Dry Skin Care


Skin is the biggest organ in the human body, even though many of us may not think of it as one. It is made up of three layers and the upper/outermost layer of skin is called the epidermis. This layer acts as a protective barrier - keeping unwanted or harmful things (like bacteria and viruses) from entering and essentials like nutrients and water from exiting the body.

The second layer, dermis, contains sebaceous glands that produce an oily substance called sebum. Sebum is what helps the skin retain water and stay lubricated. Reduced levels of water in the epidermis can cause dry skin. Of course, you could be born with dry, combination or oily skin. It's important to know your skin type, to follow the proper care regimen for healthy glowing skin.

Unless you moisturise, dry skin may have a grey-ish, dull appearance instead of your usual healthy glow. Dryness can cause your skin to become itchy and it may even start to flake and peel a little. You may notice some fine lines, tightness and cracks on your skin. In extremely dry skin, these symptoms can be more severe, for example, cracks in the skin that start to bleed.  

Dry skin is usually temporary and can be fixed easily. It is often caused by external factors like dry or cold weather, which is why most of us feel the need for extra skincare around that time. It can also be a sign of underlying health issues so you shouldn’t ignore it if it doesn’t get better soon.

  1. Causes and treatment of dry skin
  2. Tips to manage dry skin

Causes and treatment of dry skin

Dry skin can most commonly be noticed on the lower part of the legs and arms and on the hands. If it isn’t treated, it can cause a skin rash and even infections from cracks in the skin. In people with skin problems like atopic dermatitis or eczema, dryness is both a symptom and a trigger for flare-ups. There can be many contributing factors behind dry skin and treatment would depend on those.

  1. Low sebum production
  2. Age
  3. Environmental factors
  4. Dehydration
  5. Wrong skincare or no skincare
  6. Long hot showers
  7. Medications
  8. Excessive use of hand-sanitizers and detergents
  9. Underlying medical conditions

Low sebum production

Sebum production is controlled by the sex hormones called androgens in the body. If or when the level of androgens decreases, it could cause the sebaceous glands to produce less sebum, therefore making it easier for the skin to be stripped of moisture. Sebum production can also decrease with age, be genetic and or be the result of a few types of diets.

Age

As we grow older, our skin becomes thinner. This reduces the amount of water it can hold and therefore causes dry skin. If your skin didn’t need the added help before, it may definitely need it now. Add a creamy and thick moisturiser for dry skin into your routine and you may want to alter your diet to include more antioxidants as well. A balanced diet is recommended for all skin types.

Green tea, fruits and vegetables like spinach, beetroot and orange-coloured vegetables are examples of rich dietary sources of antioxidants.

Environmental factors

Dry skin is often a problem during the winter months and when the humidity levels are low. Low humidity means dry air, which causes the moisture present in the skin to evaporate more quickly than in high humidity. Regular skincare is essential during this time, moisturise your skin right after you shower and keep your skin as covered as possible for minimum exposure.

Dehydration

Dehydration is a separate condition but one of its symptoms can be dry-seeming dehydrated skin. If you have an active or stressful lifestyle and sweat a lot, it could also be why your skin is dehydrated. You can easily treat this by making small lifestyle changes. Drinking enough water is one of the easiest and best things you can do for healthy skin. Limit alcohol consumption, sleep for seven to eight hours daily and opt for fruits and vegetable with high water content.

Wrong skincare or no skincare

There are some people who have a 10-step routine for their facial skin but completely ignore the rest of their body. Sure, it may not be as visible but if you don’t want the condition to worsen, you have to use a good body moisturiser at least once a day (after your shower) to reduce dryness. Using the wrong type of moisturiser - like one meant for oily skin instead of dry - can have adverse effects like causing breakouts (pimples) or making your skin even drier. Scrubbing your skin too often can also rid your skin of sebum which would lead to moisture-loss as well. The soap you use also makes a difference - if it’s too harsh it can rid your skin of natural oils and make it dry and damaged.

Long hot showers

Sometimes at the end of the day, the only way to relax is with a hot shower. But how does this affect your skin? The hotter the water you bathe or shower with is, the more moisture and sebum is lost from the skin. This is why having too many or really long hot showers, especially during the winter, can cause dry skin. It is advised to shower with lukewarm water instead.

Medications

Although rare, there are a few medications that can cause dry skin. Some examples of such medicines are antihistamines, acne medication, statins (to treat high cholesterol) and diuretics (to treat high blood pressure and more). Some of these make it easier for your skin to lose moisture as it becomes more porous. If you are taking any of these medications, you need to be even more diligent about moisturising your skin. If that doesn’t help, speak to your doctor and discuss how to proceed.

Excessive use of hand-sanitizers and detergents

Hand sanitizers are super handy when you spend a lot of time travelling or don’t have access to a clean bathroom. But they do contain alcohol, which means that if you overuse them, they could make your skin dry. Detergents used for washing clothes or dishes contain chemicals that can be harsh on the skin and strip it of moisture and sebum. Limit your use of sanitizers and try wearing rubber gloves while doing the dishes to avoid this.

Underlying medical conditions

Hormonal imbalances, like during menopause, can lead to dry skin. There are a few medical conditions that can be the underlying cause of your dry skin too, like hypothyroidism, diabetes, malnutrition and atopic dermatitis. If your dry skin isn’t caused by any of the above-mentioned factors and continues becoming worse even with lifestyle changes, you may want to consult your doctor to rule out any underlying causes.

Tips to manage dry skin

With growing age, one becomes more likely to have dry skin. If you’re exposed to dry air or to water, it may make you more prone as well. There are a few steps you can take to keep your skin hydrated and maintain the balance of natural oils. 

1. Apply a good moisturiser all over your body daily. Do it right after your shower and not when your skin is already dry. 

2. Shower with lukewarm water or at least limit your showers to 5-10 minutes. The longer your skin stays in contact with water, the drier it will get.

3. Massage your skin with argan oil, olive oil or coconut oil while it’s still wet. Do this twice a week and you’ll notice a difference in how your skin feels. You can also add a few drops of essential oil for added benefits. 

4. Use a humidifier in your room so your immediate environment isn’t too dry and actually provides moisture instead.

5. Limit scrubbing to once a week. If you notice that it is still making your skin dry, stop doing it completely for a while.

6. Don’t rub your skin too harshly with a towel while drying. Pat dry or dabbing is more suitable, for all skin types. 

7. Use a milder soap that doesn’t strip your skin of natural oils completely. You may even want to consider soap-free cleansers which are easily available online as well as in stores. 

8. Visit a dermatologist if your skin doesn’t show signs of improvement. It may seem like a small problem but has the potential of becoming worse with time.

How to get rid of chapped lips

Editorial Team

Share

Dry skin remedies: how to ge...

Dr. Apratim Goel

Share
Ask your health query now and get connected with a doctor within 10 minutes!