Dry skin is predominantly caused due to a lack of moisture. This skin condition occurs when an impaired skin barrier or a deficiency of necessary healthy fats is usually present in the top layer of the skin. Typically, this layer of the skin consists of dead cells and natural oils, which confines the moisture to help retain the skin’s softness and smoothness. However, if the top layer of the partitions fails to contain sufficient amounts of water (which can occur if the protective oils decline), dry skin may occur.
In most cases, dry skin isn’t a severe problem. It’s quite a common skin condition that people across all age groups experience. Dryness can cause the skin to become red, itchy, flaky, which can be pretty uncomfortable. However, if the dryness persists for a long time, it could indicate severe skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, or even psoriasis. Before you begin treating dry skin, it is essential to understand what it is that you’re doing for it to occur so often.
Causes of dry skin
Following are some of the reasons for dry skin.
- Frequent bathing or over-cleansing: This is one of the most common causes of dry skin. When you wash your skin with a cleanser, body wash, or soap a little too often, it strips the outer layer of its natural moisturizing factors, i.e., its natural oils. It is thus advisable to use oil-based cleansers to deal with these frequent bouts of dry skin. It would help if you also got into a habit of washing your face with an effective oil-based cleanser every night before hitting the bed.
- Hot water showers: You may enjoy hot water showers but understand that your skin is not equipped to handle so much heat. Exposure to hot water is one of the leading reasons for dry skin all over the body. In some cases, you could also develop irritation and inflammation. Furthermore, it is advisable to reduce the shower time and keep it for less than 10 minutes. It is also recommended to avoid rubbing the skin with a towel and gently pat it dry.
Over-exfoliation: While exfoliation is an essential step in one’s skincare routine, it may be wise to skip this step every once in a while, particularly if you have dry skin. However, if you need to exfoliate, make sure you replenish the lost moisture by applying lotion to your face and body soon after that. You can also use an oil-based moisturizer or a facial oil of your preference to keep your skin properly hydrated.
- Not drinking enough water: Your skin needs water to stay hydrated. So if you have dry skin, you need to ask yourself if you are drinking enough water. It is easy to get dehydrated when it’s cold outside or when water is evaporating faster from your system. Sufficient intake of water will ensure the efficient movement of fluids through the capillaries.
A diet deficient in Omega-3 fatty acids:Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, flaxseed, olive, and algae oil. A diet rich in healthy fats can assist in enhancing the skin’s capacity to hold moisture. Healthy fats also ensure that the membrane surrounding each skin cell locks the moisture effectively.
Medications: You may be taking medicines for some or other health problems, but these medications have side effects. Some of these medications affect skin health by drying it out. Treatments like retinoids or benzoyl peroxide used to treat blood pressure issues are known to dry out the skin or cause acne. So it's always best to consult a doctor to know the possible side effects of medicines before consuming them.
While these are some of the most common causes of dry skin, other reasons could be due to genes or products not suitable for your skin type. If you have dehydrated skin, use a thicker and greasier moisturizer. Moreover, dry skin is also a symptom of aging, which results in the natural depletion of collagen, an essential protein responsible for healthy skin. That is why it is advisable to include collagen-rich foods or supplements in your diet after a certain age.
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- Barcelos RC, de Mello-Sampayo C, Antoniazzi CT, Segat HJ, Silva H, Veit JC, Piccolo J, Emanuelli T, Bürger ME, Silva-Lima B, Rodrigues LM. Oral supplementation with fish oil reduces dryness and pruritus in the acetone-induced dry skin rat model. J Dermatol Sci. 2015 Sep;79(3):298-304. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2015.06.015. Epub 2015 Jul 2. PMID: 26195090.
- Palma L, Marques LT, Bujan J, Rodrigues LM. Dietary water affects human skin hydration and biomechanics. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:413-421. Published 2015 Aug 3. doi:10.2147/CCID.S86822
- 9 ways to banish dry skin - Harvard (https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/9-ways-to-banish-dry-skin)
- Burning Question: What Is the Best Water Temperature for Your Bath or Shower? (https://www.wsj.com/articles/burning-question-what-is-the-best-water-temperature-for-your-bath-or-shower-1451931152)