As with many of the viral skin-care trends on TikTok, skin flooding is “a catchy hashtag for skin-care habits that many people may already do at home,” says New York dermatologist Elaine Kung, MD. She notes that it’s adjacent to the slugging trend, which employs a thicker ointment to lock in moisture rather than a cream.
“Skin flooding involves layering your moisturizing products in a particular order to provide deeper hydration,” explains aesthetician and CEO of Renée Rouleau Skin Care, Renée Rouleau. “By layering products from thin, water-based products to thicker products with more oil, the hydration will seep into the skin most effectively.”
How to skin flood
“It’s not that complicated,” assures Heyday shop educator and licensed aesthetican Juan Estwick. Skin flooding involves using a hydrating serum (such as hyaluronic acid or polyglutamic acid) to help skin draw moisture from the environment before applying an emollient cream to lock in the moisture, explains Kung.
To do this, Rouleau recommends beginning by washing your face with a gentle cleanser and keeping your skin slightly damp at the end. After cleansing, Estwick recommends spritzing on a mist. While your skin is still moist, apply a hyaluronic serum. “Finally, apply a barrier-protecting moisturizer or cream to seal it all in,” says Rouleau.
The benefits of skin flooding
“The benefit of skin flooding is hydration as it allows your skin care to really penetrate deeper into the skin while making your regimen more effective,” says Estwick. “It locks in the moisture in all layers of the skin while retaining water and keeping skin hydrated.”
Dr. Kung says to think of it like this: “The hydration serum acts like a sponge while the moisturizing cream acts as a sealant.” How does this work? “When you layer your products from thinnest to thickest, the products with the smallest molecules going on first it maximizes their efficacy and allows them to penetrate better, delivering hydration on a deeper level,” explains Rouleau. Additionally, “by using a moisturizer with emollients as your last step, you’re locking in all that hydration.”
Who should try the trend, and who should avoid it
Dr. Kung always advises people to consider their skin type and how it’s behaving with environmental factors before diving into a TikTok trend. She notes that people with oily skin or those that live in a humid climate can skip this multi-step moisturizing routine. Estwick agrees that those with acne-prone skin may break out if using this technique. “For these people, probably a hydration serum by itself is adequate because an additional emollient cream may clog pores,” says Dr. Kung.
On the other hand, Dr. Kung says skin flooding can be beneficial for those with dry, sensitive skin or people living in dry climates. Estwick says it’s also a good option when winter comes around. “We all know that the winter can really take a toll on our skin. It leaves our skin feeling so dry and dehydrated,” and skin flooding is a way to balance that.
What to know before you try it
“This is a great option for sensitive skin—just be sure to use high-quality products and do a bit of research first,” says Rouleau. “Some ingredients layer better with others, so I would recommend ensuring you are layering wisely, so you don’t get pilling on the skin and the ingredients work at their maximum efficacy.”