Dry skin is something that most people experience at least once in their life. However, for others, it can be a chronic condition.
It can cause discomfort and even make it difficult to wear clothing. Understanding your skin and how it becomes dry can help you to ensure proper hydration to reduce your risk of skin dryness.
Understanding Your Skin
Skin is essentially your suit of armor against the environment. There are three layers of your skin, including:
Epidermis: This is the layer of skin that you can see when you look at your body. It creates your skin tone and is waterproof.
Dermis: This is the second layer of skin that contains hair follicles, connective tissue, and sweat glands.
Subcutaneous: This is the deepest layer of your skin. It is composed of connective tissue and fat.
Water content is what makes your skin feel soft. When the water level of your skin decreases, the epidermis is unable to function properly.
What Skin Dryness Looks Like
When skin is dry, it looks peeled, inflamed, dehydrated and irritated. It feels scaly and rough.
In some cases when it is severe, it can be itchy and painful. Intense itching and redness are possible with significant dryness.
When skin dryness is prolonged, it is possible for bleeding and cracking to occur.
What Causes Dry Skin
People of all ages can experience skin dryness. In many cases, there is an environmental cause at play:
Heat: Various elements used to heat your home can reduce humidity and result in skin dryness. Common examples include wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, central heating and space heaters.
Detergents and soaps: Some of these items can be harsh on your skin. Their ingredients that remove oils from your skin can also strip moisture.
Weather: The cold winter months can strip your skin of moisture due to reducing humidity and temperatures.
Hot water: If you shower or bathe in hot water, this can dry out your skin, especially if you are in the water for a long time.
Skin conditions can also cause dryness as a symptom. Dermatitis is the most common condition and there are several types:
Seborrheic dermatitis: This type is characterized by an overproduction of oil from your skin. It is common in infants and usually affects the scalp. The symptoms can include a rash that is scaly and red.
Contact dermatitis: This type causes localized inflammation and it occurs when your skin starts to react to something. For example, if you are allergic to nickel and it comes into contact with your skin, you may notice redness and itching in the contact area. Chemicals, such as bleach, coming into contact with your skin may also cause this type of dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis: This type is also called eczema and it is a chronic condition that can last for a long time. Children are more prone to this type of dermatitis than adults. It tends to present as patches that are scaly and dry, and these can develop anywhere on your body.
Other conditions that act as dry skin causes:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Thyroid imbalances
- Hormone imbalances
- Sjogren’s syndrome
Certain people are at a higher risk of developing skin dryness:
If you are over age 40, your risk is higher. In fact, over half of older adults deal with dry skin. As you get older, less oil is made by your pores which can make your skin drier.
You swim a lot in pools that contain chlorine.
You work a job, such as hair styling and nursing, which require frequently putting your hands in water.
Skin Dryness Complications
If your skin is persistently dry, it is at risk for cracking. When cracks develop in your skin, bacteria can get into these cracks and put you at risk for infection.
The infections usually affect the top layer of your skin, but if you are older, immunocompromised or the infections go untreated, it can penetrate the deeper layers of your skin and potentially become serious.
Dry Skin Fixes
There are several ways to reduce skin dryness. It is important to develop a regimen that works for the underlying cause of your skin dryness.
For example, if it is due to psoriasis, you should consult a doctor to determine which medical treatments are needed.
It is also important to make sure that any home remedies do not interact with any prescribed treatments.
In general, you need to add more moisture to your skin. This starts with drinking plenty of water.
Adults who live in a temperate climate and have good overall health can follow this recommendation for daily fluid intake:
- Women should strive for about 2.7 liters daily
- Men should strive for about 3.7 liters daily
When it comes to dry skin fixes, a good moisturizer is a critical part of your routine. It is important that your moisturizer is thick and able to lock the moisture into your skin.
With severe dryness, an ointment is the best option because it is thick and provides a protective layer while simultaneously hydrating your skin.
If your skin is only mildly dry, creams can be a good choice. They help to hydrate without being too heavy. Should your skin be a combination of dry and oily, lotions are a solid option.
They are the lightest of the moisturizers, so they add hydration without feeling greasy or heavy on the skin that is already oily.
The following are common moisturizer ingredients that you want to have in the one that you use:
Water: Most moisturizers contain both water and oil. These ingredients work together because the water will not just evaporate when the oil is present due to the oil trapping the water within your skin.
Emollients: These work to make your skin smoother.
Humectants: These help to pull moisture from the environment to your skin. They are used with emollients to ensure that the humectants do not work in reverse and actually pull water from your skin in dry environments.
Vitamins: Many moisturizers contain vitamin A, C, and E, or a combination of these. They contribute to skin health and promote better skin texture.
You can choose to pick your moisturizer based on the season. For example, during the summer months when the weather tends to be more humid, lotion or cream may be sufficient to hydrate your skin.
However, in the summer months where the air is dry, an ointment is typically a better option.
In addition to a good moisturizer and drinking enough water, the following can help to reduce skin dryness:
- When you are bathing, use warm water instead of hot
- Reduce your showering time to 10 minutes or less
- Right after you bathe, apply your moisturizer
- Never rub your skin dry. Instead, use a soft towel to pat your skin
- If the environment inside your home is dry, get a humidifier to add moisture to the air
- Be mindful of the soaps that you are using because many of them can be drying
- When you need to have your hands in water, wear gloves to protect them
- When it is windy and cold outside, keep your skin covered since these conditions can be drying
- Avoid contact with harsh chemicals. For example, wear gloves when you are cleaning with bleach and similar items
- If you are drinking alcohol, make sure to consume more water to counteract the dehydration it can cause
If your dry skin is persistent or due to a medical condition, it is important to see your doctor.
They can work with you to develop a plan to help reduce the dryness so that your skin is healthier and more comfortable.
Once you have a treatment regimen, it is important to stick with it, or else there is a risk of the dryness returning.