How to truly hydrate skin

Hi Dr. Irwin, I am in my early thirties and have what seems to be severely, dehydrated skin. I am also oily. Not a great combination. I am struggling with the dehydration the most, right now. My skin is very tight, shiny, etc. Although oddly, it's not peeling much (it has in the past). I am currently using Skinceuticals Replenishing Cleanser, SkinMedica HA5 Rejuvenating Hydrator, and Skinceuticals Daily Moisture. I use all three both in the morning and at night. I am even using a silk pillowcase, take Olly vitamins for skin daily, and use a humidifier nightly. I have been getting an ultrasonic facial monthly for the past three months, but may switch and try a hydrafacial. My goal with the facials is to not only provide more hydration, but to also unclog my pores since I am not sure what products to use on a regular basis without stripping my skin and contributing to the dehydration. I feel like I am doing everything right in order to hydrate my skin - but NOTHING is working. Any advice would be truly appreciated. Thank you for all that you do.

This is one of the most confusing areas in skin care for people. Skin hydration is controlled by different factors. Here’s what is most important.

How to Super-hydrate your Skin:

  • First – don’t over scrub or exfoliate too much. It’s a fine line between just enough and too much. Too much and your skin will be drier and more easily irritated. If you’re not sure, try stopping your tretinoin, retinol, Retin A, scrubs, all glycolics, or alpha/beta hydroxyl acids, etc.  for 1-2 weeks. Just moisturize, sunscreen and maybe your antioxidant. Does your skin look better? If yes, then you are over exfoliating.
  • Consider stopping all products for 1-2 weeks except a very bland CeraVe cleanser and CeraVe cream. If you are better, it usually means you are being irritated by one of your skin care products. Once you are back to normal, add your products back one at a time a week apart.  Usually you can identify the culprit this way. This may be you!
  • Try layering your products morning and night (you are already doing this). Gentle cleanser, antioxidant, moisturizer, sunscreen in the AM. And PM: gentle cleanse, moisturizer, retinol (for example), more moisturizer, if needed.
  • Try a light, organic facial oil. There are many good ones out there.
  • Try going all organic for a month. There’s a lot of science in your products above… but there are also a lot of chemicals. You may be one of those who does better chemical free.

Fun with Science!

  1. The thickness of the outer barrier layer (stratum corneum), can really vary. This layer help to protect the more delicate under layers from environmental damage, including UV rays to some extent. It also gets thicker with age and can make skin look “dull” when too thick. Too little isn’t great, but neither is too much.
  2. The amount of internal hydration. And this generally means water! Not thinking here that coke, coffee, sugary juices, or cocktails qualify.  🙂  You can actually measure a change in skin impedance (the flow of energy like sound wave through the skin). Better flow with more hydration.
  3. The quality and amount of natural lipids (fats) in the skin. Also, you can add these to your skin with creams containing ceramides, certain cholesterols, etc.
  4. Water is lost through the skin (transepidermal water loss). The more you can minimize this, the more hydrated your skin will be. See #3 also.
Moisturizers to try.

Hope this helps, Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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