My skin has decided to start hating me
February 20, 2013 9:54 AM   Subscribe

I recently turned 40 and my skin, which has previously been happy under my tender loving care, has decided to rebel. I've always had dry skin but this winter is the first I've experienced flaky patches on my face. My usual moisturizer does nothing. HELP!

I've always had dry skin. I was that annoying girl who never got acne in high school. My skin is also prone to redness. I've never been diagnosed with rosacea but have some of the symptoms: I flush easily, especially when I've had alcohol, and my skin tends to turn very red in cold weather. My skin is also extremely sensitive and I have trouble finding sunscreens and moisturizers that don't sting upon application or makes me break out. Until recently I used Neutrogena's sensitive skin moisturizer without sunscreen and while it didn't tone down my redness, it kept the dryness under control.

But then came the winter. I do not live in an extreme climate. The winters here are fairly mild, with lots of rain and very few sub-zero days. But my skin had decided that no amount of moisturizer is going to make it happy. When my regular Neutrogena moisturizer was no longer working I decided to try something new and wanting to see if a redness minimizer would work, I've recently started using La Roche-Posay's Rosaliac moisturizer. While it seems to be toning down the redness in the skin, I'm still dry and flaky. Anyone have any suggestions on something else to try?

Here's my current regime:
Wash in the morning with Cetaphil and warm (not hot) water. Pat dry with a towel. Apply Rosaliac moisturizer and Bare Minerals powder. I drink a lot of water throughout the day. I don't usually wash my face again at night. I've tried products from Aveeno, Eucerin and Oil of Olay and my skin has reacted badly to them.

I love my skin and want to treat it right. Anyone have suggestions for what I could do differently?
posted by jezemars to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (34 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Eliminate products beyond soap and water?

I've found products beyond soap and water cause my skin to become red and irritated no matter the weather circumstances.

Eliminating them altogether fixes that after about a week.
posted by zizzle at 9:57 AM on February 20, 2013

I would suggest adding a serum under your moisturizer in the morning, and trying a heavier night cream and a serum at night. Brands that have worked well for me are Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate (about $70 a bottle but it lasts about 6 months since you only use a couple of drops at a time), and Kate Somerville Quench Serum. Both of those are heavier so are better at night. You'll want a lighter serum during the day - there's a Caudalie one that worked well for me (I think it might be Vinosource Thirst Quenching Serum, but I can't remember the name). In any case, the folks at Sephora can advise you and send you home with samples. Also make sure you are gently exfoliating to allow your moisturizer and serum to penetrate living skin instead of just sitting on dead skin cells.
posted by matildaben at 10:02 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

My skin was always sort of dry too but the last little while it was much worse than normal. Turned out it's likely a side effect of hypothyroidism (for which my medication dose is still being adjusted). Not saying that's your issue by any means, but it's worth discussing other potential medical causes with your doctor. Looking forward to see what kinds of answers you get here. Good luck!
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:09 AM on February 20, 2013

I've found products beyond soap and water cause my skin to become red and irritated no matter the weather circumstances.

Ditto, and I don't even use soap. I use Nivea moisturizing creme on my skin and nothing else.
posted by something something at 10:10 AM on February 20, 2013

You need to (gently!!!) exfoliate. This is unfortunately more important as you get older, so even if you never have had to exfoliate in your life, you do now. Your skin is likely fine, it's just got a layer of dead skin cells on top of it making you think it's dry. This is even if you find that products other than Cetaphil & water irritate your skin.

1. add a drugstore brand retinol moisturizer. I like Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream

2. if that is not enough (give it a month to decide) then I would recommend using a Clarisonic Mia once every few days with your Cetaphil; get one of the extra gentle brush heads and use it only once or twice a week at first.
posted by lyra4 at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2013

I have really sensitive facial skin and the only thing that has worked to reduce redness and flakiness is removing water-washing all together. I usually just do a few swipes with Thayer's Rose Witch Hazel on a cotton pad in the morning, followed by moisturizer. I don't let my face get wet in the shower or anything. Water is a powerful solvent.
posted by Katine at 10:12 AM on February 20, 2013

Try some products with AHA's or retinol in they might help, start using every couple of days only as they can take a little getting used to, but even if you only use them once a week they can help clear off some of the dry dead top skin cells so other moisturisers can do their thing.

Also how dry is the air around you, I found getting my house nice and humid in winter really helped my dry skin and dry hair problems a lot.

I too had amazing skin until my 40's and now am finding moving to a wintery climate and normal age changes made me have to try out a whole bunch of new products.
posted by wwax at 10:13 AM on February 20, 2013

I'd switch your face washing habits - I wash at night and skip the morning, just let it get wet in the shower or splash it with a little water to wake up. You're less likely to be out in the elements at night and this way you wash off the Bare Minerals so you're not sleeping in makeup, light though it is. If you want to try out some moisturizers, Sephora will give you small sample pots. Seconding humidifiers - heating your home also dries it out.
posted by hungrybruno at 10:14 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

For at least 29 years (age 10 or whenever I can remember back to to age 39) I did nothing to my face but wash it with soap in the shower. We are talking plain old bar of bath soap. I have never really worn makeup or even sunscreen. This past year my decades of neglect caught up with me and my face started getting super dry, red, and flakey. After trying everything under the sun, I took some advice from a previous askmeta thread and stopped using any cleaning product at all and now I just use a wet rag to wash my face each morning. Also, after trying every moisturizer possible, I found lancome's absolue to be a miracle potion. My face skin has never looked better. It is expensive but very worth it.
posted by orangemacky at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2013

I'd really recommend seeing a dermatologist. I had similar redness, dryness, and flaking and my doctor gave me a prescription cream (not very expensive, but can't remember the name) to fight what she thought might be a fungal infection. Sure enough, it worked like a charm in about three weeks. I kept using it for a few months afterwards, until the tube ran out, and the problem never came back.

It might also be worth taking a good look at your diet--fungal infections can be exacerbated by carbs and sugar, and rosacea can be a symptom of wheat/gluten sensitivity. I eat very little of those things and in addition to dropping a lot of weight, I am sure it has helped keep my skin balanced.
posted by rpfields at 10:20 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had problems similar to what you describe and the oil cleansing method- in my case, coconut oil- combined with a light exfoliant/scrub in the shower once or twice a week helped greatly.
posted by Corrective_Lenses at 10:20 AM on February 20, 2013

I live in a mild climate as well, but there is something about winter that is really drying when the other 3 months of the year I don't have dry skin. I have to switch to Cetaphil moisturizing cream from my regular moisturizer because I get peely patches as well. It is a little heavier, but soaks in quickly and gets rid of the dry stuff. And it doesn't make me break out like many other heavier moisturizers.
posted by cecic at 10:21 AM on February 20, 2013

I started using Pond's Cold Cream as a cleanser (in addition to a moisturizer afterwards) this winter and it's changed my skin dramatically. I've always had kinda dry and flaky skin but now it's all soft and nice and even-looking! I guess there's a reason why it's been around for 70-odd years. It does kinda smell like my grandma, though.

If nothing else, it's a good idea to wash off even the lightest makeup at night, as it can really irritate your skin.
posted by sonmi at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah try cleansing with cold cream instead of cetaphil. Wipe on, wipe gently off. Don't put your face under the hot water in the shower.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:55 AM on February 20, 2013

My skin isn't very dry, but it's usually dehydrated and it's temperamental in winter. I've used the L-P Rosaliac and it's a very light moisturizer -- not enough even for the mild San Francisco winter. Now I use the drugstore lotion CeraVe PM both day and night. It's oil-free yet effective, and it contains a nice softening agent (hyaluronic acid). Fragrance free. If that's still too light, Neutrogena has Light Night Cream -- to me it feels pretty much like cold cream but it has no fragrance.

Sometimes I clean my face with oil, then wipe it off with a warm wash cloth. It's not at all drying or irritating and gets my skin clean, but I don't notice and moisturizing effects. The oil I use is mostly jojoba. If I'm not removing makeup, I just cleanse with water.

Cold cream actually is a nice cleanser. The cucumber-scented one has a really light, non-lingering fragrance that doesn't smell like the olden days. I need and unscented moisturizer, though.

Exfoliating is a must for me. I use a mild glycolic-acid lotion (Alpha Hydroxy brand). The directions say to use it every day, but for me twice a week is enough. I don't think I'd use it on raw skin, though.

A good place to find information is on their skincare forum. You need to sign up to ask a question, but it's free and they never ever email you.

Good luck, and I hope your trial-and-error pays off quickly.
posted by wryly at 11:01 AM on February 20, 2013

I am 41 and have similar skin and Cetaphil will trash it, though I still use it sometimes when I've gone crazy with the make up for Halloween or something.

The rest of the time I straight up don't wash my face. I get it wet in the shower and dry it with a towel and in the winter I put some crazy expensive cream on it as needed- usually Weleda brand, the one in the purple tube, but I've used Aubrey brand creams, too- all stuff from the health food store because the scents don't bother me as much as the drug store ones do. A tube of Weleda lasts most of the winter, so I'm not using it much, but then I live in a pretty mild climate. I use more when I'm out skiing often or something.

I don't exfoliate, either.

I recommend you try not using any soaps for a couple of weeks and see what happens.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2013

Daily fish oil has dramatically improved my dry skin, even though that wasn't my intent when I started taking it. Just Googled to see if this is a recognized thing, and apparently it is.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:26 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

How long have you been using Bare Minerals? I have very sensitive, dry skin and find that it reacts badly to Bare Minerals. I use Inika mineral makeup instead which seems to work better on dry skin.

Also, I've tried a ton of moisturizers and find Avene Hydrance Optimale Riche works the best for me (well, Creme de la Mer works the absolute best, but I'm not crazy enough to spend that much money on it on a regular basis. Avene is budget-friendly and nearly as good).
posted by hazyjane at 11:29 AM on February 20, 2013

I too recommend a dermatologist. As we age, our sensitive skin gets even more tempermental.

Oddly enough a friend of mine noticed a dry patch on my skin and gave me some dandruff shampoo to dab on it. It worked like a charm.

I've found Clinique to be fragrance-free and gentle on sensitive skin. But before you invest in a new skin care regime, try some Head and Shoulders.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:31 AM on February 20, 2013

I have dry, sensitive skin, and I've had to stop using Bare Minerals in favor of liquid makeup and creamy blushes and eye makeup (when I wear makeup, which is not every day, since I'm at home most days). I found the powder stuff, no matter how skin-friendly it was supposed to be, just didn't work for me.
posted by misha at 11:34 AM on February 20, 2013

Try mixing a few drops of rosehip oil into your moisturizer? I have dehydrated oily skin and this plus a gentle spray on toner has basically solved my problem! Good luck :)
posted by dinosaurprincess at 12:21 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

As I began aging (I am also 40) my already slightly dry skin began to go positively sub-Saharan in the winter. I live in Ireland the winters couldn't be more mild.

My solution: slather on the heavy duty munitions. I am currently moisturising my face with Burt's Bee's Hand Salve. No, really. If I put it in 20 minutes before I need to put makeup on, it's fully absorbed, not at all greasy, and I have a good supple base to work with. I am drenching both morning and night.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:21 PM on February 20, 2013

I started using straight jojoba oil as a daily moisturizer this winter, and it's been great, fast-absorbing, and cheap compared to drugstore products. Most moisturizers make me break out, but the oil has been fine. Available in the "natural" aisle in a lot of grocery stores.

Indoor heating may be part of what's drying your face out. If you're feeling dried out all over, a humidifier could help.
posted by momus_window at 12:33 PM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Modern humans often get skin problems when they fight their skin's natural ability to care for itself. If you keep trying to wash away skin oils, your skin will make more oil because it needs oils, and then you are tempted to wash more often. If you keep exfoliating or rubbing harshly, your skin will start to produce more skin as a reaction to the abrasions in order to protect itself, leading to harsher looking skin, which makes you want to abrade more.

Splash warm water on your face, and pat dry. Give it a couple weeks so your face can understand you are going to stop abusing it. You should be pleasantly surprised.

Oh, and stay out of the sun.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:46 PM on February 20, 2013

I have always had dry skin, and found moisturizers to manage it. But this winter I randomly got the dry patches you are talking about, and nothing, even oils, seemed to fix them after weeks of trying.

Then my hairdresser gave me a sample of Aveda tourmaline charged hydrating creme and the dry patches were gone in two days. It's seriously heavy cream, and will probably be too much once summer comes around, but for now I enjoy people not believing me when I tell them I have dry skin.
posted by thejanna at 12:50 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Rosehip oil - straight oil on my face has never broken me out, and I've more oily skin than you. You may need an extra moisturiser on top, though.

Something else you could try - a honey and rice flour (the fine-ground sort used in sweet glutinous rice desserts) mask. Honey is pretty neutral and emollient, and the rice flour gives you a bit of a light exfoliant if you rub it in gently while rinsing off. I've used it in lieu of a cleanser and it's pretty decent, though if there's makeup that comes off with a cleansing oil first.
posted by zennish at 1:11 PM on February 20, 2013

I disagree with the folks recommending exfoliation, as it's going to dry your skin further. You want to treat it very gently: tepid water, pat dry gently. Many folks on the rosacea forums I've been to find Cetaphil too harsh, but there's also a huge variation in what works for people. I haven't found a cleanser I can use, so I just rinse in the morning, then apply homemade moisturizer and Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunblock. I used to like Aveeno's Ultra-Calming Moisturizer, but I can no longer tolerate anything but the homemade stuff; I'm not crazy about how oily it is, but it works. I live in a dry, cold climate, so I reapply it during the day and before I go to bed; I find I need a bit less if I drink lots of water.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 1:17 PM on February 20, 2013

I have similar skin to yours, and I've found very fat creams to be problematic. I swear to Kiehls, but use Vichy and Dr Hauschka as emergency ressources.
Don't touch anything with Lanolin in it.
Morning: shower with a Kiehls facial wash for my skin type, then a skin tonic and (because I'm vain) a line filler, all from Kiehls. Then moisturizer from Kiehls or Vichy. On top of all that I use a tinted moisturizer from Bobby Brown, but I see it as my work-day make-up rather than as skin care. Also a bit of powder. I use Shiseido, but anything hypoallergenic. During holidays and weekends, I don't use this, but I do use a Kiehls product with sun-protection.
Evening: makeup remover (if necessary) from Bioderma, more skintonic, Midnight Oil from Kiehls and moisturizer. I do use exfoliator if something has gone wrong and I have skin problems, but normally, my regular schedule keeps me safe.
For me, Lancome is totally off-limits and Clinique just doesn't work, but each to her own.
My dermatologist recommended pure olive oil for everything, but to be honest that is just really not practical.
For lips, I love mentholathum, not the chap-stick but the original salve.
posted by mumimor at 1:36 PM on February 20, 2013

I also have sensitive skin that gets dry in the winter. Argan oil rocks.

I had to stop using Bare Minerals in the winter because my skin would end up too dry. I just use drug store Neutrogena liquid makeup during the winter instead. I tried using Garnier BB cream (because MeFi recommended it), but the lightest shade was still too dark for my skin tone. You might want to try that if you're lucky enough not to have vampire skin, because it was way nicer than the Neutrogena stuff.
posted by topoisomerase at 2:28 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's a post on one of my favorite blogs about the blogger's skincare routine - she has extremely dry skin (and sensitive, and controlled rosacea I believe). My skin is dry, but not as dry as hers (and I prefer to have a simpler skincare routine), so I don't follow her routine, and I'm not really suggesting that you do either, but there are some great ideas and product recommendations in there.

In particular, I suggest just rinsing in the morning - no cleanser - and using an oil cleanser at night. I prefer oil cleanser to using a oil because it rinses clean with no scrubbing required. I personally use the Shu Uemura one, which is only sold online in the US, but there are lots available at Sephora & Japanese stores (online & offline). I also highly recommend the Mandom Barrier Repair concentrate mentioned in the post - use it before your another moisturizer, it is fantastic. Adambeauty is a reliable place to buy it, it's also on ebay & Amazon.

Also, a lot of this is your-mileage-may-vary; you'll just have to experiment to some degree. For example, rosehip oil in my eye area gives me milia, and my skin loves lanolin.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:25 PM on February 20, 2013

Raw, organic coconut oil! Put it on your face just before you go to bed at night and let your skin drink it up. Seriously, I also run dry, and lotions just do not work very well for me. They dry me out even more. Coconut oil is the only thing I use and it is awesome.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:03 PM on February 20, 2013

Redness and flakiness could be the result of a minor fungal infection - this is very common. A topical antifungal should clear it up.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:54 PM on February 20, 2013

First Aid brand "emergency repair cream" from Sephora! Your face will thank you.
posted by manicure12 at 10:28 PM on February 21, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers. I doubt it's a fungal infection because my face has always been red. That part is not new. I'm going to try not using my facial cleanser for awhile and adding a more heavy duty moisturizer to the mix. One of the links lead me to remember Avene products which were my favorite when I was living in Italy. I'm glad I can get it in the US now. Thanks again for all your help!
posted by jezemars at 9:57 AM on February 22, 2013

« Older How can an inexperienced-for-his-age guy find NSA...   |   How do you go about finding copyright information... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.