In my professional opinion, most people don't hydrate properly for good healthy skin function. If you live in areas like the Northeast, this is particularly apparent in the Winter season, which challenges our ability to stay hydrated topically and internally. Lately (it's February as I write this) we are seeing a lot more dryness, flaking, congestion, dullness, irritation and inflammatory flare-ups. If you feel more frustrated than usual with your skin lately, I can tell you you're not alone.
But worry not, there is hope. You just need to follow the gospel of good hydration. Incorporate fluids and moisture as Nature intended for the healthy function of your body and your skin. Most people aren't doing this, if what I see in practice is any indication. This is not because they don't want to, it's because they don't know how.
If you have a chronic inflammatory skin disorder (acne, eczema, rosacea, etc) you especially need to take your hydration game to the next level. Here is what I've been advising all, and I mean ALL, of my patients and students all season long, like a broken record:
DRINK: MOISTURIZE FROM INSIDE OUT
I consider this probably the most important move of a good hydrator: proper internal hydration. I'm sure you already know the importance of drinking fluids for good skin. But, did you know that "8 glasses a day is not the way" as the authors of the book Quench say?
If you know me, you know I love this book. If you see me at work, I literally do not shut up about it. When I suggest better hydrating, many patients say to me, "but I drink SO much water!" And then I ask them to take a picture of my Quench book and order it, asap.
You see, chugging water is not the answer. Your body needs you to hydrater smarter, not harder. I refer you to Exhibit Q - Quench to tell you how. It covers different hydration strategies that help you intake fluids such that they actually reach into your cells...where it needs to be to work miracles for your health and skin.
As a preview, did you know that eating a piece of fruit like an apple and drinking a cup of water at the same time gives you more fluid than drinking 2 cups of water? Or, that adding lime/lemon to your water helps it pull into your cells more quickly and better? Did you know that adding a little chia seed to your water or beverage helps your body absorb more of it?
I can personally testify to the effectiveness of these strategies. And, I also hear a lot of great feedback from patients who take on these hydration tips, to name a few: eczema and itching gone or dramatically reduced, far less water bloating and puffiness, more energy and clarity, and of course better looking and feeling skin.
APPLY MORE THAN JUST A CREAM
If you're someone that uses a cream as your sole moisturizer, chances are skin wants more. A cream is fine - as in it's just ok. But if you want your skin transformed, or if you love that natural dewy look and feel - then I suggest you take on a facial mist, aka toner, aka hydrator, aka essence, aka anything that looks and feels like a water based fluid, and doesn't have alcohol.
Like your body, your skin also likes to "drink" fluids, and it just doesn't get enough from a cream. I like facial mists because you can control the amount of fluids you deliver to your skin. In a cream, you only get whatever water content is emulsified with oils to form the cream. With a mist you can apply a little or a lot.
Here are two examples of facial mists, which also happen to me two of my absolute faves that I find are good for pretty much all skin types: Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator and Marie Veronique x Kristina Holey Hypotonic.
After cleansing or rinsing in the morning I have all of my patients apply a facial mist generously (or in the case of Hypotonic apply directly with cotton or gauze pad). I'm talking like atleast 8 pumps of spray onto your face. That is one round. Apply your facial mist or hydrator generously. Your skin should be pretty wet. This is key.
Then work the fluid into your skin. Many who already use mist don't do this step at all, or don't do it well. If you treat your facial mist as you would an oil or cream - and massage it into your skin, you will find it working for you on another level. After one round of applying your hydrating product, check to see if you feel damp. If your skin feels dry within seconds, apply another round of spray, and massage the fluid in again. Keep doing this until your skin can remain damp for about 30-60 seconds.
While your skin is still damp, apply your serum if you use one - or if you are a minimalist, go right for your facial oil. Whenever you apply oil your skin should be damp, this helps it absorb the oil better. And vice versa, the oil helps the fluid penetrate better as well. This has to do with skin chemistry. I like to spray another layer of mist after my serum, and before my oil for this reason.
You only need a few drops - literally try starting with 2-3 drops of oil - and work it in your palms first. Then apply to your face, and massage into your skin well. Feel how it starts to pull into your skin, softening as you penetrate the moisture. If you need more oil because you're dry then add a few more drops. Otherwise, that's probably all you need. If you use 1/2 to one full dropper full of oil - that's way too much for just your face! Apply any remaining residue to your neck and chest. Or, add a few more drops just for these areas.
If your skin is truly the dry type, or if you live in an environment with super low air humidity, then I like to finish with a facial balm or cream. Apply about a pea size into your hands and rub together, pat onto your skin and work it in just a little. This layer helps protect and seal all that juicy moisture you just delivered with your mist and serum/oil.
I find these steps for topical hydration and moisturizing game-changing for skin. It instantly looks better and more importantly, functions better. I've even had many patients comment that their skin looks like they just had a facial, simply from moisturizing this way.
HUMIDIFY THE DRY AIR
Here in the NYC, the cold can be brutal - which makes the indoor heating also brutal in that the air becomes sickly dry. So dry in fact, it's easy to get sick. We are easily parched from all sides - internal and external. You wake up with your throat dry and scratchy, and your skin dry dry dry no matter what you do for it.
Call me a dork if you want, but I love to track humidity levels in the Winter. I have a temp and humidity reader from Muji. I also have humidifiers that read humidity levels. Let me tell you, most of the season my reader just says "--" because the moisture levels in the air dip below 20%. Your skin needs the humidity to be at least 30% to function well. It is so hard to keep up with hydration and moisture in these kind of environments.
If you love your skin and your health, I would gift yourself and your family a humidifier. You should at least sleep with one on in your bedroom so that you don't lose too much moisture through the night.
People always ask me which one I recommend. My current ones are by Taotronics - and they haven't broken down yet in two years. But, if price wasn't an issue I would get the Dyson humidifier. A friend of mine uses hers in her office where she has gorgeous wood harps that would otherwise dry out. That room feels like a dream.
SLEEP FOR YOUR FLUIDS
Finally, sleep. And sleep well. If you don't sleep well, do something about that because it is crucial to the overall healthy function of your whole being.
If you don't sleep well - if you toss/turn all night, or you barely get sufficient sleep - then you will be dehydrated the next day. During sleep our fluid systems rest and restore. So if you miss your night's sleep, you are starting out the next day in the negative for hydration. If this happens to you hydrate like your life depends on it (because it does), and you will feel much better.