The latest winter-worthy skincare trend — skin flooding — has gone viral among the beauty and all things-skin obsessed, wracking up nearly two million views on TikTok. This moisture-boosting method is all about layering products for mega hydration utilizing specific steps, texture types, and ingredients. Pros admit it works (if done correctly, of course) and can be universally beneficial for all skin types. But you do need a well-stocked beauty arsenal to execute it like an expert. Read on to make the most of the skincare hydrators from the mists and serums to gels and moisturizers and more that you reach for every day to create naturally glazed skin in minutes.
Meet the Experts
Marisa Garshick, M.D., is a dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery and advisor at BioRepublic skincare.
Nigma Talib is a naturopathic and cosmetic doctor based in Los Angeles, and founder of her namesake skincare and supplements line.
Ava Shamban, M.D., is a dermatologist and founder of Ava MD, with locations in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, California.
What is skin flooding?
“This method is meant to ‘flood’ the skin with intense moisture by layering moisturizing products onto damp skin from thinnest to thickest to ensure proper penetration,” explains Marisa Garshick, M.D., a dermatologist in N.Y.C. “Although the concept of layering a variety of moisturizer techniques is trending on social media, it is not new — we’ve always known that hydrated skin is healthy skin.”
“The difference is like starting with a damp sponge rather than a dry sponge.” – Dr. Ava Shamban
According to Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist and the founder of Ava MD, who is also pro skin flooding, this skin-quenching concept has always been a go-to for dermatologists. “Skin flooding is using moist skin to pull product with the smallest molecules into the deeper layers of skin first and then adding other humectants, glycerins, and ceramides plus moisturizing, hydrating, and plumping ingredients on top,” Shamban explains. “The difference is like starting with a damp sponge rather than a dry sponge, which will take in the water and expand faster and more efficiently.” This means that you have to be mindful of the order in which you reach for your products, paying special attention to consistency as well as being sure each layer fully penetrates. “I call it simply layering because you apply key hydrating and moisturizing products one on top of another in order to cause the cascade of hydration ‘flooding process,’” explains Nigma Talib, a naturopathic and cosmetic doctor based in Los Angeles.
What are the benefits of skin flooding?
The good news is that if done correctly, it truly is a “more is more” situation. “When skin is both dehydrated and dry which means the skin’s surface is not always welcoming to what it needs most,” explains Shamban, who recommends skin flooding at night — not in the morning underneath makeup. She adds, “It is basically the way to prep the canvas to receive the best hydration and nutrients it needs.”
Garshick says that skin flooding can work for all skin types and year-round, although it’s likely to be especially beneficial for dry and sensitive skin during the harsh winter months. “Since people can experience oily skin that is also dehydrated, it’s important to remember that even those with oily skin need moisturizing,” she explains. “That said, it is important that those using moisturizing products with oily or acne-prone skin opt for products that are non-comedogenic and won’t clog pores.”
What steps are needed for skin flooding?
“Think about it in terms of density of the product from lightest to heaviest which allows the penetration of each ingredient to reach the deepest layer and then using the moisturizing cream at the very end to ‘lock in’ the moisture and seal the deal in a way — this last step protects the skin from environmental pollution and temperature changes,” says Shamban. It makes sense to want to make your products work more efficiently, right? Here’s how it’s done:
- Start by cleansing the skin with Ceramic Slip Cleanser to not only sweep away impurities but to balance out skin. Make sure to leave your skin slightly damp for the next step.
- Spritz on Pink Drink with firming peptides to refresh your skin and keep it moist before your next layer.
- Apply Good Genes, which features lactic acid that gently exfoliates and can also pull water into the outer layer of skin. “Water-loving ingredients have a much easier time of being ‘held’ when they are locked onto moisture on and in the skin — think of it as a magnet effect,” says Shamban. “Humectants [like lactic acid] are water-loving ingredients so they will bond to water molecules — which can work both ways — moving in and out of the skin — and water molecules will attach and pull moisture into the dermis keeping it plump and dewy, but you need to sneak past the skin barrier and then seal it.” Hydrating ingredients can also include hyaluronic acid or glycerin.
- Lock it all in with an emollient like ICE Moisturizing Cream. “Ingredients such as ceramides to help capture moisture by supporting the skin barrier can be especially helpful when found in a moisturizing cream or ointment.”
Are there any risks to skin flooding?
“There can be downsides as if you have sensitive or highly reactive skin, or if you have an allergy to one or more ingredients in the multi-layering process it can cause a skin reaction that can affect the skin barrier and cause more harm than good,” says Talib. Experts say you should also be mindful of your skin’s status in the moment before skin flooding. “Those with more oily or blemish-prone skin do not want to use highly occlusive products that may seal in bacteria or seal excess oil at the surface,” she adds. “Therefore while it makes sense that drier skin types should benefit more, equally oily and combination skin types could also benefit by various ingredients helping to keep skin hydrated without increasing the sebaceous glands to overproduce oil.”
Talib does caution that “there’s no one-size-fits-all skincare routine,” she says, adding that you always have to take a 360-degree approach to achieving healthy skin. “Glowing skin is also an inside job, so making sure you eat a healthy and balanced diet, that you are hydrated and ensure nutritional supplementation based on your needs is always the first step and then your skincare can not only work better but you will need less of it.”
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