Healthy Skin

The best skincare products for dry skin

Wondering what the best skincare products are for dry skin? Alice Hart-Davis, a journalist, author and aesthetics expert, explains why repairing our skin’s barrier is the secret to saving a dry complexion. She also shares her go-to routine and reveals the products she wouldn’t be without.

What causes dry and rough skin?

A whole host of things can cause dry and rough skin. For one thing, your genes may mean your skin doesn’t produce so much sebum (the skin’s natural oil). Sebum is what keeps the skin barrier feeling comfortable and enables the skin to hold onto moisture. Washing the skin dries it out, particularly if you use hot water, and even more so if you use a face wash that strips oil out of the skin (foaming facial washes can be bad for this).

Ageing doesn’t help, either. As we get older, our skin makes less of its own hyaluronic acid, the naturally occurring substance that holds many times its own weight in water and which helps the
skin hold onto moisture. And once the skin barrier is in trouble, or ‘compromised’, then water escapes from the skin into the air faster than it should, which dries the skin out further.

Why is my skin dry even when I moisturise?

Healthy skin, with a barrier that is in good condition, keeps itself moist by producing natural moisturising factors (NMFs) so it shouldn’t be dry. Once your skin has become dry, putting moisturiser onto it will certainly help, and it feels good, but it’s like putting a sticking-plaster on the problem. You need to look at your skin’s health, the way it’s working, and try to address the underlying cause of dryness.

There’s an idea that using moisturisers again and again can actually make your skin dependent on them. Your skin becomes ‘lazy’ and stops hydrating itself. This means you become increasingly reliant on moisturiser.

The best skincare products for dry skin

Cleanse and tone

Start by using a gentle cleanser that isn’t going to upset your skin barrier, such as Priori Gentle Cleanser LCA fx110 (£29,

If you know your skin’s up to it and it’s just rough and dull rather than being particularly sensitive, you could try using an exfoliating cleanser such as NeoStrata Foaming Glycolic Wash (£30, An exfoliating acid toner can also be great for making rough skin appear smoother and more luminous, but again, only use this when your skin is up to it and start by applying just twice a week.

Opt for a serum

Hydrating serums will plump up your skin and nourish it more deeply. This will help to make your skin less dry, and will also soften and smooth the texture, as plumper skin cells reflect light back more evenly.

Combined with the acid exfoliation you’re getting, this should be exactly what you need.

Try a retinoid

In the evenings, try a retinoid if your skin is able to handle it. Though famously irritating, they are great for all-round skin regeneration and are hydrating too as they increase the deposition of glycosaminoglycans such as hyaluronic acid in your skin tissue. Medik8 Crystal Retinal 1(£39, gives the sort of results you see from prescriptionlevel treatment – stronger skin with more collagen and elastin, a brighter complexion with more even pigmentation, a softening of lines and wrinkles, and a clearing of spots and congestion. There’s hyaluronic acid, glycerin and vitamin E here too, to keep your skin hydrated while this regeneration is going on.

Medik8’s Crystal Retinal range is a ‘step-up’ system; once your skin is acclimatised to level one – which will take a tube or two – you can move up to level three.

Prefer a peptide?

If your skin really doesn’t like retinoids, opt for a peptide serum instead. Peptides are chains of protein molecules which act like chemical messengers that switch on useful processes within the
skin, like collagen repair. Peptide molecules are large and difficult to get into the skin, but Medik8 Liquid Peptides Complex (£45, has an intelligent delivery system to get the ingredients where they are needed.

Complete your routine

Finish your routine with a moisturiser full of skin-friendly lipids such as ceramides. These will help to rebuild the waterproof lipid layer of your skin barrier and help to address the problems causing your skin to be rough and dry in the first place. I like Clinical Moisturising Complex (£74, as it contains a whole bunch of top-quality ingredients including hyaluronic acid, to hold and bind water into the skin; soluble collagen to firm and smooth the outer layers of the skin; jojoba oil which acts as an emollient, to hold hydration in the skin; plus vitamin B5 and antioxidants – which together hydrate and soothe the skin.

Read more articles like this