Does your skin feel tight, painful or itchy? Does it appear dull, flaky or red? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you could be one of the millions of people suffering from chronically dry skin. We spend billions of dollars every year on products promising to soothe and relieve this miserable condition, just to realize that the problem isn’t improving at all and may just be getting worse. Although dry skin can be uncomfortable and esthetically unappealing, the real concern is the health risks associated with severely dry, cracked, irritated skin. Your skin acts as your body’s primary defense mechanism against infection. It helps to keep harmful bacteria from entering your body. When skin is dry and cracked the body’s protective covering is weakened. Therefore, the 3 main reasons to treat dry skin are looks, health, and sanity!
There are many potential causes of dry skin conditions. While most conditions are caused by external factors, internal factors can also play a huge role. External factors may include dry air, misuse of moisturizers, harsh soaps, itchy clothing, and long, hot showers or baths. Internal factors such as medications or medical conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, and malnutrition may contribute to the problem as well. Just like most cases are caused by external factors, most cases can also be treated by external remedies. However, in some cases it may be necessary to receive treatment from your physician or dermatologist.
External Causes & Remedies
Normal, healthy skin is covered in a thin layer of natural lipids, or fatty substances. These fatty substances are what keep in moisture, leaving your skin soft and supple. The environmental or external factors can strip the skin of these protective lipids, leaving it dry and unprotected.
The good news is there are several simple remedies that can treat even the driest of skin.
- Apply your moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
If we apply our moisturizer when skin is damp (not soaked) the moisturizer will trap moisture on the skin offering much better results. The best product for dry skin would be fragrance free, thick, and greasy.
- Choose mild, fragrance free soaps or skin cleansers.
We often choose harsh soaps with lots of lather and pretty smells. While appealing to the senses these are the worst possible soaps to choose for dry skin. The bubbling and lathering removes oils from the surface of the skin and dries it out. In addition, steer clear of using harsh implements to scrub your skin clean. These will further strip your skin of important lipids and can cause more damage than good.
- Bundle up in the winter!
Cold harsh weather will draw moisture out of the skin causing it to become dry. Furnaces turned on high can also dry out the air inside further adding to the problem. Air conditioners in the summer can do the same thing. So bundle up and turn the air down.
- Avoid long, hot showers or baths.
Prolonged exposure to hot water washes away natural oils that protect the skin. Choose showers over baths. Limit your showers to a few minutes and keep the water luke warm. You may also try to direct the shower head away from you while shampooing, washing, etc. this will help limit the exposure time.
- Choose cashmere over wool!
Wear what feels good. If clothing feels too tight or itchy it could increase the skins sensitivity and cause more discomfort.
Dry skin conditions can also be internal whether it’s a natural physiologic change or illness. Certain medications and medical conditions can cause the skin to become severely dry and irritated as well.
An internal factor may be medications or drugs used to treat certain conditions such as:
– High blood pressure; diuretics
– Allergies; antihistamines
– Acne and other skin conditions; retinoids
These may all contribute to excessive dry skin. If your condition becomes too bothersome you may want to ask your doctor if he/she can suggest an alternative.
In addition there are several medical conditions that can cause bothersome dryness. These may include but are not limited to:
Eczema or Psoriasis: While moisturizers may help, direct treatment is usually necessary
Diabetes: Fluctuations in glucose levels can lead to dehydration that dries skin out. Diabetes can also lead to slow healing and higher risk of infection making healthy skin that much more vital.
Hypothyroidism: Low levels of the thyroid hormone can reduce the amount of oil produced by the skin. Skin can become dry and rough and moisturizer is unlikely to help.
Malnutrition: Improper nutrients will leave the skin dried out. Eating disorders can be a major cause of malnutrition and a doctor’s care is highly recommended.
Last but not least, age plays an important role in dry skin conditions. Over 75% of all women over the age of 64 will experience excessively dry skin. This is largely due to the extreme changes in hormone levels that occur with age.
Dry skin can lead to extreme discomfort, low self esteem, and serious health risks. However, you don’t have to settle for such conditions. Try these simple tips and if those don’t work, ask a doctor. Chances are there is a simple solution, and soon your dry skin woes will be a thing of the past.