What is Skin Flooding?

Nikki Butler

Nikki Butler

Skin Flooding - what is it?

Chances are you’ve heard LOADS of people talk about skin flooding recently. It’s a TikTok trend that’s gone viral and, like many other ‘trends’ that are born out of social media, lacks any real clarity and misses out important pieces of information. 

I don’t have TikTok, so I haven’t seen this sweep the nation, but I’ve had a fair few clients and friends ask me if they should be skin flooding. 

So, what is it? It’s basically where you layer multiple skin care products onto damp skin, to lock in moisture. TikTok sensations are telling everyone it leads to softer, plumper skin. 

BUT, skin flooding could actually be having a negative impact on your skin. Let’s have a look at why it’s not a good idea for many!

Why are you skin flooding?

It’s pretty difficult, when a trend sweeps the nation, claiming that it will give us smoother and softer skin in a heartbeat. Despite my years in the industry, my ears still prick up when I hear about a new trend or claim. 

Skin flooding is about applying multiple products to damp skin, to lock in moisture. If it’s done correctly, it can be beneficial, but it can also have a negative effect on your skin, especially if you’re using certain skin care active ingredients. 

I want to point out that true skin flooding is about applying products to DAMP skin, not completely wet skin – as seems to be the advice doing the rounds. 

If you have dry skin, then please don’t think that skin flooding is the answer, as it will depend on the cause of your dry skin. A better (in my opinion) long-term strategy is to use the right skincare products that repair your natural barrier function and keep your natural moisturising factors (NMF) in, whilst speeding up cell turnover and boosting collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid – all responsible for smoother, plumper, more hydrated and youthful looking skin.  Add in some lifestyle factors and nutrition, and you’re onto a winner! 

When skin flooding is a NO from me!

Now, as I said, I haven’t seen the TikTok videos, so I can’t comment directly on them. But I can tell you why skin flooding is a hard NO from me, for pretty much all of my clients!

Here’s the thing. If you’re using active ingredients like Vitamin C, and acids (AHA’s/BHA’s) on your skin, then you are either diluting them, or changing their structure, OR as with retinol, it’s absorbed more deeply and can cause irritation and sensitivity.  Not ideal, if you’ve invested in a medical-grade skincare range, with high-quality and high-level active ingredients! 

There are products that you can layer where it can be beneficial, but as most clients that I work with use both Vitamin C and retinol, applying these to wet skin is a no-go. You also only need small amounts of these products, piling on too much product will be a waste, and also increase your risk of irritation! 

Most skincare ranges involve layering serums and moisturisers, to lock in the multiple benefits of the active ingredients, but applying them to wet/damp skin is not usually the best choice. 

If, however, you’re using a skincare range with no active ingredients at all, skin flooding is not generally an issue. 

My musings on skin flooding

As with anything, people will have their own thoughts and opinions. In both this blog post and my video, I am sharing my views and reflections on the skin-flooding sensation that is sweeping the nation. 

You’ll meet other practitioners that have a different opinion, for sure!  My goal is to help you make informed decisions about what’s right for you, and your skin. And, to help you achieve your best possible skin, both in the short, medium, and long term. 

If you’re working with a skincare professional, have a chat with them if you’re considering skin flooding, to make sure that it’s appropriate with the skin care you’re using. 

When and how to do skin flooding

I’m going to start by saying that this is general advice, and it is going to depend on the products that you’re using and the strength/type of active ingredients. Ask your skin care professional for advice, to be sure what is safe to do. 

Skin flooding can be interpreted in two ways. Firstly: Applying products to wet or damp skin.  Secondly, layering up products to lock in moisture. 

Layering products, such as serums, moisturisers, and of course sunscreen is great, and most skincare ranges do this, including medical grade ranges. 

The issue comes with using some active ingredients on wet/damp skin. This alters the way that the active ingredients work. It can also mean that the active ingredients penetrate deeper into your skin, which – whilst it might sound like a good idea, can lead to irritation and sensitivity. 

Also, wet skin isn’t necessary. Damp skin that is freshly washed, and patted dry is the optimum IF you are skin flooding. 

If you’re just using a hyaluronic acid serum, followed by moisturiser and sunscreen – then go right ahead with your skin flooding! HA holds 1000 x its own weight in water, making it an incredible product for hydration levels. 

Avoid skin flooding if you’re using serums like Vitamin C, acids, and retinol though – this is where you can get into trouble. Let’s have a look at why and how. 

Why some ingredients cause an issue

Here’s some advice on products to avoid, if you’re considering skin flooding. Not all skincare products and ingredients are created equal, so always check with your skin care professional. 

Retinol: Also known as Vitamin A. This is a product that should apply at night time only, on completely dry skin. Applying this to damp/wet skin can mean that it’s absorbed much deeper into the skin, where it can cause irritation and sensitivity. This can lead to a compromised skin barrier function and an increased risk of damage from free radicals and UV exposure. 

Vitamin C: Vitamin C is water soluble and you apply this in the morning.  If you’re applying it to damp/wet skin then you’re diluting the serum and depending on the molecular structure, you may change the efficacy of the Vitamin C serum, by changing the acidity level. 

Acids:  You’ll find different types of acid in skin care products, depending on what you’re targeting.  AHA’s are the most common for ageing skin concerns, and we’re seeing PHA’s make a breakthrough now, as a gentler alternative. AHA’s like glycolic, citric, malic, lactic, and tataric, and BHA’s like salicylic acid, beta-hydroxybutyric acid, tropic acid, and
trethocanic acid.   You’ve also got PHA’s, which are dubbed the new age AHA’s, as they are gentler on the skin, examples of these are gluconolactone, lactobionic acid, and maltobionic acid. You’ll find acids in serums, toners, and masks. These acids work by breaking down the bonds between dead skin cells on the surface of your skin, revealing smoother, brighter skin underneath. If you apply these to wet skin, these acids do their job properly and may be absorbed into the skin to a deeper depth, where they can cause irritation and adverse reactions.  Water on your skin can actually increase its pH, making it more alkaline and less acidic, which can make these acids less effective and more irritating. Either way, it’s not good!

So, as general guidance – if you’re using a skincare routine with active ingredients like this, please don’t attempt skin flooding – in terms of applying to wet skin.   You can, however, layer these products very effectively for amazing results. You can follow these ingredients with a hyaluronic acid serum, peptides, moisturiser, and of course – sunscreen.  So in that respect – skin flooding is a ‘yes’! If you would like some help with your skincare routine, you can get in touch via the button below, or click HERE to book a consultation with me. 

In conclusion.....

Whilst skin flooding appears to be all the rage at the moment, it seems to lack context and safe advice. I really hope that you have found this blog helpful so that you can understand how you can get the best from your skin. 

Skin flooding, when it comes to layering skin care products for maximum results is nothing new. However, the generalised advice to apply your skin care products to wet skin is altogether misleading, and could actually lead to damage to your skin – which none of us want!

It’s also NOT a quick fix for dry skin. Dry skin often comes from a compromised skin barrier and other internal/external factors that can affect your skin.  Looking after your skin through lifestyle, nutrition, skincare, and treatments is the optimum way to get your best possible skin. Simply loading your skin with products when it’s wet is not going to be a miracle – I’m sorry to say.  I will, of course, let you know if I do find a skin miracle….but please don’t hold your breath! We can’t cheat our way to beautiful skin, it’s an inside-out and outside-in approach. 

And that's a wrap!

I really hope that you found my blog on skin flooding useful. If you would like some help with your skin, then please get in touch. I know it can be confusing, with all of the different advice available out there. The truth is, that there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ answer, as so many factors affect your skin.  I always work with my clients from the inside out, and outside in – to ensure you get the best possible results. 

I offer remote services, as well as clinical treatments. My aesthetics clinic is based in Alton, Hampshire. I’m on the Hampshire/Surrey border, just 15 minutes from Basingstoke and Farnham, and I’m at the end of a direct train line from London Waterloo. 

If you have any questions, please let me know. 

And, if you haven’t taken my Skin Quiz yet, then please do.  It’s fun, takes less than 4 minutes, and you’ll get immediate access to personalised results. 

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