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What's the Deal With Stubborn Flaky Skin? A Dermatologist Weighs In

By Ashley Joseph

Date April 1, 2019

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You can do it all: cleanse, exfoliate, apply serum and face oil and then top it all off with moisturizer and eye cream. Yet in the morning, as soon as foundation or concealer comes in contact with your face, a plethora of unsightly flakes emerge from the woodwork, making your thoroughly moisturized skin look like the cracked surface of an arid desert landscape. You’ve completed a beyond basic skincare routine and you’re still flaky. What gives?

“It really has to do with the fact that the climate is so dry and so cold,” says Dr. Roni Munk, director of MunkMD, a dermatology clinic in downtown Montreal. As well, the same ingredients that can do our skin a world of good—like popular anti-agers and exfoliants like retinol and glycolic acid—also have the potential to cause harm when our moisture barriers are more challenged because the temperature still won’t crawl past zero. “Most people don’t even realize they’re over-drying their skin,” he says. “If you just cut some of those harsh exfoliating ingredients, you could really improve it.” Another common culprit of stubborn flakiness could be the ingredients hiding inside your everyday formulas, from your daily cleanser to your go-to coverup. “Even in makeup, there are some preservatives—like, for example, propylene glycol—that can irritate the skin.”

Regardless of what your skincare lineup looks like, Dr. Munk stresses the importance of switching up your regimen from season to season. “In the winter, I always advise that less is more. Just up your moisturizer and try to limit things that have the potential to irritate the skin.” Instead of exfoliating daily, Dr. Munk recommends scaling back to twice a week in chillier months, while taking steps to make sure you’re replenishing the skin’s moisture. “One molecule I always recommend to patients is hyaluronic acid because that’s something that helps not only add moisture but also retains your own water in the skin,” says Dr. Munk. “It’s going to moisturize from the outside but also improve the inner moisturization of the skin.”

Here’s five products that will up your moisture game, many featuring the star molecule Dr. Munk suggests:

LiftActiv Hyalu Mask

($60, Vichy)

Vichy’s new hydrating mask targets one key fact about skin health: we lose up to 50% of our hyaluronic acid stores as the years go by. The brand’s new Hyalu Mask packs a 1% concentration of hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plump skin, whereas most topical formulas available to consumers contain around 0.1%.

Buy Now

Neostrata Hyaluronic Acid Micro Infusion Patches

($25, Well.ca)

Since holding back the urge to furrow our brows for all of eternity just isn’t an option for most of us, Neostrata has launched these targeted patches, which harness the power of hyaluronic acid to soften the appearance of our most ingrained expression lines. Apply the half-moon-shaped patches above brows or along laugh lines at night and remove in the AM to undo a few of those dubious glances.

Buy Now

Caudalie Vinosource SOS Deep Hydration Moisturizer

($48, Sephora.ca)

The newest product to join Caudalie’s beloved Vinosource line, the brand’s SOS moisturizer made its debut on April Fool’s—but their promise of deep hydration is no joke. Supercharged with organic grape water, the French brand’s signature ingredient, it goes on thick but soaks right into skin, leaving no oily residue behind.

Buy Now

At only $11, this is a steal–the brand actually loses money on it because it costs them more to make it than what they sell it at. With three molecular weights and sizes of the molecule, it’s high quality and not all sticky.

Buy Now

L'Oreal Paris Revitalift Triple Power LZR Anti-Aging Serum with 1.5% Pure Hyaluronic Acid

($38, Shoppers Drug Mart)

With its small molecular weight, the hyaluronic acid molecules in this penetrate the skin easily.

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