Dry skin is a common condition that occurs when there is not enough oil or moisture produced by the oil glands. It is characterized by red, rough and sometimes itchy and cracked dry skin. It’s not only a great cause of discomfort but can be embarrassing as well, especially if it appears on the most exposed parts of the body like the face, neck, hands, arms and legs.
It can also show up on your thighs, abdomen, soles and scalp. You can have dry skin at any time but it can get worse during the winters (see below). Without proper dry skin care, it can develop into serious skin conditions.
What Causes Dry Skin?
In most cases, dry skin is genetic. Healthy skin should have a balanced amount of moisture coming from the sweat glands and oil from the sebaceous glands forming over the surface of the skin to prevent moisture loss.
But not everyone has skin that exhibits these perfect qualities. If the oil glands produce a surplus of sebum, the skin becomes oily.
On the other hand, when the skin loses its ability to lock in oil and water which are essential elements that maintain skin’s softness, it results to dry skin.
There are several factors that contribute to this and other reasons for skin dryness.
- Environment – whenever there is low humidity, either caused by cold winter weather or artificial heat inside the home or office, moisture from the topmost layer of the skin evaporates, leaving the skin parched. Sunburn caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation, can also leave the skin dry and seriously damaged.
- Genetics – same as the tendency of having acne, the possibility of having dry skin lies in the genes of your parents. Unlike others, your sweat glands are incapable of creating enough moisture or your skin doesn’t have the capacity to hold on to water normally.
- Aging – when people become older, the skin also matures and the natural oil is lessened. In effect, the skin loses its ability to contain moisture.
- Bathing habits – long baths in hot water can strip off the skin’s natural oil and moisture. Using harsh soaps or chemicals found in some skin care products is another reason. Too much scrubbing is also bad for the skin, leaving it dry and irritated.
- Unhealthy diets – deficiency of vitamins (such as Vitamin A, D and Potassium) needed in maintaining healthy skin may cause dryness. Excessive drinking of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages may also lead to this.
- Other health or skin problems – dry skin can sometimes be the result of certain illnesses such as asthma, thyroid disorder or diabetes. Then again, it can also be the sign of a more serious skin condition such as eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot and allergies.
How Should I Care For Dry Skin?
Most of the time, dry skin is caused by outside factors which is why it can be easily taken care of using external skin treatment. Revamping your everyday regimen will help improve and give you smooth and supple skin all over.
There are also a long list of dry skin treatment and home remedies that will help relieve itch and flakiness. To bring you out of your misery and prevent it from bothering you again, here are some simple but helpful skin care tips:
- Shorten your bath time. Five or ten minutes a day will do while adjusting the water temperature to lukewarm or tepid. The same temperature applies for hand washing. Skip the hot tub and bubble baths. Instead, use gentle, soap-free and creamy cleansers with moisturizers in it, both for the face and body. Avoid the ones that are heavily scented because artificial fragrance can also irritate and dry out your skin.
- Apply moisturizer often. After taking a bath or shower, pat your skin gently using a towel and leave it damp. Generally, the moisture dries off in 3 to 5 minutes after. So, while your skin is still moist and your pores are open, slather a generous amount of skin moisturizer or lotion to your face and whole body.Note: The best moisturizer for dry skin should have an oily or creamy consistency like shea butter. Olive oil is also one of the most effective natural dry skin remedies because of its moisturizing, anti-bacterial and antioxidant properties that closely resemble the oil produced in the skin. Use it as a natural moisturizer, bath oil or face mask. You can also combine it with other essential oils like lavender, evening primrose oil or Vitamin E for an extended shelf life and added benefits.
- Use a humidifier in your room. Especially during winter, the air becomes dry and gets even worse with heaters or the heat from the fireplace. At least 30% relative humidity is needed by the skin to stay moisturized. Keep your doors shut to prevent the humidity from escaping.
- Soothe, not scratch! Dry skin can be so itchy and irritating. Do not give in to the urge of scratching because you can end up with cuts that can easily get infected and prolong the healing process. To relieve itchy skin, apply a cold compress or Hydrocortisone cream over the dry patches. Aloe Vera gel is also an effective dry skin treatment that relieves itching, dryness and inflammation.
- Watch your diet and water intake. If you are suffering from a vitamin deficiency, better consult your nutritionist for a complete meal plan that will restore your body of the nutrients needed to maintain healthy skin. Skin foods are rich in Vitamin A or Beta Carotene (carrots, spinach, citrus fruits), Potassium (banana, tomatoes, potatoes, squash), Vitamin E (corn, asparagus, sunflower oil, oats) and essential fatty acids such as Omega-3 (in walnuts, flaxseed, salmon). Also, drinking lots of water will keep your skin hydrated from the inside.
If despite trying the above, your skin remains parched or itchy without any signs of a rash or you have developed open wounds and sores because of scratching, go to your doctor immediately for a proper diagnosis. There could be another reason for your condition and this should be addressed as soon as possible with the appropriate skin treatment.