Winter Skin Care

Derms Say “Moisturizer Layering” Is the Fastest Way to Hydrate Skin That’s Dry All the Time

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty/Lisette Poole
Using a moisturizer is the most important step in any dry skin routine. It delivers hydration, seals important natural oils into the skin, and strengthens the barrier so that it can better defend itself from the (harsh! cold!) environment. But every once in a while, particularly when the weather gets extra cold and dry, your regular cream just won't cut it on its own. In those cases, says board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, you're going to want to double down.

And before you even think about applying any product, make sure to always start with damp skin so that the products can be best absorbed by your skin. Regardless of what moisturizing products are in your lineup, make sure to start your application with the lightest consistency first (think serums), and then begin to layer the other products on, building in heaviness (oils should be last!). Don't forget to show your décolletage some TLC as well as it often gets overlooked.

"Just like you think about layering your clothes, you're going to want to think about layering your moisturizer," she says. To start, you're going to want to look for products that have wide-ranging ingredients, like squalane, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides that can benefit skin in different, yet complementary ways.  If you're finding skin to be particularly dry, make certain that whatever moisturizer you're reaching for is a heavy cream versus a lighter lotion. You'll also want to avoid products with sulfates, which are typically found in cleansers.

To enhance the moisture in your skin even more, derms suggest "moisturizer layering" aka using a moisturizing ingredient in every skin-care step you complete. Start with a serum, then slather on a moisturizer, and finish with a facial oil as the final step in your routine. Topping everything off with an occlusive oil helps to seal all of that hydration in, and prevents any H2O from evaporating back into the environment. Don't forget you can also improve the health and appearance of your skin by eating foods like cucumbers for hydration, seaweed for blood flow and radiance, and papaya for skin repair and brightening properties.

While in most cases, using too many products on your skin may not be the best idea, in the case of hydration for those with the driest skin types, the "more-is-more" method is the best. Double down on the products below, and check out this video for more intel on how to keep skin happy:

L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum, $18

how to hydrate skin fast

As far as hydrating drugstore serums go, this stuff is the best of the best—it's no wonder a bottle of it sells every minute in the United States. Your skin will slurp it right up, and it doesn't leave any sort of sticky residue behind. Because hyaluronic acid is a moisture magnet, it binds to the water within skin to keep it there.

Shop now: L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Derm Intensives Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum, $18

Avène Skin Recovery Cream, $35

how to hydrate skin fast

Packed with squalane and glycerin, this evening moisturizer is great to layer on morning and at night. It's ultra-gentle and great for calming redness (and even rosacea), and also has amino acids that will help keep your skin barrier strong.

Shop now: Avène Skin Recovery Cream, $35

No7 Instant Results Nourishing Hydration Face Mask, $15

dermatologist drugstore skincare routine

Thanks to its skin-similar lipids—which are critical in keeping the skin barrier strong—this mask both delivers and locks in moisture. It's a great option to use at night to add a little extra boost of hydration.

Shop now: No7 Instant Results Nourishing Hydration Face Mask, $15

Farmacy Honey Grail Ultra-Hydrating Face Oil, $48

For the final step in your routine, add this hydrating—but non-comedogenic—oil into the mix. It's made with natural ingredients like buckwheat honey and sea buckthorn oil, which are packed with antioxidants and omega fatty acids to deliver moisture and support skin against free-radical damage. Plus, thanks to its five-flower oil blend, it will leave your face smelling like springtime even in the darkest days of winter.

how to hydrate skin fast

Shop now: Farmacy Honey Grail Ultra-Hydrating Face Oil, $48

These are the biggest mistakes derms see people making with their dry skin, plus the post-shower mistake that might be behind all that dehydration.

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