How to fix dry skin in five easy steps: our beauty editor's guide

Sore, flaky, itchy and scaly skin can be frustrating. Here's how to fix dry skin, for good....

November skincare month - fix dry skin
(Image credit: Future)

There’s no denying the joy the change in seasons can bring. But while balmy afternoons spent in the park during the summer months, or crisp, chilly afternoon walks in winter are undeniably good for the soul, your dry skin won’t necessarily thank you for it. Sensitive skin conditions like rosacea can be exacerbated by a change in temperature levels and parched skin can lead to more wrinkles and pesky frown lines in the long run. 

Skipping all the fun activities that might lead to dehydration is no fun, but neither are parched, tight cheeks or puffy eyes, so it’s skincare to the rescue. We reveal how to prevent and quench dry, dehydrated and all-round unhappy skin. 

Dehydrated vs dry skin: what's the difference? 

First up, it’s important to identify if you have dry skin or dehydrated skin. If your skin is normally pretty comfy and you've only noticed a change recently, you’re likely to be suffering from the latter. "There are a number of contributing factors that can cause our skin to change in the summer months – including humidity, sea salt, and swimming pool chemicals," says Consultant Dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth. 

"To compensate for this, our skin pulls moisture from deeper levels. Add alcoholic drinks into the mix and our previously plump, juicy skin cells become dull and dehydrated."

What is dry skin?

Dry skin is a skin-type and long-term problem, caused by having fewer oil-producing glands on the face and body. The most common characteristics are flakiness and rough, scaly texture. For long term dry skin its crucial to the right products for every step of your routine, from cleansers to foundation for dry skin and oil-rich hydrators to keep you feeling comfortable and healthy.

What is dehydrated skin?

Dehydrated skin on the other hand is lacking in water and can be brought on by anything from poor diet, to the lack of moisture in the air. While dehydrated complexions can also show themselves through roughness and flaking, it’s not uncommon to experience over-sensitivity, tightness and break outs too.

How to fix dry skin or dehydrated skin 

The treatments are the same for both dry skin and dehydrated skin, though the period you treat them for is probably different. Dry skin will require ongoing care, the treatment of dehydrated skin should hopefully be temporary.

Because dry and dehydrated skin is suffering from a shortage of water, you need to reincorporate that missing moisture through your skincare routine. If your skin feels parched, layers of light hydration are better than one thick moisturiser. You’ll feel comfy and plumped but not overloaded.

Treat dehydrated, dry skin in 5 easy steps

1. Try a Hyaluronic Acid serum, morning and night 

Start by stocking up on hero hydrators! With a single molecule holding up to 1000 times its own weight in water, hyaluronic acid is our first port of call for rehydrating thirsty skin. It helps strengthen your skin’s barrier function too, not just adding moisture but making sure your skin clings onto it. 

HA is perfect for anyone who doesn’t like the feel of thick creams and balms, hyaluronic acid tends to be nice and light in texture – especially important if your skin is naturally oily but in a temporary dry spell. Try using a hyaluronic acid serum before your normal moisturiser, or buy a booster and mix the two together. 

AM: Me+ Hyaluronic Booster


This hydrating serum is affordable, yet does the job perfectly. You don't need to spend a fortune to have a good skincare routine. The most important thing is to keep your steps regular to fully feel the benefits of your products.

Anew Clinical Anti-Wrinkle Plumping Concentrate

(Image credit: Amazon)

PM: Avon ANEW Clinical Anti-Wrinkle Plumping Concentrate 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid 

RRP: £22.99

Avon's premiere range means business and this nifty night serum is designed to reduce wrinkles while you sleep. Pop on before your usual nightly moisturiser to reap the benefits in the morning. 

2. Look for Ceramides

Ceramides are next in the queue. Like hyaluronic acid, they’re naturally occurring in the skin (making up over 50% of it) but they play a more important role in protecting your skin from the elements. Ceramides are essentially a type of fatty molecule called a lipid, which work to hold your skin cells together. Imagine the top layers of your skin as a mosaic floor. If your skin cells are tiles ceramides are the grout keeping everything held together. Our natural ceramide supplies dwindle with age, which can cause sensitivity and dehydration as water escapes, but you can replenish with ceramide skincare. When skin is lacking in ceramides it’s barrier is compromised, meaning not only is your complexion more prone to damage from pollutants and stressors, moisture can escape too.

AM: CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion

RRP: £13

CeraVe is a brilliant brand for both dry and dehydrated skin, with their Facial Moisturising Lotion, £13, Boots, packed full of three different ceramides as well as hyaluronic acid. By flooding skin with much-needed moisture, it will not only feel more comfortable but you’ll find it looks plumper too, with fine lines and wrinkles less prominent.

it Cosmetics Confidence In Your Beauty Sleep

(Image credit: it Cosmetics)

PM: IT Cosmetics Confidence in Your Beauty Sleep Hyaluronic Acid Night Cream with Ceramides

Brilliantly formulated, combining occlusive jojoba oil, ceramides exfoliating lactic acid in a glossy lavender-scented cream. Slather on before bed for perfect morning skin.

3. Exfoliate regularly

It might sound counter-productive to exfoliate when your skin is feeling sore and in need of extra TLC, but hear us out. Not only will buffing away those dead skin cells leave your skin satisfyingly soft, without them in the way your skin will be able to better absorb any moisturiser you slather on. Don’t use anything too abrasive (harsh acids and scratchy large-grained scrubs are off the menu) instead opting for low doses of glycolic acid or gentle polishes.

Indeed Labs noAcid pads

(Image credit: Indeed Labs)

Indeed Labs noAcid Pads

RRP: £19.99

If you’re cautious about introducing acids, Indeed Lab's No Acid Pads, £19.99, Boots, offer the same exfoliating and retexturizing benefits of AHAs with no risk of irritation.

4. Use a gentle foaming cleanser

Over cleansing can be a key cause of dry skin or dehydration. And contrary to what we are lead to believe, all skin types, including dry and dehydrated skin, can be prone to breakouts. When this happens resist the urge to bring out the astringent, skin-stripping spot treatments of your teens and instead focus on rehydrating the skin. I

t’s tempting to over-wash your face if your suffering from spots, but morning and night is enough. Any more and you run the risk of robbing skin of the extra hydration your moisturiser is providing.

Kiehl's Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash

(Image credit: Kiehl's )

Kiehl's Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash

RRP: £25.50

Kiehl's Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash, £25.50, is great, giving the satisfaction of a foam with none of uncomfortable tightness.

5. Avoid hot water

Whilst it’s sub-zero outside and almost-sweltering with central heating inside, this confusion of temperatures is one of the main causes of dehydrated winter skin. And lounging in a steamy bath after spending time in the cold won’t make matters any better. 

To avoid further drying out your skin, keep the temperature of your taps warm rather than hot. Too-hot water can irritate rosacea too, so you’re also likely to notice an improvement in flare-ups when washing with cooler temperatures.

Jess Beech is an experienced fashion and beauty editor, with more than eight years experience in the publishing industry. She has written for woman&home, GoodtoKnow, Now, Woman, Woman’s Weekly, Woman’s Own and Chat, and is a former Deputy Fashion & Beauty Editor at Future PLC. A beauty obsessive, Jess has tried everything from cryotherapy to chemical peels (minus the Samantha in Sex and The City-worthy redness) and interviewed experts including Jo Malone and Trinny Woodall.