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How does "skin flooding" work?


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What is skin flooding? 


Skin flooding is essentially layering multiple skincare products onto damp skin in order to lock in moisture to help skin appear smoother and softer. 


"It's the latest buzzword but simply involves layering serums and creams to ‘flood’ the skin with hydration, increase the efficacy and absorption of products, and protect the skin barrier,” says Dr Charlotte Woodward, co-founder of River Aesthetics clinics and new brand Skin Bureaux.


“Flooding works to lock in moisture and prevent it from evaporating (known as TEWL or trans-epidermal water loss), making sure your skin feels comfortable and hydrated,” she adds.


It can also be used to provide a hydrated glow and plumping effect for the skin, which can improve the look of make-up.  


“When it comes to make-up, skin flooding can really enhance the look of your make-up because it’s promoting hydration in the skin, explains make-up artist and skincare specialist Nathalie Eleni. 


“If you have dry or dehydrated skin, then it’s really beneficial."


How do you skin flood?


Skin flooding involves four simple steps: cleansing the skin, spritzing on a mist, applying serums, then moisturising the skin. 


While you might think the focus would be on serums and misting, it turns out that cleansing the skin is actually the most crucial step in skin flooding.


“Prior to skin flooding, it’s really important to make sure that skin is thoroughly cleansed,” says Eleni. 


 “The last thing you want to do is to layer products on uncleansed skin because you’ll have a build-up of sweat, oil and pollution which is going to get trapped.


“This means that skincare products won’t absorb properly and make-up won’t apply well, and it could compromise the health of the skin.” 


After cleansing, apply the first layer of serum while the face is still damp. From here the flooding method can vary, but it usually involves using a face mist between each layer of serum before finishing with a moisturiser to lock in the products.


The order in which you apply products can affect how effectively they’re absorbed. “You should always start with products with a thinner consistency then finish with the thickest consistency,” comments aesthetics doctor Dr Ahmed El Muntasar.


One method of skin flooding involves targeting specific areas. Eleni explains, “For example, your cheeks and under your eyes might be quite dry so you’ll want to put more product there.


“However, your T-zone might be more combination, in which case you might want to use more mattifying products after you’ve layered a serum.” 


Timing can also be important. “Our skin also loses the most moisture while we are sleeping, so skin flooding at night can help to restore plump and radiant skin by morning,” says Woodward. 


Which products should you use to skin flood?


When it comes to skincare, Eleni says,it’s really important not to just follow a trend, but to make it relatable to your skin type and skin concerns”.


In general, serums that contain peptides or humectants like hyaluronic acid are ideal for skin flooding, while El Muntasar also recommends ceramides.


“If your skin feels dull, then a lactic acid toner or lotion will be good because it will lift off any dead skin cells and brighten the skin,” adds Eleni.


Is skin flooding good for dry skin?


Skin flooding can be used by all skin types but because it focuses on boosting hydration, it’s a skincare technique designed for dry or dehydrated complexions, with El Muntasar stating that it’s “really good for menopausal skin or skin struggling in the winter”.


It’s also a good technique for people with combination skin who need extra moisture in the drier parts of their face.


It can be suitable for combination skin types because the use multiple lightweight products can avoid the use of heavy or even acnegenic qualities of some thick creams. 


How does skin flooding affect make-up application?


The skin’s hydration levels can really impact the look of make-up on the skin, so skin flooding can help to achieve certain looks.


Eleni explains, “I like to have the skin very hydrated for a red-carpet glowy look; I like to buff the foundation onto the skin before the hydration is absorbed because you have all of that moisture to sheer out the foundation to give it a very natural finish. 


“However, if you’re looking for longevity and fuller coverage in make-up then it’s really important to let each skincare stage absorb into the skin, because if you’re layering too much then it can become sticky or greasy, or it can make your make-up pill. 


“Another thing to bear in mind is to just use the products you need. You might only need to use two products. For example, with dry under-eyes I like to apply a serum then pat a light oil just around the dehydration lines before I apply concealer – but I give them time to absorb so that the concealer blends in better.”


Is skin flooding bad?


The goal is to saturate the skin with moisture, creating a barrier that helps to lock in hydration and protect against external stressors.


However, skin flooding could potentially do more harm than good.


Kelly Saynor, aesthetic nurse and founder of Medica Forte (creators of The Perfect Peel), says, “When overstimulating the skin with product, it can become lazy – skin interprets all the heavy-duty products being applied as a sign that it can become complacent. Skin cells starts to slow down, and won’t operate as effectively.”


“Typically, it’s best to stick to the application guidelines on each product – for example, hyaluronic acid is more effective on damp skin, whereas retinol should only be applied on dry skin – therefore skin flooding would lead to decreased product efficacy in this case.”


Where does skin flooding come from? 


While the term is trending, the techniques of skincare layering and misting aren’t new. 


K-Beauty has long touted the effectiveness of layering multiple lightweight serums for super-hydrated, glossy-looking skin. 


El Muntasar believes that the trend could also have its origins in skin slugging, while Eleni feels that skin flooding can be related to make-up in terms of layering. “I like to do layers of make-up application – less so with hydration, but more to do with giving a natural finish,” she says. 


“I might start with an illuminating CC cream and then an illuminating primer, and then an initial layer of foundation before going into areas that might need extra coverage with a slightly heavier foundation.”


Why is skin flooding trending now?


Skin flooding has been gaining prominence during the winter months, due to the drying effect of wintry weather and central heating. 


“The internet loves skin trends, and they come in waves,” says El Muntasar. “At the moment it’s all about moisturising, especially during the winter months.


“Using keywords such as flooding is also good clickbait, so people love that,” he adds. 


Its popularity may also be a consequence of more aggressive skin trends over the past few years. For example, the overuse of trending ingredients such as exfoliating acids and retinols can impair skin barrier function and lead to tight, dry, itchy, and flaky skin. 


Skin changes due to menopause or other hormonal changes can also cause skin dryness. Increased discussions about this area of skin health have led to a search for appropriate skincare solutions.


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