In this article I’m going to talk about the best ingredients for dry skin.
Dry skin is something that can pop up at any point in your life. If you use too many skin care products or you over exfoliate, that impairs the moisture barrier, you lose more water out of the skin and skin becomes dry and more prone to irritation.
When the skin becomes more prone to irritation you’re more likely to suffer things like acne flares.
If you have a dry skin condition like keratosis pylaris, eczema then you’re really going to have to be mindful of your moisture barrier and using these ingredients will help you long term.
With age our skin is not as efficient at producing natural moisturizing factors, making us more prone to dry skin. You may notice that as you get into your older years, the skincare products and ingredients that you used to use are no longer serving you as well and your skin is more prone to dryness.
These ingredients may help you out. Don’t skip this article if you have oily skin. People with oily skin can also have dry skin.
Oil is sebum that comes out of our sebaceous gland within the pore and you can have oily skin but you can also have an impaired moisture barrier, leading to dryness.
The oil doesn’t necessarily reduce trans epidermal water loss and keep the skin hydrated. That’s why a lot of people have oily skin that’s sensitive, because they have an impaired moisture barrier and they’re prone actually to dryness.
That’s also why some people with acne find that their skin is really dry and overall a lot more sensitive to some of the drying active ingredients used to treat acne.
Table of Contents
Ingredient number one is urea. It is a humectant, it’s actually part of our natural moisturizing factors in our skin but it can be man-made and put into moisturizing products.
When applied to the skin, it first and foremost acts as a humectant, meaning it pulls water from the atmosphere into the top dead layer of the skin, hydrating that that layer up, improving moisture retention, smoothing out the look of wrinkles and fine lines.
But importantly urea is also a keratolytic and what that means is it breaks up the glue between dead skin cells, facilitating their turnover and shedding, so that the moisture can better penetrate the skin into the deeper layers of the skin, ultimately improving moisture retention long term.
Another benefit of using urea in skin care products, especially those that you’re using on your feet, is it has antifungal properties, meaning it can help if you deal with toenail fungus.
Speaking of nails, not only is urea good for dry skin, but it’s really good for dry brittle nails. It can actually help hydrate the nail plate and improve the strength of the nails when used on your hands and on your feet.
I recommend Eucerin roughness relief cream. This has urea in it, it’s very thick. This is also a particularly fantastic product if you deal with keratosis pylaris, that dry skin condition where you have the rough and bumpy skin on the upper arms, the upper thighs, it can happen anywhere on the body.
This particular product is very heavy and so in the sense that you may not find it comfortable to wear on the face, I would suggest instead as an alternative for the face the Ordinary’s natural moisturizing factor. That’s a great facial moisturizer that has urea.
This product or other urea creams are also really good for your hands to keep them moisturized and looking more radiant, more youthful and it’s going to benefit your nails. If you like to paint your nails, the urea will help ultimately smooth out the surface of the nail plate and allow your nail polish to go on better.
Urea is also a really good ingredient if you are somebody who paints your nails a lot. What can happen when you paint the nails a lot is it blocks the transfer of moisture in the nail polish and that’s why people who paint their nails a lot often find themselves getting brittle nails or more susceptible to ingrown nails.
So taking a break from your nail polish for a while, like a week or so, and using a urea based hand cream or moisturizer can really help hydrate up that nail plate and restore it back to its regular moisture content and ultimately help the health of the nails long term.
Ingredient number two are ceramides.
Ceramides are part of our natural skin barrier. If you think about this the top layer of the skin, you have the skin cells which are like bricks and then you have all of this stuff in between, which you can think of as a mortar and a big part of that is going to be ceramides.
Ceramides are very important for the integrity of the moisture barrier and long term that is really important not only for keeping your skin hydrated and keeping moisture within the skin, but also for keeping irritating things out and infectious things out, like fungus and bacteria.
People with eczema often have a deficiency in ceramides and that’s why they’re prone to water loss out of the skin but actually anybody can have a disruption in ceramides within their skin.
Using too many irritating skin care products, over exfoliating and when you start to get into your 30s and 40s, you make fewer ceramides and that’s why you’re often more prone to dryness, irritation, symptoms of stinging and burning.
There’s a fair amount of data showing that ceramides in moisturizing creams when applied to the skin can actually help your skin begin to replenish its own ceramides and ultimately improve barrier function.
There’s also some data to suggest that applying ceramides to the skin can help in fighting off some of the free radical damage that happens as a result of environmental stressors, like ultraviolet radiation.
There’s a lot of confusion about ceramides as ingredients in skincare products.
On labels you’ll see them labeled as ceramide AP, ceramide NP or ceramide EOP, to name a few. There are actually nine different ceramides and they differ based on their carbon chain length, but honestly it doesn’t really matter what type of ceramide is in the product. They all basically do the same thing and they all can help equally to begin to clear your skin and restoring the moisture barrier.
Ii’m a huge fan of CeraVe. They’ve actually been doing ceramides in skincare products for a long time. But they’re not the only ones who put ceramides in their products.
Ingredient number three for dry skin, arguably one of the best, is petrolatum. Nothing compares to petrolatum when it comes to reducing water loss out of the skin.
Petrolatum is also very good at promoting healing, so if you do have eczema, for example, and you’ve got raw, rashy skin, petrolatum is fantastic, it will create a barrier to irritating things getting into the skin and water loss out and help with facilitating healing.
Petrolatum gets a lot of bad rap, especially from the clean beauty marketing, but it’s been an ingredient that we’ve been recommending for decades and decades, since the early 1900s.
It’s a very safe ingredient, it’s very good on protecting the healing site and allowing for the new skin cells to migrate into the wound and close things up.
You will see it incorporated into moisturizing creams along with other good ingredients for dry skin.
Vaseline is just petrolatum alone and it’s a great ingredient for just spot remedying dry skin and reducing water loss out of the skin. It’s also really good because you can’t develop an allergy to it.
People worry that it’s going to clog their pores but it doesn’t clog pores. That is a myth and in fact it’s actually very good for people who have acne prone skin because it really does such a good job at addressing that moisture barrier.
Petrolatum is a mixture of mineral oil and waxes and the petrolatum in skin care products is very refined, you don’t have to worry about contaminants. Nothing compares to it.
Ingredient number four is actually related to petrolatum and that is mineral oil.
Mineral oil is a colorless, odorless compound derived from petrolatum.
What’s nice about it, it sits on the surface of the skin, smooths down skin cell edges and traps in water into the skin, but it can’t
actually penetrate into your skin.
It’s very unlikely to cause any kind of irritation. You can’t become allergic to mineral oil. It’s not something that your immune
system cares about and it’s also very stable, it doesn’t go bad unlike vegetable oils which can oxidize, become rancid.
Mineral oil gets such a bad wrap but truthfully it’s a lot safer than many plant oils because plant oils are not a pure substance like mineral oil and they can have compounds in them that are allergens.
As I mentioned, it doesn’t get into skin, it doesn’t penetrate the skin, it’s a large compound, just sits on the surface of the skin.
Mineral oil is in a lot of skin care products.
I’ve been using Uriage xemose cream for a while now. It does a nice job of preventing dry skin and helping dry skin, but it also gives the skin a nice healthy glow, smooths down those skin cell edges.
The final ingredient for those of you who are in that category of oily plus dry and that is dimethicone. Or really any silicone, but I would say dimethicone is the most common.
Dimethicone is a derivative of silicon, which is a natural ingredient from the earth. It is really nice in the sense that it smooths down skin cell edges, it’s super lightweight, so for people with oily skin, who have their own oils on the surface of the skin, it doesn’t make them feel greasy.
That is one downside of petrolatum and mineral oil is that for people with oily skin they feel very greasy and uncomfortable to use those ingredients.
Try dimethicone. It is wonderful.
The other nice thing about dimethicone is that it actually allows your sweat to evaporate. That’s another downside of petrolatum and mineral oil. Because they sit on the surface of the skin, your sweat doesn’t evaporate and that can end up making you feel hotter, especially if you’re outside and it’s hot.
Dimethicone is nice in the sense that it allows for evaporation of sweat.
I’m actually rather fond of it in sunscreens. Most of the sunscreens that I use have dimethicone or some sort of silicone and I think that makes them a lot more breathable and lightweight.
But it also does a really good job of reducing water loss out of the skin, without feeling heavy or greasy.
Dimethicone is often found in products labeled oil free. This is why we always direct people with oily acne-prone skin to choose oil-free moisturizers.
We direct them to these products because they feel better for people with oily skin. Silicones do not clog pores or they’re not
responsible for breaking people out. These are all myths and misconceptions.
Another advantage of dimethicone, partially because it allows for the evaporation of sweat, is that it doesn’t tend to make people
look shiny, which is really bad for people with oily skin. They already look shiny as a result of their natural oils on the surface of their skin, and then if they use a moisturizer with petrolatum or mineral oil, it’s going to make them look even shinier.
Dimethicone doesn’t do that.
Dimethicone is also FDA approved as a skin protectant, so it really does a great job reducing water loss out of the skin and
acting as a barrier to things getting in.
Those are the five best ingredients for dry skin.
Rebecca is a licensed aesthetician and certified laser technician with almost 15 years experience in the dermatology. Her life-long passion is making people look good and happy.