisture loss."
Patterson says that "the most important thing in this routine is the order in which you apply the products," so go ahead and follow the steps below to score baby-soft skin for yourself.
Get silky-soft 'Dolphin Skin' in 4 steps
1. Apply a body serum with glycerin
Applying hydrating products to wet skin makes it easier for them to absorb, so your best bet is to start your "dolphin" routine right after you shower.
"On very damp, borderline wet skin, you're going to apply a serum that includes humectants," says Patterson.
Humectants are often referred to as "skin-care sponges," and will suck moisture from the rest of your products deep down into your skin. Patterson notes that her favorite ingredient in this category is glycerin, which board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, previously called "the one, no-bells-and=whistles ingredient that's great at drawing water into the skin and is good for everyone." Hyaluronic acid, which is famous for holding 1,000 times its weight in water, is also a great option.
This is Patterson’s go-to serum that she’s been using for months. It’s made with 30 percent glycerin and multi-weight polyglutemic acid (another humectant) to hydrate your skin while soothing and replenishing your moisture barrier. Plus, it’s got a slew of skin-soothers like bisabolol, prickly pear extract, and niacinamide to get rid of irritation.
She also loves this deeply-hydrating anti-aging body treatment. In addition to its moisturizing ingredients (glycerin and 100 percent pure argan oil), it has gentle exfoliators (lactic acid and pineapple enzymes) that slough away dead skin cells and clear a path for deeper product penetration.
Five different molecular weights of hyaluronic acid join glycerin in this fast-absorbing serum, which leaves skin hydrated and replenished. It’s been awarded the Seal Of Acceptance By The National Eczema Association, meaning it’s free of known irritants that can disrupt sensitive skin.
2. Slather on a body butter
In the first step, you're binding water to the skin. "Now, you're going to go on top with something to seal it in," says Patterson. This step will provide more humectants as well as tons of emollients, and she likes a thick body butter to get the job done.
This whipped butter (another one of Patterson’s faves) smooths and restores your skin with 100 percent pure argan oil, shea butter, avocado oil, and white tea extract. It has a velvety-yet- lightweight texture that instantly absorbs into your skin, and comes in two scents (vanilla fig and vanilla apricot) as well as an unscented option.
Made with vegan ingredients, this nourishing formula combines shea, cocoa, and mango butters with hempseed oil to soften, smooth, and firm skin. After using it, you’ll be left hydrated, invigorated, and smelling like papaya and vanilla.
3. Add a coat of body oil
If your skin is feeling super dry, Patterson recommends applying a body oil on top of your body butter, which will add an extra layer of hydration and nourishment.
This gorgeous formula uses tamanu oil to soften and revitalize, sea buckthorn berry to tone and hydrate, camellia seed oil to hydrate and condition, and rosehip oil to provide antioxidant protection. A blend of Ylang-ylang, sandalwood, and bergamot gives it an uplifting, stress-relieving scent.
4. Lock it all in with Vaseline
Finally, seal everything in with a super-occlusive product like Vaseline (think: body slugging). This helps to lock in all the moisture she just put on her skin.
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