5 Skincare Ingredients that Could be Drying out your Skin!

Megan Dominion

When your skin loses water or loses water / hydration too quickly, then you are at risk of developing dry skin. You can have intermittent dry skin even if you have an oily skin type, or you could have baseline dry skin. There are a bunch of factors that could be causing or increasing the dryness of your skin, but first – let’s break down the most common myths and facts about dry skin with the top ingredients that could be drying out your skin and why!

Is your Vitamin C serum drying out your skin?

Yes and no! It depends on several factors such as the other steps in your skincare routine, how often you’re exfoliating and whether or not you have baseline sensitive skin.

What to do?

You should always introduce a new skincare product very slowly, e.g mixing your serum with your moisturizer, then only using it every other day until your skin builds up a tolerance. Some people experience dryness, irritation and redness when using a vitamin c serum. It comes down to chemistry, too! The vitamin c product known to cause the most irritation is L-ascorbic acid as it has a higher pH level, meaning that it’s more acidic. The higher pH increases the benefits (such as exfoliating your skin) but it can also weaken your skin’s natural barrier – which is causing the dryness or peeling that you may be experiencing. Your exfoliating routine and even your bedding could be affecting the way that your skin reacts to vitamin c serums. You should investigate the skin benefits of sleeping on a silk pillowcase, too!

Is your retinol drying out your skin?

Most people LOVE retinol. It’s such a great product for anti-aging and a wonderful treatment product for acne and scarring. Retinol has so many fantastic benefits but unfortunately yes; it can most definitely dry out your skin.

That’s because retinol increases your skin cell turnover. Note that retinol is a MEDICAL product and you should ideally consult with a skin specialist before introducing it to your skincare routine.

Dry red skin

What to do?

You need to introduce retinol very slowly (even slower than vitamin c serums) by starting on a low percentage. Ideally, retinol should only come with a prescription but it’s now readily available for online and over-the-counter purchase with not enough education around the product. In short: you should start using retinol this way:

  • Start on the lowest percentage such as 0.025%
  • Only apply retinol every third evening and slowly increase to every evening over a matter of months
  • Once your skin in tolerant of 0.025%, you move on to 0.05% and then 0.1% and so forth
  • Only use retinol at night and NOT during the day
  • Apply a sunblock daily – factor 50 is best!

Is hyaluronic acid causing your dry skin?

No, it shouldn’t! It’s a fantastic skincare product that is used to draw in and lock water into your skin. If you find that it’s drying your skin out, then you’re probably using it wrong! To be honest, hyaluronic acid really dried out and irritated my skin when I first started using it. I was making the below mistake…

What to do?

Remember, there has to be water present for your skin to lock in in the first place. Loads of beauty influencers recommend spritzing your face with water or rose water BEFORE applying your hyaluronic acid serum. Then, spritz your face with a face mist / water / rose water of choice. The hyaluronic acid will help retain some of that water, now. Wait a few seconds between these steps for the products and moisture to set in – then continue with your skincare routine with your next step being your favourite moisturiser.

You could be sensitive to the hyaluronic acid product you’re using or you need to introduce it to your skin more gradually, but try the above method first to rule out an underlying skin sensitivity you may have!

Related: here’s 6 common mistakes when using hyaluronic acid

Is witch hazel drying out your skin?

Witch Hazel is a plant that’s been used to treat a variety of skin conditions for centuries! It’s most commonly used to treat skin inflammation such as rashes or mild burns. It’s also commonly used as a natural remedy for skin irritations such as insect bites and redness.

Nowadays (and greatly thanks to TikTok and beauty influencers) it’s more commonly used as a skin toner OR to treat acne for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits.

The verdict is still out on whether or not it dries out your skin in the long run. While it is classified as a “natural” product, some beauty manufacturers add witch hazel to other formulas that can include ingredients like alcohol – which might irritate or dry out your skin.

What to do?

Look at the other ingredients to see whether your witch hazel product may contain drying alcohols. Additionally you may want to skip using it for at least a week and see how your skin reacts. Dermatologists can also help you with your skincare routine so it’s often worth talking to one instead of months of trial and error with products.

Is hard water drying out your face?

It’s not quite classified as a skincare ingredient per say but your tap water may be too harsh on your skin! Never heard of “hard water”? It’s basically your local municipal / state / government / region’s water supply. For water to be safe for human consumption, it goes through a sort of filtering and cleaning process. Often, chemicals are added to ‘tap water’ to purify it. Water contains calcium and magnesium and can run through chalk and limestone. Other elements could also be present in your drinking water – depending on the area / country that you live in.

Basically, high levels of magnesium and / or calcium make it more difficult to rinse your face of 100% of the soaps you use in your skincare routine. Often, a thin layer of soap scum or particles can be left behind on your skin which can strip away moisture, making your skin feel more dry.

What to do?

It might seem strange to use filtered / bottled or purified water on your face, but it’s worth trying it out for a few days or weeks to see if it’s making a difference or locking more moisture into your skin. If it is hard water affecting your skin, try using a cleanser that’s recommended for this such as a gentle and hydrating cleanser.

hydrating can help your skin

What else could be causing your dry skin?

It pays to remember that dry skin can affect anyone and that your baseline skin or skin time may change as you age or go through any hormonal changes. Other common factors that may increase your likelihood of developing or having dry skin include:

  • Your age. Your skin may start producing less natural oils as you age
  • Underlying skin conditions. You can develop conditions such as eczema or dermatitis
  • Your skin type. You may just have naturally dry skin which you’ll need to learn how to manage with a solid and recommended skincare routine
  • Your environment. Your skin may change due to the seasons or atmospheric changes. A climate change with a higher humidity may decrease dry skin
  • How hydrated you are. Your skin will dry out if you are not drinking enough water or if you are not consuming enough liquids in relation to your body mass
  • Your personal hygiene. You may be bathing / washing your face too often and stripping your skin of its natural moisture

If none of these suggested solutions have made a difference to your skin, then you should seek the advice of a skincare professional to get your skin plump and dewy again! We’ve also got some tips on how to improve your skin from the inside out.

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.