Dry skin can be caused by any number of things, some out of your control, but many within it. If you've covered yourself with lotion but aren't getting any relief, where are you going wrong? What could be causing it?
Multiple factors can contribute to drying skin: aging, an underlying skin condition, or environmental factors. Sometimes it resolves on its own, and sometimes you need to call in your dermatologist.
What Causes Dry Skin?
When the skin's barrier isn't working well, too much water or oil is lost. The skin's outer layer loses its ability to hold together and protect the inner layers beneath it. The inner layers, responsible for most of the skin's moisture, lose their water through the damaged skin barrier.
Things that can contribute to dry skin include:
Skin becomes thinner and drier as we age.
Those with eczema as children are more likely to have dry skin as adults. Psoriasis is another one that can lead to dry skin. Pathological conditions like diabetes, thyroid disease, or malnutrition can be factors, as well.
High levels of chlorine can dry the skin. Swimming on a regular basis may do it, but some tap water has enough chlorine to anger your skin.
"Hard" water that contains a high concentration of minerals (lead, magnesium, and zinc) can leave a film on the skin that causes dryness.
Less moisture in the air can lead to dry skin, especially in the winter with forced, hot air.
Spending time immersed in water or washing your hands all day can make your skin dry, raw, and cracked.
Researchers say that it can be inherited.
What Does Dry Skin Look Like?
Common signs and symptoms include:
- Rough, scaly, or flaking skin
- Gray, ashy skin (in people with darker skin tones)
- Chapped or cracked lips
- Cracks in the skin, which may bleed if severe
If you've had it long enough or severely enough that your skin cracks, be watchful. This opens the door for germs to cause an infection. Be on the lookout for red, sore spots.
How to Help Dry Skin
If you suffer from dry skin, you may want to follow these steps:
- Drink plenty of water. There's no better way to hydrate your skin than to work from the inside, out.
- Eat healthy, choosing a variety of foods high in antioxidants and probiotics for a one-two punch, easing inflammation and helping to strengthen your skin's barrier function.
- Avoid fragrances, including in your moisturizer and cleaning products.
- Cleanse hands and face in lukewarm water and use a cream-based cleanser, followed immediately with a lotion while your skin is still wet. Look for formulas that contain ingredients like bean-based butters (cocoa and shea) for hydration that utilizes non-drying scents.
- Put good bacteria to work. Probiotics can work topically on your skin the rebalance the microbiome, helping to strengthen the skin's barrier and relieving inflammation.
- Choose face and body wash to be gentle and unscented.
- Wear gloves when scrubbing dishes or cleaning your house.
- Utilize a home filtration system to lighten the mineral content of the water, and be sure your skincare regimen contains chelators like vitamins A and C to counteract the hard coating left by hard water. Consider installing a chlorine filter on your shower head to alleviate some of the chlorine from your tap water as you shower.
- Employ a humidifier in the winter time.