Another issue with scrubs: “It’s hard to control the degree of exfoliation and most people end up using too much or scrubbing with too much force,” she adds, all of which can do extra damage to your skin barrier (and, again, make it less effective at holding onto water).
Instead, try this: The solution isn’t to avoid exfoliating altogether—you’d be missing out on some pretty cool benefits like removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores. Rather than reaching for the walnut or sugar scrub, though, Kally Papantoniou, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, recommends chemical exfoliants—specifically, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid or lactic acid. In short, AHAs work by loosening up the bonds (or “glue”) holding dead skin cells together, making it easier to shed them off.5
Just make sure to patch test before applying any acids all over your face, suggests the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in order to avoid irritation or a potential allergic reaction. Some products to try:
4. You’re removing makeup with wipes.
On lazy Sunday evenings (or busy Monday nights), washing your face or double cleansing can feel like a real chore. As tempting as it is to grab a disposable wipe to swiftly remove mascara, foundation, and sunscreen, though, this convenient habit could be the reason your skin feels so dry, according to Dr. Hu.
First, a cleansing cloth alone isn’t always enough to get rid of makeup or dirt, which, if left behind, can clog your pores and lead to breakouts.6 Plus, the friction from rubbing anything across your cheeks, forehead, and delicate eye area can damage your skin barrier and yep, dry it out, Dr. Hu says. (Not to mention the fact that wipes often contain those potentially problematic added fragrances we already warned you about.)
Instead, try this: Using a gentle face wash with soothing ingredients (niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin are good choices) is key to avoiding further dehydration, Dr. Papantoniou says. Ideally, your cleanser of choice should say things like “gentle,” “creamy,” or “moisturizing” on the label.
For extra-dry skin types, oil-based cleansers may be the way to go since they typically don’t contain surfactants (harsh chemical compounds often found in detergents or foaming products). However, it’s worth noting that oils can also clog your pores. So, especially if you’re acne-prone, consider keeping it simple with a mild wash—preferably one that says “noncomedogenic” on the label, Dr. Hu advises.
Finally, when a cleanser alone isn’t enough to remove persistent or waterproof makeup, Dr. Kirkorian suggests massaging your face with Vaseline, a product with only one ingredient (petrolatum), before cleansing. This method, she says, is less aggressive than using wipes. We totally get it if Vaseline is too greasy for you, though, so another great and gentle option is micellar water, which contains purified water and hydrating micelles (clusters of molecules that bind to oil).7
5. You’re over-cleansing your face.
Wait—before you proceed with your face wash or micellar water, just know that there is such a thing as too much cleansing when it comes to dry and itchy skin. “There’s this misconception that you need to wash your face intensely and frequently to keep it clean, and doing so too often can also remove the skin’s natural moisturizing oils,” Dr. Kirkorian says.8