‘I’m a Dermatologist, and This Type of Product Makes Dry Skin Even Drier’

If you've got dry skin, you probably already know that you should be slathering on hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and ceramides, to help keep it quenched. What you may not realize, though, is that even the most moisturizing routine can be rendered obsolete if it's got even a single skin-drying product in it. Which is why if you're dealing with dryness, board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, is begging you to stay far, far away from botanical exfoliants.

In the latest episode of Dear Derm, Dr. Gohara reviews one Well+Good reader's go-to dry skin regimen—and there's one type of product in particular that she says isn't worth the shelf space it takes up. "I don’t like botanical scrubs," she says after finding out that the reader uses one three times a week as an exfoliant. "I don’t like scrubs and I don’t like anything botanical, because both of those things can dry out your skin, independently. And when you use them together it’s like a one-way ticket to dry-ville."

Experts In This Article
  • Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University

Exfoliation is important for clearing away dry skin cells from the surface of your skin so that your other products can penetrate more deeply, but instead of using a scrub, Dr. Gohara suggests using chemical exfoliating ingredients like alpha- and beta-hydroxy acids. And if you've got dry skin, you should limit your exfoliating step to once weekly. "If you want an extra step after your cleanser, you can use a salicylic acid toner, but since salicylic acid is an exfoliant and also helps cut through the oils in your skin, it will probably dry things out a little bit," she says. You can also use a gentle AHA, like lactic or malic acid, which tend to be less irritating than other acids on dry complexions. And on nights when you aren't using your exfoliant, swap in a hyaluronic acid serum—which acts as a humectant to pull moisture into your skin— for some added hydration.

To see what other products Dr. Gohara suggests for dry skin (and which ones she wants you to promise never to use again), press play on the video above or shop some beauty editor recommendations here:

Murad Clarifying Cleanser — $49.00

Dr. Gohara’s first tip is to exfoliate only once a week with a salicylic acid cleanser. This Murad cleanser actually features two types of salicylic acid – one that is more fast acting and one more focused on long term benefits. Remember that exfoliation can be an important part of the routine, but as this ingredient and the act of exfoliation can be drying, limiting to once a week or once every two weeks depending on your skin is a good idea.

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides — $12.00

Tip number two is to use a night cream with the super-moisturizing power ingredients hyaluronic acid and ceramides. This gentle moisturizer from CeraVe is perfect for your face, and it can also be used for any dry patches on your body. It’s light and absorbs quickly, making it the perfect addition to your nightly routine.

Shani Darden Retinol Reform — $88.00

Finally, add a retinoid – especially if you are looking to reduce acne scars or fine lines. Retinol can be a harsh ingredient, so use this sparingly and listen to your skin. If you notice drying, you can reduce the amount and frequency you use a retinoid, but when you are using it, it will help to stimulate collagen and speed up cell-turnover.

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