Dry Skin: Take Care of Your Skin with These Prevention Tips
Ugh, dry skin. Nobody wants it, really. Unfortunately, dry skin is common, especially during cold winter months. Why so? That’s because your skin does not only have to deal with the cold biting weather outside, but must also survive the onslaught of moisture-draining central heating systems. The bad news is, while the weather is to blame for making your skin miserably dry and flaky, it’s just one of the many aggressors your skin needs to combat with. Let’s find out more about dry skin, why your skin is feeling a little (or annoyingly) dry and ways to bring back the smoothness and moisture it needs.
What is Dry Skin?
Dry skin is a common condition that is marked by itching, scaling and cracking. This uncomfortable skin issue can develop due to several possible reasons. In some cases, a person naturally has dry skin; however, there are some individuals with oily skin who suffer from dryness occasionally. It can develop anywhere on your body, but often affects your face, hands, arms and legs – parts that are usually exposed to the elements.
The usual treatment for dry skin is applying a non-prescription moisturizer, but if this isn’t effective, you should consult with a skin care professional. This is because the problem may be dermatitis, a medical term used for severely dry skin.
What Causes Dry Skin?
There are many possible causes of dry skin, but they are classified into two primary groups:
1. Internal Factors – these include health, age, genetics and personal history of skin conditions like eczema. For instance, there are medical conditions that can cause dry skin as a symptom.
2. External Factors – most cases of dry skin are due to these factors, which include:
- Low Humidity – During cold weather, such as winter, dry skin becomes more common because the hydration level in the outermost layer of your epidermis (stratum corneum) is negatively affected. The use of a humidifier can help prevent dry skin when humidity drops.
- Cold Temperature – It’s like a moisture-sucking vampire that dries up your skin’s natural oil (sebum) so you may need to use a moisturizer more often during cold weather.
- Harsh Bath Products – If you’re among the many people who use ordinary bar soap on your face, this may be the reason for your dry skin. Experts recommend using a separate cleanser for your face; it should be suitable for your specific skin type.
- Other Products – There are many topical products that contain potentially harmful ingredients, which can cause dry skin. For example, hand sanitizers and other anti-germicidal formulations, especially those with alcohol.
- Hot Water – Whether you’re taking a bath or just washing your face, using hot water because it dries up your skin and eliminates its natural oil.
- Moisturizers – Yes, even moisturizers that supposed to hydrate your skin can have the opposite effect when they contain harmful components. This is why you should be careful in choosing a product; make sure it only contains ingredients that are proven to be safe and effective.
- Clothing – Certain materials can irritate your skin and cause dryness, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Medications – Some drugs are known to cause dry skin as a side effect. If this is the case, talk to your doctor about an alternative drug you can take.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dry Skin?
If you have any of the following, you may be suffering from dry skin:
1. Scaly Skin – This is caused by the loss of the stratum corneum.
2. Rough Skin – It occurs when dead skin cells build up on the surface of your skin.
3. Flaky Skin – Soaps and other harsh topical products often cause this condition wherein the skin lacks the ability of producing its natural oils.
4. Itching – The most common symptom of dry skin that is typically caused by environmental factors like cold weather. The medical term for itching is “pruritus.”
5. Grey and Ashy Skin – People with a darker skin tone suffer from this problem.
6. Cracked Skin – Usually preceded by other symptoms like itching, this is caused by inflammation and tears on the outer layer of the skin. It is an indication of severe dryness, which may require professional help.
7. Chapped Lips – The term for this is Cheilitis simples, a painful condition that is not uncommon during winter
8. Red Patches – It is among the first symptoms that appear in people with sensitive skin, which is an indication of irritation as well.
If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure to treat your dry skin immediately. When it becomes itchy and you scratch it, the skin can thicken and more severe symptoms can eventually develop. In fact, germs can enter cracked skin and reach deeper layers and infection can occur.
How is Dry Skin Diagnosed?
Skin care professionals can easily diagnose dry skin just by taking a look at the affected area. They also ask questions about how the condition developed and the symptoms that the patient noticed. Detailed answers to these questions are vital for an accurate diagnosis. In some cases, additional tests are needed to determine if there is an underlying medical condition that’s causing dry skin.
Although very rarely needed, a skin biopsy can done to confirm diagnosis, but only in severe cases like those that involve other skin conditions, like squamous cell carcinoma of skin or basal cell carcinoma. Take note that dry skin becomes more common with aging because of the natural changes that occur, such as the skin becoming thinner and less elastic. Additionally, if you are regularly exposed to chemicals and detergents, there is a higher risk for developing this condition.
Are There Possible Complications of Dry Skin?
When you have dry skin, it should be treated immediately because it can eventually develop into mild to severe bacterial infection. This is because dry skin generally causes itching, which can then cause lesions because of the “itch-scratch cycle.” It can also cause thickened skin in some areas, and repeated scratching in the same area can cause chronic skin conditions to develop (prurigo nodule and lichen simplex chronicus).
What are the Treatments for Dry Skin?
There are several different methods you can use to deal with dry skin; however, it would be best to consult a skin care professional first. Here are some of the steps you can do to treat dry skin.
1. Slap on a moisturizer
As your skin’s natural barrier function is most compromised when your skin is dry, it doesn’t take long before you feel its aftermath: uncomfortable tightness, roughness and sometimes sensitivity. To keep your skin hydrated and produce natural essential oil (sebum), a moisturizer should be in your skin care arsenal.
Take note that you should use a hydrating formulation that’s specifically for dry skin. Those that are designed for other skin types can be ineffective or in some cases worsen your condition. What you want is a moisturizing cream with higher oil, wax and water content to help counteract the loss of water. These ingredients also build an occlusive layer on your skin that replaces water loss and helps lock in moisture.
If dry skin moisturizers make you feel tacky as oil and water don’t naturally mix on their own, an emulsifier can blend them together – don’t worry, many moisturizing creams and lotions already have oil-in-water emulsifier in them. Newer moisturizer formulas are lighter and absorbed more quickly, so they do not feel as sticky and heavy. Moreover, when you’re looking for a moisturizer to treat dry skin, follow the product’s instructions carefully.
Must-Have Ingredients to Look for In A Moisturizer
Since not all moisturizers are created equal, what separates the “top-rankers” from the rest are the ingredients they contain. Forget brands and media hypes for now and look for formulas.
- Emollients – These are lubricating ingredients with three main jobs: thwart water loss, protect your skin and leave it smooth and silky soft. Emollients may have fluid or thick consistency and include fatty acids. The common examples of emollients used in moisturizers are: cocoa butter, evening primrose oil, mango butter and fatty acids.
- Glycerin – Also called glycerol or glycerine, glycerin is a skin-restoring and replenishing ingredient that is found naturally in skin. It locks in moisture into the skin, making it a wonderful humectant (an ingredient that pulls moisture from the environment and locks it in).
- Hyaluronic acid – In skin care industry, hyaluronic acid is a superstar. It is often used in lotions, creams, serums and cleansers to maintain a moisture of balance in your skin. Like gycerin, hyaluronic acid is also a humectant. It holds on to moisture, nourishes and plumps up your skin, making it soft and supple.
- Ceramides – Found in the outer most layer of your skin, ceramides aids in maintaining hydration balance of the skin. It protects it against moisture loss and helps the skin’s barrier keep things in and out.
- Essential oils – Oils are all the rage right now and for a good reason. They soften the skin surface and provide it with a much-needed moisture. Some of the best oils to look for are jojoba, argan, marula, olive, camellia seed and avocado oil.
- Oleic acid – It is your skin’s “moisturizing superhero” when conquering dry, thirsty skin. It is a fatty acid that is skin-regenerating and moisturizing.
- Linoleic acid – This skin-rejuvenating powerhouse and essential beauty nutrient is one of the most important lipids for the skin to maintain its barrier function. It helps treat dry skin by:
- Keeping your sebum (oil) flowing, which prevents dry skin and comedones (due to blocked pores).
- Keeping your skin’s barrier function intact.
Antioxidants – These have unique roles when it comes to treating dry skin, which is often the result of frequent and/or prolonged sun exposure. The sun’s damaging UV rays, as well as other environmental aggressors slowly chip away (so it is often unnoticed) your skin’s natural ability to retain moisture. As the damage worsens, it becomes more difficult for your skin to repair itself and regain its smooth, firm and resilient surface. Antioxidants prevent this from happening and work in two ways: protect your skin’s barrier from weakening and defend the skin against the ruthless effects of sun damage and environmental assault.
Petrolatum – It is a type of occlusives that minimizes the amount of water that evaporates through the skin. Occlusive agents form a hydrophobic barrier on your skin to keep water lock in. However, petrolatum is thick and heavy on skin so it’s not recommended for acne-prone skin. While it can seal in moisture, it is also comedogenic or can clog pores.
Sunscreen – Of course, sunscreen is a must-have in your beauty pouch. All the moisturizers in the world can’t protect and save your skin from the havoc of UV rays, even on a cloudy day. During the day, the trick is to look for a daytime moisturizer with sunscreen like Dermaxsol Dermal Defense Moisturizer by Solvaderm. It provides all-day hydration while its broad spectrum SPF 30 protects your skin from the sun. It is quick-absorbing, non-greasy and non-drying, so your skin is left feeling moisturized, smoother and softer.
NOTE: According to research, a combination of ingredients, including glycerin, petrolatum, antioxidants, fatty acids, among many others, are excellent to help replenish skin.
2. Try a medication
Sometimes, using a moisturizer is not enough so dermatologists prescribe topical (e.g., corticosteroids) or oral medicine (e.g., antihistamines). This is for decreasing itching and swelling so that the condition won’t get worse.
Dry Skin Prevention Tips
Prevention is the best way you can permanently get rid of dry skin. Here are the top prevention tips from the experts:
1. Avoid Using Hot Water For Showers, Baths And Washing Your Face. Only use lukewarm water since hot water strips your skin of its natural oil. Shorten your time in the bath or shower to a maximum of 10 minutes to prevent drying out your skin.
2. Use a Creamy Or Oil-Based Cleanser. Don’t make the mistake of using bar soap on your face, especially if you have dry or sensitive skin. Find a cleanser that is gentle and suits your skin type – make sure it can effectively remove dirt and excess oil.
3. Do Not Over Cleanse. Lather up less often if your skin is dry to avoid stripping away your skin’s natural oils and making your skin worse. Rinse with just water when you wake up. “It’s enough to clean your skin in the morning, and you’ll retain more of your own moisturizing oils,” says New York dermatologist Ellen Marmur.
4. Avoid Gritty Exfoliators. Don’t go crazy exfoliating your skin. Remember, sloughing off dead skin cells, deep-seated dirt and trapped oils aren’t supposed to hurt. Gritty scrubs, which often feel rough can significantly wipe away your skin’s natural hydrating oils and cause irritation and inflammation. Opt for gentle exfoliators such as those that are natural like seeds, kernels or sugar.
5. Apply Moisturizer After Cleansing. After gently drying your skin with a towel, slather on a moisturizer to restore your skin’s hydration and trap moisture. Instead of lotion, use creams or serums – these are less irritating and more effective. The ingredients you should look for are jojoba oil, glycerin, hyaluronic acid and dimethicone.
6. Glop a Peel-Off Mask On And Go. Thanks for innovating skin care technology, peel-off masks make it super easy and fun to feed and hydrate your skin. Masks with soothing, moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera and cucumber are a quick way to fix many of your skin woes, including dry, dull and rough skin.
7. Load Up On Antioxidants. Protect your skin from free radical damage by consuming antioxidant-rich foods such as green tea, mushrooms, olives, pomegranates and coffee berries. You may also use skin care products that contain powerful antioxidants, such as coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, copper and zinc. “The use of topical antioxidants is gaining favour,” says Dr. Patricial Farris, a dermatologist based in Louisiana. “Now we know they (antioxidants) can be absorbed into the cells of the stratum corneum and that is where they neutralize free radicals,” she added.
8. Be Careful In Choosing Your Skin Care Products. Many skin care formulations are harsh, especially on dry and sensitive skin. If you have dry skin, don’t use deodorant soaps and skin care formulations with fragrance and other irritating ingredients.
9. Use Gloves. You will typically notice dry skin first on your hands, but this can be prevented just by wearing gloves. Make sure to put gloves on before heading outdoors during winter, doing something that will get your hands wet, and handling chemicals and other substances.
10. Choose Gentle Laundry Detergent And Non-Irritating Fabric. Even the clothes you wear can irritate your skin and cause or worsen dryness. Be careful with laundry detergent as well and make sure your clothes are washed thoroughly. Use hypoallergenic laundry detergent if your skin is sensitive or moderately to severely dry.
11. Use a Humidifier. When humidity drops, such as when there’s indoor heating, your skin dries up quickly. If you have extremely dry skin, you may need to invest in a humidifier. It counteracts the skin-drying effects of your heater and air conditioning.
How to Care for Dry Skin
Knowledge is very important if you want to manage dry skin effectively. Here’s a list of what you should and shouldn’t do if you have this condition:
Do’s for Dry Skin
- Do Wash Your Face. However, it should be done gently using a formulation that’s designed for dry skin. After doing so, make sure to use a clean towel and pat dry in order to prevent irritating your skin.
- Do Use Gentle Cleansers And Soaps. Most skin cleansing products like bar soaps contain harsh ingredients and those that can cause a pH imbalance. Experts recommend cleansers with natural soothing ingredients to reduce the risk of irritation.
- Do Use Makeup Wisely. Instead of powdered foundations and other chemical-filled products, use nourishing formulas, such as tinted moisturizers. Remember to wash off makeup at night before going to bed – this will prevent skin problems, especially acne.
- Do Drink Plenty Of Water. You need at least eight glasses of water each day to prevent dehydration. Drink more if you sweat a lot, such as during intense exercise and very hot weather.
- Do Moisturize Often. Find a moisturizer that suits your skin type and apply it as needed; some trial and error may be in order to find the best product for you. If you have dry skin, you need to apply it more often (two or more times daily).
Don’ts for Dry Skin
- Don’t Wash Your Face Too Often. In a lot of cases, dry skin is a direct result of over-washing. Once or twice a day is enough for most individuals, but make sure to apply a moisturizer right after.
- Don’t Take Hot Baths Or Showers. Again, hot water will only further dry out your skin so short, lukewarm baths or showers work best.
- Don’t Forget About Sun Protection. The sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays don’t just increase your risk of skin cancer, but they also promote skin dryness. Moreover, UV rays are among the top causes of rapid skin aging. Wear sunscreen daily and for added protection, apply an antioxidant serum before heading outdoors.
- Don’t Use Lotion On Your Face. Many people make this mistake thinking that if it works on the body, it must be effective for theface as well. However, the skin in your face is much thinner, which requires a different formulation for optimum hydration. Some products can even cause problems like irritation, so you really should be very careful.
- Don’t Use Matte Lipstick. These are known to dry out the lips quickly so instead, just apply lip balm with some shade.
- Don’t Use Fragranced Skin Care Products. Fragrances are among the top causes of skin irritation in skin care products. Be wary of other potentially irritating ingredients as well, and make sure to thoroughly scrutinize a formulation first before buying.
Foods That Help Dry Skin
While skin care regimen and following your to-do and to-don’t lists are necessary to combat dry skin and keep it hydrated, it is also necessary to moisturize your skin from the inside by eating moisture-boosting foods. As a bonus, our list below doesn’t only aid you towards soft, supple skin, but also help improve your skin on a cellular level.
- Fish High In Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Among the many benefits of omega-3 fatty acids are beautiful skin and hair. They help maintain moisture and strengthen your skin’s barrier. And one of the best ways to provide your body with omega-3 fatty acids is to consume fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna and herring. A side note to those who hate eating fish, you may opt to include flax seeds in your diet or take a fish oil supplement.
- Sweet Potatoes – Touted as a superfood that gives enormous health benefits, sweet potatoes are also great for skin. It is rich in beta-carotene that prevents dry skin.
- Olive Oil – Containing omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E, olive oil is also a superfood for your skin. It can protect your skin from dryness and eczema.
- Nuts And Seeds – They are rich in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, so munch on mixed nuts to fill your hunger gap rather than devouring salty junk foods. Pumpkin seeds are the “unsung beauty heroes”that are packed-full of skin-moisturizing vitamins and minerals like vitamin E, zinc and magnesium. Other good examples of nuts and seeds that give beauty and health benefits are almonds, walnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds.
- Cucumbers – Not only cucumbers are soothing for dark circles, they are also soothing for your skin and help it fight damage. Water-rich vegetables like cucumbers contains silica, which can help boost collagen production, resulting in increased skin elasticity. Also, cucumbers are rich in vitamin C and vitamin E, which nourish skin.
- Avocado – Containing high amounts of vitamin E and other antioxidants, avocado helps keep your skin moist, firm and youthful. It also has anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Green Leafy Vegetables – dark leafy greens, particularly spinach, are rich in iron, vitamins A, B and E, and omega-4 fatty acids, which not only improve your immune system, but also provide skin protection. Folates and phytochemicals are some of your skin’s hydration-boosters that are keeping it nourished.
- Water-Densed Tropical Fruits – you have probably got the idea: watermelon, cantaloupe, pineapple and grapefruits top the list of juicy, skin-boosting fruits. They excellently hydrate your skin and contain powerful antioxidants, vitamins A and C. Other antioxidant-rich fruits include berries (raspberries, strawberries and blueberries), oranges and mangoes. They all replenish nutrients in your skin, stimulate collagen production, and help keep your skin supple.
Remember, you are what you eat!
Frequently Asked Questions About Dry Skin
1. Does Dry Skin Cause Winter Itch?
Dry skin is among the common causes of winter itch; already damaged skin during winter becomes worse because of the low humidity and cold temperature. The symptoms of dry skin aggravate during this season so you need to be more careful with your skin care regimen.
2. Do Genetics Play a Role In Dry Skin?
Hereditary factors play a major role in the development of dry skin. Many skin conditions, such as eczema, are passed from one generation to the next. Therefore, if any of your parents or siblings suffer from skin dryness, it is likely that you may have it too.
3. What Medical Conditions Cause Dry Skin?
There are many diseases that can cause dry skin, such as bulimia, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, eczema and diabetes. Talk to your health care provider about the best options for managing this condition if a disease is causing it.
4. What Drugs Can Cause Dry Skin?
A lot of over-the-counter and prescription medication list dry skin as a side effect. Some examples are antihistamines, cholesterol lowering drugs, diuretics, and retinoids.
5. What Are The Most Common Causes Of Dry Skin?
Dry skin can be a result of an underlying medical condition, but most cases develop due to external factors (e.g., low humidity, hot bath and high temperature).
6. What Is The Medical Term For Dry Skin?
Abnormally dry skin is called xerosis cutis, which stems from the Greek word for dry (xero).
7. Does Diet Play a Role In Dry Skin?
An unhealthy diet, specifically one that is deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, can cause skin dryness. This is why people with dry skin are advised to eat more omega-3 rich foods, such as fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds.
Dry skin is a very common condition that can occur due to several possible reasons. It can affect anyone, young or old, male or female, but this is a manageable condition. As long as you are aware of what you should and shouldn’t do, you can minimize the discomfort that dry skin brings and treat it or keep it at bay for good.