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How to Tell If You Have Dry Skin

Best cleansers, moisturizers and skincare tips for dry skin

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How to Tell If You Have Dry Skin

How to Tell if You Have Dry Skin

Lifesize for Getty

If you have dry skin you likely know it. Your skin feels tight and dehydrated. It takes to moisturizer like a cotton ball takes to water. You may notice that your skin feels drier during certain times of the year or even the month (hello hormones).

In this article, I explain how to tell if you, in fact, have dry skin, and how to combat it.

Dry Skin Characteristics

If your skin feels dehydrated shortly after cleansing, making you reach for the moisturizer, your skin is likely dry. Your pores tend to be small, your skin may be sensitive and you may notice flaky skin if you examine your face in a magnifying mirror.

You can do a patch test by taking a piece of toilet paper and pressing it on newly cleansed skin for a few seconds. If the toilet paper comes away clean, you are lacking some necessary oils that protect skin from dehydration.

Keep in mind that most people's skin changes over the course of a year. You may find you have dry skin in winter and normal skin the rest of the year. This is totally normal.

Causes of Dry Skin

The strangest thing happened to me after I turned 35. All of a sudden, my skin turned as dry as the Sahara Desert. For years, my skin was so oily, I carried blotting papers around with me and I could literally stick a paper napkin on my face and it looked like a napkin does when you put it over a really greasy pizza (well, not really, but you get the picture). 

Does skin go through "a change" as we age? Some women find their skin, which was "oily" in their 20s, turned "combination" in their 30s and "dry" in their 40s. This is normal. As your skin becomes more dry, be sure to change to moisturizing cleansers (I like Pond's I don't care if it was the cleanser of choice for women over 60) and throw out the super-drying toners. Use a night moisturizer before bed (these are usually thicker) and a daytime moisturizer with SPF under your makeup. You can treat different parts of your face. If you find your nose gets oily, but your forehead is always dry, moisturize everywhere but on your nose.

Dry skin is a condition caused by a lack of moisture in the top layers of skin. Dry skin can be caused by external factors such as furnace heat, saunas, sun damage, steam rooms and the over-cleansing of skin. It can also be caused by internal factors such as a change in hormones, or oil glands not properly working.

How to Take Basic Care of Your Skin

The secret to caring for dry skin is in the products you use. It's very important to use a gentle, non-drying, preferably creamy cleanser. Many times dry skin is caused by harsh cleansers. Once you find your perfect cleanser you may find your dry skin has actually become normal. See my list of the best cleansers for the face.

Another key to caring for dry skin is to use a moisturizer that feels great on your skin. A moisturizer that's too water-y won't keep the moisture in and one that's too heavy may actually keep your skin from naturally shedding dead skin cells. Look for something in between that feels great on your skin.

Makeup artist Bobbi Brown recommends layering moisturizers, starting with a lightweight facial oil that will replace the oils naturally lost with dry skin. Over this, apply a creamy moisturizer, which works by locking in moisture. See my list of the 14 Best Facial Moisturizers.

Exfoliation is key to sloughing off dead skin cells that cling to skin and make it appear flaky. You can use all sorts of exfoliating methods on your skin from a simple washcloth dipped in coconut oil, to the Clarisonic skincare brush, to a scrub made from sugar and oils. I tend to use all of these on my own dry skin. Learn more in How to Exfoliate.

Alphy-hydroxy acids (or AHAs) are great for slathering on before moisturizer. This is makeup artist Bobbi Brown's secret when she suffers from dry skin. AHAs work as exfoliants, helping break down dead, dry skin and leaving skin looking brighter and more dewy. Studies also show AHAs may increase the thickness of skin. They come in the form of topical creams and chemical peels and the most common AHAs are made from food products. You can use a milder cream every day. Great over-the-counter AHAs include Avon Anew Clinical Advanced Retexturizing Peel (buy it online at Avon.com) and Neutrogena Healthy Skin Face Lotion.

. Don't miss my other tips on basic dry skin care in Dry Skin? 25 of My Best Itchy Skin Fixes

Best Makeup for Dry Skin

The key to makeup and dry skin is to always prep skin with moisturizer. Moisturizer plumps up skin and allows the makeup to go on smoothly. Primers work just as well. After you apply sunscreen, slather on the moisturizer. Moisturizer should always precede foundation or tinted moisturizer and concealer. If you skip the moisturizer, your makeup could appear cakey.

I also recommend cream-based blushes instead of powders. If you find the areas around the eye can become cakey from concealer, apply an eye cream or foundation before dotting on concealer.

Just because you have dry skin doesn't mean you have to give up powders. When choosing a powder, opt for a yellow-based color and stay away from translucent powders, which aren't translucent at all.

Special Intensive Treatments You Can Try

Moisturizing masks can do wonders for your face. In have several homemade recipes created just for dry skin. See Face Mask & Scrub Recipes for Dry, Chapped Skin.

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