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Skin Care Routine for Dry and Sensitive Skin on the Face

Is your face dry and flaky? Does it sometimes turn red and become itchy?  Having dry and sensitive skin on the face can greatly impact a person’s quality of life. The red, itchy and flaky skin often experienced by sensitive skin individuals causes discomfort, pain and sometimes even embarrassment. If left untreated, persistent dry skin can damage your skin barrier and compromise your body’s first line of defence against infections and allergens.

Healthy skin retains sufficient moisture to maintain the structure of the skin, serving as an effective protective barrier and ensuring a radiant, hydrated appearance. Hence, it is important to understand how to effectively manage dry and sensitive skin on your face.

Causes of Dry Skin

When the epidermis (top layer of the skin) lacks moisture or sebum, you end up having dry skin. Various factors contribute to this lack of moisture, including low humidity level in the environment, frequent showering with hot water, harsh soaps, cosmetic products, excessive sun exposure, and intrinsic aging.

Dry skin manifests differently according to the degree of severity. Mildly dry skin is rough and usually shows mild scaling or flaking. You may also experience itching or redness of the skin.  If the skin becomes moderately to severely dry, you may experience scaling, itching, pain, redness, and see visible fissures or cracks appearing in the skin.

Dry Skin Becomes Sensitive skin

Due to decreased lipid content and a delayed repair of the skin barrier after irritation, the barrier function becomes compromised. Damage to the barrier function is one of the main contributing factors to the development of sensitive skin. With sensitive skin, you can easily experience unpleasant sensations such as stinging, burning, pain, itching and tingling in response to stimuli that normally would not provoke such sensations.  Sensitive skin also manifests as dry, cracked and more prone to injury as a result of decreased collagen production and diminished skin protection.

Skincare Routine for Dry and Sensitive Skin To avoid the unattractive and inconvenient effects of dry and sensitive skin on your face, it is important to follow a skincare routine that will revitalize your skin and ease facial dryness.

Cleanse your skin with the right cleanser

Cleanse your face daily with a mild, non-drying cleanser that is specially formulated for dry and sensitive skin. To prevent water loss from your skin, look out for cleansers containing moisture-binding ingredients.  These hydrating cleansers contain humectants such as Propylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Hyaluronic Acid and Glycerin. These humectants are hygroscopic compounds that can attract water from two sources: the dermis into the epidermis and from the surrounding humidity in the environment. Thus, cleansers with humectants can help address the needs of your dry skin.

Likewise, use cold or lukewarm water when cleaning your face.  Hot water removes naturally occurring oils which may worsen your skin condition.


When you have dry and sensitive skin, you need to work double time to lock in moisture and prevent further moisture loss to the environment.  To provide immediate and long-lasting hydration for your skin, apply a lightweight and fragrance-free moisturizer on your skin daily.

Choose a moisturizer that contains emollients such as Glyceryl Stearate, Isopropyl Palmitate, Squalene, and Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride.  Emollients are lipids and oils that are effective in hydrating the skin while improving skin softness, flexibility, and smoothness.  Moisturizers containing humectants like Sodium Hyaluronate and Glycerin are also ideal for dry skin.


Once your dry, sensitive skin is well moisturized, you can start to lightly exfoliate your skin.  Exfoliation as part of your skincare regimen helps to ensure superficial dead skin cells are removed from the outer layer of your skin.  However, be cautious when exfoliating by choosing a mild chemical exfoliator, containing alpha hydroxy acids. Start gradually, aiming for once or twice a week exfoliation, especially during the early days of incorporating exfoliation into your regime. Over time, this will simultaneously encourage skin renewal and rejuvenation of your skin.

Apply moisturizer cream overnight

A beauty sleep with a good moisturizing night cream can help hydrate and restore tired-looking dry skin. Look for a hydrating overnight moisturizer with emollients such as Squalene and Cyclopentasiloxane.  These will keep your skin moisturized and enhance its softness and smoothness. Also look for Vitamins A and E in moisturizing night cream as these will help rejuvenate dry skin.


Dry skin on the face is a sign that your protective layer needs a little bit more care and attention in order to function optimally. With the right skin care routine and appropriate treatment, you can effectively manage your dry and sensitive skin.

Pathway to Dry Skin Prevention and Treatment

Bowman, A. (2018).  UMMC expert offers tips for managing dry skin during winter’s harshest months. The University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Farage, M.A. (2019). The Prevalence of Sensitive Skin. Frontiers in medicine, 6, 98.

Johnston, G.N. (2017). Soaked to the Skin: Moisturizing Advice for Drying Times. UC San Diego Health.

Heartbeat: 9 ways to banish dry skin . (n.d.) Harvard Health Publishing. Retrieved May 7, 2020 from

Moisturizers: The Slippery Road


An Expert Opinion by:

Dr Stephanie Ho
Consultant Dermatologist
Stephanie Ho Dermatology
#08-05 Scotts Medical Centre,
Pacific Plaza, Singapore