Dry skin tends to be itchy, rough, scaly and flaky, meaning that you no doubt already know whether or not you have dry skin. There is no denying that dryness can be extremely frustrating to deal with, but this guide will talk you through all you need to know.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Normal skin features a natural protective barrier as its outermost layer, consisting mainly of lipids. This barrier is essential for retaining moisture, but, if the barrier is damaged in any way, it will not be able to do its job properly, leading to dryness.
Wondering what causes this damage to occur?
A few different factors, including:
- Harsh weather
- UV rays
- Long, hot showers
- Using the wrong skin care products
In addition to a damaged skin barrier leading to dryness, dry skin can also be caused by a few internal factors.
Medication is one of these, as certain types of medication, especially ones that control blood pressure and acne, often result in dry skin as one of their side effects.
Your genetics can also make a difference, and those who have fair skin tend to be much more susceptible to dryness than those with darker complexions.
Another common cause of dry skin is aging…
As the skin ages, its sebaceous glands, which are what produces your skin’s natural oils, start to slow down, not only leading to dryness, but also wrinkles and fine lines.
Hormonal fluctuations can also cause dry skin, especially during pregnancy and menopause.
Of course, there are certain medical conditions that can also lead to dry skin, such as:
- Skin conditions, including psoriasis and eczema
- Diabetes, due to poorly regulated blood sugar levels
- Hypothyroidism, due to low levels of the thyroid hormone decreasing natural oil production
- Malnutrition, as certain nutrients are essential for keeping the skin healthy
If you know that your dry skin is caused by a medical condition, then the best way to clear this is by tackling the actual condition itself. Nevertheless, you can still follow the tips mentioned in this guide to help reduce the dryness until then.
Avoiding the Cause
While there is not much that you can do about your genetics or hormonal fluctuations, many of the causes of dry skin can actually be avoided quite easily.
Well, let’s begin with UV rays…
As you can imagine, it does not take long for the sun’s strong rays to really dry out the skin, which is why sunscreen is essential throughout the year.
In addition to wearing sunscreen, you should also be taking additional steps to protect your skin from the sun, especially if you are already suffering from dry skin. There are many ways to do this, from staying out of direct sunlight during the sun’s hottest hours, to wearing clothing that hides your skin from the sun.
Clothing that protects your skin should also be used during times of harsh weather, paired with a thick and greasy moisturizer.
When it comes to long, hot showers, this is a habit that is quite easy to change…
Keep your showers as cool as you can handle, and make sure that you do not spend more than ten minutes in the water.
Another common cause of dry skin, as mentioned above, is using the wrong skin care products.
So, how do you know whether or not you are using the right ones?
Well, all of the skin care products you use should be designed for dry skin. If you are using a product that is aimed at those with oily skin, this will only end up stripping your skin of all of its precious oils, leaving you so much drier afterwards.
The order in which you apply your skin care products is also important…
Many people do not realize that this makes a difference, but it really does.
If you use multiple skin care products, you will want to ensure that all of the active ingredients within these are penetrating into your skin. In order for this to happen, you need to begin with the lightest product, and then work your way up, ending with a thick and rich moisturizer. Make sure that you also wait for a minute or so in between products, as this will give the active ingredients enough time to enter your skin without being diluted by the ingredients in the next product that you apply.
Moisturizing Dry Skin
If you have been suffering from dry skin for a while now, then you have likely already tried quite a few different moisturizers.
Have they been helping?
If not, this could be down to the way in which you apply your moisturizer…
One key tip to keeping dry skin moisturized is to make sure that you are applying moisturizer to damp skin.
Well, the purpose of a moisturizer is to form a thin film over the surface of your skin, which, in a way, replicates your skin’s natural protective barrier. If you apply a moisturizer onto skin that is damp, this means that any excess moisture ends up trapped beneath your moisturizer, so the only place for it to go, rather than evaporating into the air, is into your skin.
Your skin does not need to be dripping wet, but should still be quite damp when you apply your moisturizer.
The type of moisturizer that you use is also important…
Stay away from products that contain fragrances or harsh alcohols, as these chemicals will only end up stripping your skin of its remaining natural oils.
Instead, opt for a gentle and mild product, preferably one that has been designed with dry skin in mind.
Your moisturizer needs to be rich and greasy, as this will ensure that it is able to trap moisture into your skin.
How do you know if your moisturizer is thick enough?
All you need to do is apply a small amount of your moisturizer to the palm of your hand. Then, flip your hand over. If the moisturizer drips, or even runs a little, then this is a sign that you need something thicker.
It is always useful to have a separate day and night moisturizer.
Because the night time moisturizer will contain ingredients that may be unsuitable for use in direct sunlight, but could actually really benefit your skin.
Oil It Up
In addition to using a moisturizer on a regular basis, dry skin can also often benefit from a layer of oil.
Wondering which oil to use?
Here are a few that are especially effective in treating dry skin:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba oil
- Rose hip seed oil
- Lavender oil
- Safflower oil
Key Ingredients to Look Out For
Whether in terms of your moisturizer or any other skin care products that you use, there are certain ingredients out there that can really benefit dry skin. The effects are magnified even more when these ingredients are used in conjunction with each other, so take a look at the ingredients list the next time you are purchasing a skin care product, and make sure that some of the following ingredients are featured:
- Glycerin – an inexpensive ingredient that draws moisture to the skin
- Ceramides – these are fats that are naturally found in the skin, and applying them topically will help to heal your skin’s natural barrier
- Urea – melts away dead skin cells, meaning that other ingredients can then better penetrate your skin
- Hyaluronic acid – a powerful humectant, meaning that it draws moisture from the air into the skin, with its molecules swelling as more moisture is absorbed, therefore plumping your skin up almost immediately
- Lactic acid – a gentle ingredient that exfoliates the skin while hydrating it at the same time
Another ingredient that is often featured in products designed for dry skin is petroleum jelly. This ingredient does not have the best reputation,
Increase Your Consumption of Essential Fatty Acids
Research has shown that a deficiency in essential fatty acids can quickly lead to skin abnormalities, with dryness being one of these symptoms.
What exactly are essential fatty acids?
These are unsaturated fatty acids that are, as you can guess from its name, essential for your health, and are considered to be the healthiest of all of the fats out there. However, your body cannot produce these itself, meaning that your diet needs to provide you with all of the essential fatty acids that your body needs in order to thrive.
When it comes to dry skin, essential fatty acids are key…
Because they make up a significant part of your skin’s natural protective barrier, which is something that is often damaged in people that are suffering from dry skin. This means that increasing your consumption of essential fatty acids can really speed up the rate at which your skin’s natural barrier heals, therefore minimizing any dryness.
So, where exactly do you get these essential fatty acids from?
Here are a few common foods that contain them:
- Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and herring
- Walnuts and almonds
- Olive oil
- Whole grain foods
- Dark leafy green vegetables
Of course, you also have the option of taking essential fatty acid supplements, which usually come in the form of capsules. Experts believe that around 400mg a day is enough to substantially reduce any symptoms of dry skin.
Dry skin lacks moisture, and even though you may be religiously applying moisturizer to your skin throughout the day, this is often just not enough.
This is where a hydrating face mask comes in…
These masks contain potent active ingredients that penetrate deep into your skin’s layers, helping to treat the dryness while strengthening your skin’s natural barrier, so that it is better able to retain moisture on its own.
Is your dry skin on your body?
If so, you will need something other than a face mask…
An oatmeal bath is a great alternative. All you need to do is add some powdered colloidal oatmeal to a warm bath, before soaking in it for ten to fifteen minutes.
How does this help?
Oats contain particular fats that help to lubricate the skin, reducing dryness. They also contain polysaccharides, which are complex sugars, that leave a gelatinous residue on your skin, which also helps to treat dryness. The proteins that oats contain are also useful, as these contain anti-inflammatory compounds, as well as natural histamines, both of which will help to soothe your skin.
Do You Need to Seek Medical Advice for Your Dry Skin?
While dry skin can often be treated at home, there will be certain cases that require medical attention.
How do you know if yours is one of these?
Well, if your dry skin has appeared extremely suddenly, or is very severe with bleeding and cracking, then this is a sign that you need to see a doctor.
For everyone else, you would be best off trying a few at-home treatments for a couple of weeks, and then seeing a professional if your skin still has not improved.
What will a doctor do?
There are actually quite a few ways that they can help…
From prescribing antihistamines to control excessive itching, to providing you with topical steroids to reduce swelling, to diagnosing an underlying medical condition that could be causing your dryness, it can sometimes be well worth your while having an expert take a look at your dry skin.
Since there are so many different causes of dry skin, there are also several different treatment options, and each one is definitely worth a try. While you may be tempted to wait and see if your skin heals on its own, you would be best off taking a more proactive approach, because dry skin that is not treated will usually become worse over time, making it much harder to treat in the end.