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Skin flooding – can this TikTok trend really replenish dry skin?

Skin feeling dry, parched and tight? The latest skincare hack might just be the solution you’re looking for...

As much as it might sound like the latest social media fad, skin flooding is actually quite simple and could have significant benefits. As the name suggests, it's about getting as much hydration as possible into the skin, and involves layering moisturising products in a particular order to ‘flood’ the skin with deep, long-lasting hydration.

What's involved?

There are four simple steps: gentle cleansing, spritzing on a face mist, applying a serum (or two) and following with a moisturiser. Products should be layered, starting with thinner, water-based products, followed by thicker products that are oil-based.

It’s important to follow the correct order as this makes all the difference to the efficacy of the products. By layering the serums, the skin is flooded with hydration.

What are the benefits?

As EV Expert Dr Bhavjit Kaur, Medical Director and Founder of Tuhi clinic and Health & Aesthetic Clinic, says, “Skin flooding can help to achieve a radiant and healthy-looking complexion, while providing nourishment to the skin.”

Moisturised skin appears healthier and wrinkles and lines less visible. Without proper hydration the skin's barrier can become compromised–this watertight coat of armour protects it from outside aggressors such as UV light, irritants and infections, while locking in essential moisture.

Once the barrier becomes damaged, skin can become red, itchy, dry, sensitive and uncomfortable. It can also conversely kick oil production into high gear, leading to oily skin and possibly breakouts.

While skin of all ages can benefit from this intensely-hydrating regime, especially during the winter when cold weather, wind and dry indoor heat can wreak havoc, it’s particularly good for mature skins. After menopause, the loss of oestrogen means the skin becomes drier, there are fewer natural oils and collagen breaks down.

What products should be layered?

Skin flooding revolves around hyaluronic acid (HA) because it attracts and holds moisture in the skin.  “HA forms an important part of the extracellular matrix, which is responsible for maintaining the skin’s structure and hydration levels”, says Dr Kaur.

HA draws moisture from the deeper layers of the skin and the surrounding environment to the top layers, where hydration is most needed. When you add moisture to the skin, the outermost protective layer (the skin barrier), is reinforced.

Niacinamide can also be included because of its hydrating, anti-inflammatory and soothing properties. “It helps improve the appearance of enlarged pores, fine lines and wrinkles,” says Dr Kaur.

The final step should be an occlusive moisturiser. Occlusives are a type of moisturiser that form a protective coating on the skin–they are usually oily or waxy and form a barrier between the skin and the outside environment. Ingredients to look out include mineral oil, lanolin, beeswax, olive oil and petrolatum.

Are there any risks?

No active ingredients are involved in skin flooding so the products used are unlikely to irritate your skin, however as skin flooding increases the penetration of skincare products, take care if you have sensitive skin.

Also, those with acne or oily skin may find that layering multiple products could cause breakouts. “Occlusives may not be good for an oily or acne-prone skin, with the exception of silicones," says Dr Kaur. "We also need to be careful not to go too far, as emollients and occlusives can cause clogged pores and breakouts.”

How to ‘skin flood’

It’s important to follow the steps because like a sponge, hyaluronic acid will draw moisture to it from wherever it's available. Therefore, in order for it not to be taking it from your skin, which could dry out your skin more, it needs to be sealed in with an occlusive moisturiser.

1. Start with a gentle cleanser or face wash that will cleanse effectively without stripping the skin of its natural oils. Cleansers containing actives such as alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C, or retinol are best avoided as they sensitise the skin.
Try: CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser
Gentle, non-foaming and developed by dermatologists, this contains hyaluronic acid to help retain the skin’s natural moisture.

2. Spritz on a hydrating toner or mist – this provides a layer of moisture for the HA to hold on to.
Try: Skinceuticals Phyto Corrective Essence Mist
Clinically proven to improve hydration by 69 per cent, this gentle mist will help repair the skin's barrier function.

3. Follow with a few drops of HA. “These smaller molecule actives with hygroscopic or humectant properties ensure the deeper layers of skin are kept hydrated.” Three or four drops are enough to cover the face and neck. Gently massage the product into skin with your fingers. At this point, you can follow with a few drops of niacinamide serum for calming and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Try: Medik8 Hydr8 B5 Liquid Hydration Serum
A fast-absorbing, multi-weight hyaluronic acid serum to draw moisture into the skin.

4. Seal skin with an emollient or oil-based moisturiser, and follow with a daily sunscreen for UV protection.
Try: Murad Intense Recovery Cream
Microalgae extract helps lock in moisture to deeply moisturise even severely dry skin.

Bhavjit Kaur, Aesthetic Doctor

An aesthetic physician with over 26 years of clinical experience, Dr Bhavjit Kaur is the co-founder and director of...

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