We Ask an Esthetician: What Is Skin Flooding?

PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.

skin flooding a woman doing her skincare routine with serum bottles behind her
Paula Boudes/Getty Images

Another day, another skincare trend demanding our attention. Just as skin cycling and slugging were before, skin flooding is now in the spotlight. While the trend is not actually new, it’s become a popular way to quench dry skin. To understand the hype a bit more, we reached out to a skincare expert to explain skin flooding and if it’s worth trying it out for yourself. 

Meet the Expert:

  • Ridah Syed is a senior medical aesthetician at Skinfluencer.

What Is Skin Flooding?

Skin flooding is a layering technique that uses a humectant (like hyaluronic acid) to add moisture and then an emollient (like a creamy moisturizer) to seal the water in and protect your skin barrier. “It’s inspired by the K-beauty multi-step method, where you add as much hydration to the skin as possible by layering water-based products,” says Syed. This method has been a beauty’s secret for ages, but leave it to TikTok to slap a buzzy name on it and make it mainstream to the masses. 

What Are the Benefits of Skin Flooding? 

One word: hydration. Sticking with this specific order—starting with a humectant and ending with a moisturizing emollient—allows for skin flooding to really work its magic. “Humectants such as hyaluronic acid adds moisture to the skin often by drawing it from the surrounding environment, while emollients such as ceramides seal in moisture and prevent evaporation from the skin,” explains Syed. “This method helps products penetrate the skin and increase their efficacy for a deeper and long-lasting hydration.”

What Are the Downsides of Skin Flooding? 

For the most part, this classic trend gets a thumbs up from our aesthetician. As Syed states, it’s a great option for most skin types, especially super dry skin as “skin flooding helps to restore lost moisture and ensure skin does not dry out too much.” However, she notes people with acne-prone or oily skin should tread lightly with trying out this technique: “Not all skin types can cope with layers of thick creams and lotions. It may clog their pores and trigger outbreaks.” So, if you're unsure whether that applies to you, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist first before testing the routine. 

What Are the Steps to Skin Flooding?

Skin flooding works if you stick to the order of the products. It’s also helpful to apply each product consecutively with the goal of having damp skin throughout your routine. Whenever you’re ready to “flood” your skin, here’s four steps you should follow:

  1. Use a gentle cleanser. The first step is keeping your face clean and damp for the rest of the routine. Stay away from any active ingredients (ala the AHAs and BHAs on your shelf) in favor of ingredients like ceramides and glycerin. 
  2. Once you rinse out your cleanser, apply a water-based toner. Although steps three and four are the drivers of the trend, this is the first layer of hydration is just as important. Use a mist, toner or even an essence to dampen the area. Note: Similar to step one, avoid any alcohol-based ingredients like salicylic acid as it can dry out the skin.
  3. Next, use a humectant serum like hyaluronic acid, aloe vera or castor oil. Apply three drops to the tips of your fingers and rub it in before massaging it on your face and neck. For even more hydration, Syed suggests applying a niacinamide serum, which can help support an even healthier and more hydrated skin barrier. 
  4. Finally, seal with an emollient product. Ingredients like shea butter, ceramides and oils, are known to lock in moisture, so search for emollient-based creams, lotions or ointments to bring your whole routine together. Plus, avoid ingredients like retinol, glycolic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Again, you want to have a dewy finish that won’t strip away any ounce of moisture. 

What Is the Best Time of Day for Skin Flooding?

If you have dry skin, it’s recommended to do this technique every night. On the flip side, people with sensitive or oily skin should opt for once a week to get a boost of hydration without dealing with irritation or breakouts. 

So, Should I Try Skin Flooding?

Why not. Like many skincare trends before it, it’s always wise to listen to your skin. Skin flooding is a great technique to boost hydration, but it might not work for everyone. If you’re going to take the plunge, stick to the steps above and you’ll be on track to more moisture in your skincare. 

Want more beauty tips sent right to your inbox? Subscribe here.

about face matte fluid eye paint review chelsea candelario

Beauty & Cultures Editor, Ultimate Fangirl, NY Native

Chelsea Candelario is a Beauty & Cultures Editor at PureWow. She has been covering beauty, culture, fashion and entertainment for over a decade. You'll find her searching the...