Lab notes  /  Ingredients  /  The Best (and Worst) Ingredients for Ultra Dry Skin

The Best (and Worst) Ingredients for Ultra Dry Skin

Renude expert Melody shares her top tips for supporting ultra dry skin

Melody CarlRenude Skin Expert
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Melody Carl
Written byMelody CarlRenude Skin Expert
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What is ultra-dry skin?

Ultra-dry skin is a condition most of us will experience at some point in our life (and perhaps have recently since washing our hands 467 times a day during the pandemic!). Ultra-dry skin is characterised by tight, flaky, red, and itchy skin. When experiencing ultra dry skin you may have one or more of these symptoms. It is something which is experienced temporarily, when the skin is off-balance, or can be more chronic.

What causes skin dryness?

Skin that is ultra-dry is lacking oils in the outer layers. In healthy skin, these oils trap moisture in the skin and keep the skin supple and hydrated. In dry skin, this lack of oils leads to the skin barrier becoming impaired as the skin cells are not bound together as effectively, resulting in tiny cracks forming on the skin’s surface. This leads to accelerated water loss through the skin, drying the skin out even further, as well as causing the skin to become flaky. This also means substances can get into the skin more easily, and ingredients that didn’t irritate when the barrier was intact may now irritate, so we need to be extra careful with our skincare if we are experiencing this. 

Ingredients to support ultra-dry skin:

  • Emollients. These are skin-mimicking oils which help to replace the natural oils which are lacking in the skin. Good examples of this are squalane & jojoba oil.

  • Occlusives.  These form a barrier on the skin’s surface which stops water from evaporating through the skin, and allows the skin to repair itself underneath. Examples of these oils are borage oil, olive oil, and mineral oil.

  • Humectants. Whilst these won’t help to repair the skin barrier in ultra-dry skin, they can add lost hydration which has evaporated through the skin’s surface when used in combination with emollients and occlusives. Examples here are glycerin, hyaluronic acid and urea.

A well-formulated barrier cream should contain all three and is your best bet for preventing water loss and allowing the barrier to repair itself. 

 Ingredients to avoid in ultra-dry skin:

  • Fragrance. This is especially true of natural or essential-oil-based fragrances, which often contain fragrance allergens as part of the natural oil extract. When the skin barrier is compromised, these are more likely to cause irritation to the skin.

  • Surfactants. These are the cleansing agents that make face wash foam, but if the barrier is compromised they can make things worse. Instead, opt for a non-foaming cleanser (cream/oil/gel) which will help nourish and support the skin.

  • Salicylic acid. This popular ingredient is great for oilier skin types, as its oil-soluble nature allows it to penetrate the pore to dissolve excess oil. This is the opposite of what you want for dry skin, so best to avoid this.

  • Retinoids. This superstar group ingredient family is best avoided whilst the skin is ultra dry. When introducing this ingredient it has a drying effect on the skin (the reason is generally unknown but thought to do with it reducing the binding ability of the lipids between skin cells which is already weakened in dry skin).

The good news is you don't have to give up your coveted exfoliants forever. Phew! Once the barrier has been repaired, all you need to do is choose the right one for your skin type and moderate its use. If you have chronic dry skin, AHAs like lactic acid and PHAs like gluconolactone would both be great ingredient options.

To introduce them to the skin use the exfoliant every 3rd day and increase from there. This will give you a baseline of how your skin reacts. Then you can gradually add more days to the exfoliation regime if tolerated by the skin. Everyone's skin has different needs and sensitivities and if exfoliating can only be done 1-2x each week that is ok! 

Environmental factors to consider with ultra-dry skin:

  • Water hardness. Hard water from your taps can leave your skin feeling ultra dry and even aggravate skin conditions such as acne and rosacea. Hard water contains more minerals, and a higher, more alkaline pH (around pH 8.5). This interferes with the protective acid mantle of the skin (naturally around pH 5), which can lead to further dryness. To remedy this problem you can purchase taps that filter out the excess minerals so less of them reach your skin.

  • Air humidity. Winter is the hardest time for ultra-dry skin as the cold snappy air can sting the skin's surface and causes redness and dryness, and having the heating on the inside can dry out our living environment. When the surrounding air is dry, the skin naturally loses more water via evaporation through the skin, drying out the skin further. Running an air humidifier in the colder months may help to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.

If you’d like any support in building a routine for your skin, our Renude skincare experts are here to help. Start your online consultation here to book a video call with Melody or another of Renude’s licensed skincare experts who will help create a routine which is perfect for your skin’s needs.

Melody CarlRenude Skin Expert
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