Product Watch: Looking after your skin

Rachel Marie Walsh debunks some of the top myths associated with dry skin – and has all the products and advice you need to help restore moisture levels.

Myth #1 Higher price = superior hydration

There’s good and bad skincare at every price point so don’t feel you’re neglecting your skin if paying €100-plus for a jar of cream seems unreasonable. The true worth of a product is down to formulation.

Avoiding high concentrations of fragrance, fragrant natural extracts (eucalyptus, lavender, bergamot, and any other essential oils you’d find in perfume) is advisable when shopping for any skin-type but dry skin, with its depleted hydrolipidic (natural moisture) barrier, is especially vulnerable to irritants and allergens. Non-fatty alcohols (listed on packaging as alcohol denat, SD alcohol or simply as alcohol) are drying, sensitising ingredients, often included to help make a cream feel thinner and quicker to penetrate the skin.

Convenience is not worth these damaging effects, especially when you struggle with dryness. Moreover, there are non-irritating means of making a product feel light and silky, so if you see any of the above alcohols are in a product you’re considering do keep looking!

Beyond a gentle cleanser and exfoliant, dry types should seek out two kinds of products: serums that can actively repair their weak hydrolipidic barrier and moisturisers that can support and temporarily replicate its function (to retain moisture and protect naturally-occurring, plumping lipids like ceramides). The latter are best described as “barrier”creams and should be reapplied often.

Their supportive, non-irritating ingredients usually include some combination of tryglicerides, palmitates, stearates, glycerin, lanolin, mineral oil, white soft paraffin, cocoa butter, and shea butter.

Barrier creams are generally inexpensive and feel quite rich. Good options for the body, such as those by E45, Cetraben and Cetaphil, will be familiar to many. For the face, I like Eucerin Atocontrol Face Care Cream, €15, La Roche Posay Toleriane Riche, €17.99, and Bioderma Sensibio AR Creme Anti-Rougeurs, €15.

To actively repair dry, damaged skin, choose serums with high concentrations of proven ingredients like niacinamide, resveratrol, allantoin, Vitamin C, tocopherol, hyaluronic acid, and green or white tea. Some active ingredients feel uncomfortable on broken skin.

If you suffer from eczema or one of its ugly cousins, be sure to avoid applying them on broken or inflamed areas until skin is healed/calm. Serum is usually among the most expensive items in any skincare range, as it often contains high concentrations of antioxidants barely diluted by water or the cheaper base ingredients found in moisturiser.

Good dry-skin serums on the low-price end of the spectrum include Andalou Naturals Fruit Stem Cells Revitalize Serum, €23.56, Andalou Naturals Turmeric + C Enlighten Serum, €23.56, Olay Regenerist 3 Point Super Firming Moisturiser SPF30, €32.49, and Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum, €25.79.

Product Watch: Looking after your skin

Myth #2 Dryness causes wrinkles

This is an easy assumption to make, especially as coarse skin does not make you feel youthful. Dry skin can also be dull, even if you are otherwise healthy.

Wrinkles, however, are not caused by dryness but sun damage (the kingpin of premature ageing), oestrogen loss, long-term muscle movement, fat depletion, and poor lifestyle choices (smoking and a high-sugar diet are bold-type baddies). Any super-fine lines you see in very dry areas are not the same as wrinkles. The latter does not disappear with a good moisturising regime and/or the medication and lifestyle changes that improve inflamed dry-skin conditions.

Myth #3 You should just scrub off dry, flaky skin

This myth really is worth debunking, as using the wrong exfoliant can exacerbate dry skin problems almost as much as forgoing the daily sun protection that creates ideal conditions for repair. Exfoliating skin of any type should never be aggressive. Scrubs that employ bamboo, walnut or salt particles can damage the hydrolipidic barrier, making it more difficult for skin to maintain healthy moisture levels and encouraging pro-wrinkle lipid loss.

These negative effects are intensified if a scrub also contains the irritating ingredients mentioned above. Even the gentler polyethylene-based scrubs, while useful cleansers when irritant-free, don’t make efficient work of clearing dead cells, fading red marks, and stimulating healthy new cell development.

For these benefits and more, I suggest an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta hydroxy acid (BHA) lotion with added antioxidants and soothing extracts. AHAs are best for dry, sun-damaged skin but a BHA serum is a better choice if your skin is also sensitive.

Again, avoid using active exfoliants on broken or inflamed skin. My favourite AHA products are DHC Renewing AHA Cream, €41.95 @feelunique.com and Olay Regenerist Night Renewal Elixir, €39.92. Smashbox Photo Finish More Than A Primer Salicylic Acid Treatment, €34.50 is a great BHA choice.

Myth #4 Drinking more water helps

Dry skin and dehydration are very different. As discussed, dry skin is usually down to a reduction in skin’s ability to retain moisture due to natural-barrier depletion.

The problem can also be correlated to an extreme dry-skin condition (eczema, lichen, etc), or an offshoot of pathological maladies like diabetes, hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Drugs like diuretics and systemic retinoids can cause dryness. Low-temperature, low-humidity environments are drying, as is blasting the AC. Hot baths, somewhat counterintuitively and even with moisturising bubbles, can sap skin’s natural oils and exacerbate dryness. Drying skincare ingredients don’t help. None of these catalysts are inhibited by guzzling VOSS.

A great dry skincare regime begins with a gentle cleanser like First Aid Beauty Milk-Oil Conditioning Cleanser, €23.38 @feelunique.com.

There are so many excellent reparative serums tailored to dry skin. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic, €150, Estée Lauder Perfectionist CP+R Serum, €70, and Murad Perfecting Serum, €40.02, are among my favourites, though all of the cheaper options mentioned above are excellent.

My go-to moisturiser for dry skin is Clinique Super Rescue Antioxidant Night Moisturiser, €54, which is light enough for daytime. Exfoliate two to three times weekly.

Maximise the benefits of these products and help prevent further dryness by wearing broad-spectrum 25 or higher every day. It is the most effective anti-ageing product you’ll ever buy.


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