Top 5 skincare ingredients to treat dry skin 

Vanessa Gibbs

Dry skin can be a nightmare. Not only do you often experience dry, tight and flaky skin, but many common skincare ingredients can actually make things worse. Some aggravate sensitive skin making it even dryer, others simply aren’t absorbed and don’t do anything to help. 

Here at Face Dr, we’ve been helping clients to get the clear, bright complexion of their dreams. Our skin experts are clued up about the latest ingredients out there and which ones can hurt or heal dry skin. Here, we’ve rounded up exactly what to look out for on skincare labels, so you know what to avoid, what to look for and what exactly to use on dry skin.

Want an expert-approved skincare routine made just for you? We offer free online skincare consultations where you can speak with a member of our team. They’ll be able to analyse your skin and share the ingredients you should be using, avoiding and—most importantly—the products that are best for you. 


woman with clear skin

Here are the top 5 skincare ingredients for dry skin: 

#1 Hyaluronic acid

#2 Lactic acid

#3 Glycerin 

#4 Squalane 

#5 Botanical extracts

Beyond ingredients, we’ve also covered the best in-clinic treatments for dry skin and how much treating dry skin will cost

What is dry skin? 


Before we dive into the ingredients, how do you know if you’re experiencing dry skin? Most of the time, dry skin is easily diagnosable. The most common symptoms include: 

  • Dry or rough texture 

  • Red patches

  • Inflamed skin 

  • Tight sensation after cleansing 

  • Itchy patches 

Dry skin is a common condition where the skin’s natural moisture barrier doesn’t hold onto moisture very well. It can be caused by many things like hot showers, cold weather, stress, sensitivity to skincare products or make-up, or skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. 

Which ingredients to avoid for dry skin  


Though there are many skincare ingredients out there that can help dry skin, there are plenty that can hurt it, too, so it’s important to check labels of products. Here are a few common ingredients that trigger and irritate dry skin you should look out for. 

  • Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid can work wonders for those with acne-prone skin, but for those with dry skin, it can actually make dryness worse. This ingredient works to unclog pores and remove excess oil, but it can remove too much oil making the skin feel dryer. For those with dry and sensitive skin, it can even leave skin looking red and peeling. 

  • Retinoids

Similarly, retinoids may work for those with oilier skin types, but it can be too harsh for those of us with dry skin causing irritation, redness and further dryness. 

What else should I avoid if I have dry skin? 


  • Alcohol 

Look out for any products with alcohol. It’s a common ingredient in toners and can be found in make-up products, too. Alcohol can dry out the skin and cause irritation. 

  • Fragrance

Fragrances may make products smell great, but they can wreak havoc with your skin and should be avoided by anyone that’s prone to flare ups of dry skin. 

  • Exfoliators? (it depends!) 

Despite what many people think, exfoliators can still be used by those with dry skin, and they can be useful for removing any flaky looking patches. However, proceed with caution as strong exfoliators can also aggravate dry skin and make the problem worse. It’s best to start slowly with a new product, perhaps exfoliating just once a week, and always patch test on a discrete patch of skin before applying to the face. If you’d like further advice on whether you should use an exfoliating product, and which one is best for you, book a free online consultation with our skin experts for some professional advice. 

swipe of skincare product for dry skin


The best ingredients to treat dry skin 

Here are the hero ingredients that can moisturise, boost hydration and heal dry skin. 


#1 Hyaluronic acid 


Hyaluronic acid is a go-to when it comes to dry skin. It can be found in everything from serums and masks to moisturisers. The ingredient is known for its ability to hold onto moisture. In fact, hyaluronic acid attracts and holds onto up to 1,000 times its weight in moisture, delivering this hydration to the skin. Not only does this boost hydration levels, it can also leave the skin looking fuller, smoother and more glowy, all while reducing that tight feeling that can often come with dry skin. 

Product to try: iS Clinical Hydra-Cool Serum £50 

#2 Lactic acid 


As far as acid exfoliators go, lactic acid can be a great option for those with dry skin as it can break down and remove dead skin cells without aggravating already sensitive dry skin. The ingredient can also help to attract and hold onto moisture in the skin, too, and can be found in daily-use products, like cleansers, to help to promote a smooth, bright and hydrated complexion.  

Product to try: PCA Skin Facial Wash £32

lactic acid skincare ingredient for dry skin


#3 Glycerin 


Glycerin is another common skincare ingredient you’ll be able to find in products like cleansers and moisturisers. Like hyaluronic acid, glycerin is great for dry skin as it attracts moisture from the air to the surface of the skin. On its own, it looks like a clear oil, but it’s actually lightweight and shouldn't weigh the skin down. As well as boosting moisture levels, glycerin also strengthens the skin’s natural moisture barrier to make it less dry over time. 

Product to try: ZO Skin Health Hydrating Cleanser

#4 Squalane 


Squalane is a version of a natural oil that’s found in our skin. The ingredient can most often be found in serums and moisturisers and is useful for restoring balance and natural moisture levels to the skin. It’s lightweight and is easily absorbed—so no greasy residue—and works to soften and smooth rough patches and boost firmness and elasticity. Squalane can also soothe more serious dry skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. 

Product to try: Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturiser £27 

#5 Botanical extracts 


Botanical extracts come from plants and can deliver a powerful dose of healing to dry skin. Look out for the term botanical extracts in general and, more specifically, look out for botanicals like licorice root, lavender and aloe vera. Botanical extracts can soothe and calm severe dry skin that’s irritated and inflamed and help promote healing and repair the skin’s moisture barrier.

Product to try: iS Clinical Moisturising Complex £74 

Next step, the product 

Face Dr skin expert giving online skincare consultation for dry skin

Those were our top five skincare ingredients for those with dry skin, and some ingredients to avoid, too. Now you know what to look for, the next step is finding the perfect product for you. Why not turn to a professional to get expert advice? 

At Face Dr, we offer free online consultations with our team. One of our skin experts can analyse your skin, assess just how severe your dry skin is and recommend products we know will deliver real results. Plus, if you have any other skincare concerns you’d like to tackle—like wrinkles, dark spots or breakouts—we can recommend products to help with that too. 

We only work with brands we know and trust, so you can tackle your dry skin with our expert knowledge of what works behind you. 

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