I always take TikTok beauty trends with a grain of salt. Sometimes the platform’s viral practices serve as more of a novelty than a hack (i.e. whipped foundation), but then there are those that are truly legit. Currently, beauty girlies on the app are obsessed with something called “skin flooding”, a product-layering method that’s all about drenching a dry complexion with a bunch of juicy moisture.
While skin cycling, BeautyTok’s other fave practice, involves alternating between active and soothing serums in your nighttime routine to avoid irritation, skin flooding is more about applying your hydrating products in the correct order so that you get as much moisture as possible. This means applying a hydrating serum to damp skin and sealing it in with a moisturizer — that’s it.
It sounds really simple, sure — but if you’re someone whose beauty cabinet is lined with hydrating serums and creams yet you still deal with perpetually dry or dehydrated skin, there’s a high chance that skin flooding can help. That’s because it’s a research-backed, expert-recommended way to keep your complexion moisturized. Keep reading to see what dermatologists have to say about TikTok’s latest beauty trend, which is here just in time to save our winter-ravaged skin.
What Is Skin Flooding?
As I said, skin flooding entails applying the right products in the right order in order to fully moisturize your skin — so it’s not a new concept. “Skin flooding is basically a take on what dermatologists have been telling their patients to do forever,” says Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Mudgil Dermatology. “Namely, to moisturize damp skin after cleansing, then apply an additional layer of moisturizer.”
After cleansing, you can spritz your skin with a hydrating facial mist (this step is optional) if you want even more of a boost. Then, you slather on a hyaluronic acid-based serum when your skin is still damp, followed by either a second serum — one that contains either niacinamide or ceramides (or both) — and then a moisturizer.
The thing is, you could apply all the hydrating products that you own and still not have moisturized skin if you don’t follow the basic rules of application. “Layering your hydrating ingredients and layering them correctly can make all the difference in efficacy,” says Dr. Rachel Nazarian, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. That’s because different kinds of products and different ingredients improve skin hydration via different mechanisms, she explains. Think of humectants versus emollients: “While humectants can add moisture to the skin often by drawing it from the surrounding environment, emollients work by sealing in moisture and preventing evaporation into the surrounding environment,” she says.
On top of that, the order you apply your skin care products matters. “Always layer with more water-based products first, then the ones that have higher oil content,” says Nazarian. So that means you’d apply a toner or essence first, followed by a serum, gel, lotion, cream, and then ointment. “This maximizes the delivery of moisture into your skin, and also maintains the amount of moisture kept in your skin,” she says. In short: Skin flooding isn’t a groundbreaking new discovery that’s going to transform your skin, but it is something you should be doing. And it has a really cute name.
How To Skin Flood
Skin flooding is something all skin types can benefit from. “There are no active ingredients being applied, so it won’t hurt,” says Shani Hillian, a licensed esthetician.
Step 1: Cleanse
You always want to start with a clean base so that your skin can soak up all of the nourishment you’re about to apply. Use any cleanser your heart desires.
Step 2: Toner/Essence
Use whichever product you have in your routine. (This step is optional.)
Step 3: Mist
This step is also optional, but spritzing yourself with a hydrating facial mist helps ensure that your skin stays damp for the next step.
Step 4: Serum
This could be your second step post-cleansing. Either way, apply a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum to damp skin. “You want to layer hydrating ingredients to damp skin to ensure maximum absorption,” says Hillian.
Step 5: Serum Round 2
To really pile on the moisture, you can apply a second serum that contains niacinamide, ceramides, and/or other soothing, hydrating ingredients. Mudgil is particularly into the idea of using niacinamide since it has anti-inflammatory properties. “I recommend this particularly for patients with rosacea as niacinamide has anti-flushing effects,” he says.
Step 6: Moisturizer
Apply your go-to face cream, followed by your SPF if it’s the a.m., and voila: Your skin should be plump, dewy, and thoroughly moisturized.