While dry skin is one of the most common skin types, most of us struggle to take care of it properly. Besides looking dull and lifeless, dry skin can also be quite uncomfortable.
It has a tendency to itch, flake, get rough and even crack at times. Itchy dry skin patches can occur in any part of the body, including the face, hands, arms, ankles, lower legs, and also the abdomen, thighs, and soles of feet.
Certain factors like temperature, humidity, and genetics tend to exacerbate dry skin. If you end up using the wrong products and harsh chemicals on top of this, it can lead to the skin drying out even further.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about taking care of dry skin the right way. But before we get to that, it is important to understand the causes behind the dry skin condition.
Dry skin is a common skin condition in which the outermost layer of the skin is not able to retain an adequate amount of moisture. This leads to uncomfortable sensations of itchiness, and in some cases scaling and cracking too.
This skin condition can affect any part of the body, however, the most common areas are the arms, hands, and legs.
There can be many reasons why you may have dry skin. It could be that your skin is naturally dry, but some people with oily skin can also develop dry skin patches from time to time.
Most people can easily treat dry skin with the right skincare products and better lifestyle choices. However, in some cases, it is better to seek a dermatologist’s advice treatment.
Dry Skin – Causes
Narrowing it down to one single cause for dry skin can be quite difficult. If you are developing dry skin, it is usually a result of multiple factors.
Some of these are external and others internal. Internal factors are related to your genetics, age, and overall health status. External factors, on the other hand, are the external agents that are contributing to dry skin. These can be –
low humidity and cold temperature
over-washing with harsh chemicals
overuse of alcohol and sanitizers
Addressing the external factors of dry skin is relatively easier, as internal factors also take into account an individual’s family history and other underlying health conditions. For instance, if you have any thyroid disease, you are more prone to developing dry skin. There is no way to address the dry skin problem until your thyroid treatment is complete.
Harsh Soaps: The most common cause of dry skin in people is using harsh soaps. Although showering and bathing add moisture to the skin, when the water evaporates from the skin it can feel overly tight and dry.
This is because the harsh soaps strip the skin of moisture, removing the natural oils of the skin in the process too. The type of cleanser you use will have a huge impact on your skin. The longer the soap is rubbed into the skin, the more oils it ends up removing, which results in worsening of the dry skin condition.
Wrong Moisturizers: The next biggest reason for dry skin is the improper and inadequate use of moisturizers. If the moisturizers are not hydrating enough, the dry skin can develop fissures and cracks over time.
Rough Clothing: The type of clothing fabric you wear also affects the skin. It has been found that certain materials like synthetic fibers and wool tend to worsen dry skin conditions, leading to skin irritation.
Medical condition: Dry skin can be a symptom of a medical condition in many cases. These include hypothyroidism, eczema, diabetes, and psoriasis, among others.
Medications: If you are taking medications for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, acne, and allergy, it can also lead to a dry skin condition.
While occasional dry skin is common among people, in certain cases the skin can become severely dry, irritated, flaky, and inflamed. Common causes of chronic dry skin conditions are –
Skin barrier dysfunction
Dry Skin – Characteristics/Symptoms
Itching is the main symptom of dry skin. People with dry skin often find patches of rough, red, dry skin which are quite itchy. Typically, the hands, arms, abdomen, lower legs, and other such areas of friction are affected by dry skin. If the severity of dryness increases, it can lead to the development of fissures, cracks, and nummular eczema in the skin too.
Depending on the severity of the dry skin condition, the itchy sensation can worsen, which leads to the development of the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle. An itch-scratch cycle is one in which a scratching of an itch exacerbates it even further. The itch-scratch cycle usually takes place during sleep, when a person does not have conscious control over scratching. When the skin is scratched and rubbed consistently, it can end up becoming leathery and thick. Sometimes, even small red bumps can appear, which can easily become infected if scratched further.
Dry Skin – Solutions
The best solution for people with dry skin is hydration. This is because dry skin condition is usually caused due to external factors, which can be best targeted through external moisturization.
Moisturizing the skin with emollients can help effectively control the problem of dry skin in most people. Light moisturizers in the form of lotion can help with mild cases of dry skin.
For severe dry skin, however, products with heavier moisturizing properties should be used. If there are no internal factors causing dry skin, the general treatment includes preventing loss of water, stopping the itch, and restoring skin hydration.
In some cases, dermatologists can also recommend topical steroids like fluocinonide, triamcinolone, hydrocortisone, and pramosone. However, these steroids can come with their own side effects like thinning of the skin and barrier breakdown.
Other treatment options include oral medications like cetirizine, diphenhydramine, and hydroxyzine, which can help in alleviating the itchiness associated with dry skin.
Strategies for Dealing with Dry Skin
If you want to prevent the worsening of the dry skin condition, it is important to practice the following things when you shower –
1. Cut down the shower time: Showering for a long time can increase the dryness of the skin. You should ideally bathe for around 5-10 minutes with cool or lukewarm water. Hot water should always be avoided as it strips the skin of natural oils, leaving your skin feeling drier than usual.
2. Opt for a gentle cleanser: When choosing a body wash, make sure it is free of harsh chemicals. Body washes and cleansers with harsh chemicals can strip the moisture from the skin.
3. Moisturize damp skin: After completing the shower, pat dry your skin lightly with a towel. Apply moisturizer while your skin is still damp to lock in the moisture.
Lastly, make sure that you apply sunscreen to all the exposed areas of your body. Always choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or more.
Dry Skin – Recommendations
When you are choosing products for dry skin, look for the following ingredients –
Ceramides: Synthetic ceramides in products essentially mimic the natural substances found in the epidermis, which help in locking the moisture in the skin. Ceramide-containing products also help in soothing dry skin.
Glycerin and dimethicones: These ingredients work by drawing water into the skin and keeping it in. Glycerin also helps in soothing inflammation and healing wounds.
Hyaluronic acid: This is another ingredient that helps the skin in retaining moisture. It is a humectant that delivers moisture drawn from the surroundings to the skin cells.
Shea Butter: This nourishing and rich ingredient is a great emollient that gets absorbed into the skin easily, keeping it hydrated.
Vitamin E: This helps in protecting the skin from the drying effects of free radicals. It boosts the moisture levels of the skin.
Here are some of our recommendations for the best products for dry skin –
Wow Skin Science Body Butter Raw African Shea: This does wonders in repairing rough and dry skin. It contains rich shea butter along with Vitamins A, B, D, and E, which provide nourishment to the skin. It also contains glycerin which helps in locking in the moisture, making it a boon for dry skin.
Wow Skin Science Body Butter Vitamin E: This body butter contains the rich anti-oxidant properties of Vitamin E, which helps in soothing dry skin. It also contains other skin-friendly ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, and aloe vera.
Wow Skin Science Coconut Water Full Cream: This is a great face cream for people with dry skin. Besides coconut water, it also contains Pro-Vitamin B5 and Hyaluronic Acid which help in repairing and soothing dry skin issues.
Wow Skin Science Coconut Hydrating Foaming Face Wash: This is a great natural and vegan face wash with hydrating properties for anyone struggling with dry skin. It is great for gently removing the impurities and dirt, while supplying the skin with hydrating agents like coconut water, vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, and argan oil.
Wow Skin Science Coconut Super Rich Facial Toner: This is a great hydrating toner to apply on your skin before you add moisturizer. Containing the goodness of cucumber water and coconut water, it helps in adding an extra level of nourishment to dry facial skin.
Dry Skin - Expert Tips
Here are some dermatologist-recommended tips for managing dry skin in a better way:
Switch your harsh body and face cleansers with more gentle formulations that do not strip your skin of the natural oils. Gentle cleansers containing hydrating ingredients can help in removing impurities from the skin while still protecting the skin barrier.
Use hydrating essences or toners to provide your skin with an extra boost of moisture. Unlike traditional alcohol-based toners, hydrating toners are infused with oils, humectants, and emollients to promote and preserve the skin’s moisture levels.
After you are done with the shower, make sure not to tug and pull at your skin with a harsh towel. Pat dry your skin gently and apply products while the skin is still damp. This will help in locking in the skin moisture.
Serums with humectant agents like glycerin and hyaluronic acid can be great for people with chronic dry skin. Serums contain a high concentration of actives that penetrate the skin deep to provide it with the moisture it needs.
If you want to keep the skin hydrated, just adding humectants won’t do the job. You also need to add emollient creams that help in locking in the moisture. Emollients work by restoring the skin barrier, by filling in the microcracks in the skin with lipids.
After moisturizing your skin, add an occlusive oil to lock in the hydration. Oils do not have hydrating properties by themselves. They work by amplifying the power of hydrators by preventing their evaporation from the skin.
Besides taking all the measures to supply your skin with hydration from the outside, consider taking hydrating supplements to protect the skin from the inside too. Supplements like fish oil, collagen, and vitamin E can help in keeping your skin hydrated.
A sleep mask can be a boon for combating dry skin issues. The skin is usually more permeable at night, which means that any active ingredients you apply to the skin will get absorbed more easily. Try to add a sleep mask with fatty acids and antioxidants to your skincare regimen to soothe and nourish dry skin.
Taking long showers in hot water can end up aggravating dry skin further. It strips the body’s natural oils and lipids, which breaks down the natural defense system of the body. If you want to protect the dry skin, switch to shorter showers with warm or cool water.
The best way to ensure that your skin stays hydrated is by keeping up with sufficient water intake. When you drink an adequate amount of water consistently, it certainly helps in improving the appearance of the skin.
A great device that can help you, especially in the dry winter months, is a humidifier. This household tool helps in dispersing the necessary moisture back into the air, keeping the indoor humidity to adequate levels. This can greatly help in preventing dry, itchy, and cracked skin winters.
The best way to keep your skin healthy is by eating a balanced diet containing high-fat, water-dense, hydrating foods. If your skin feels drier than usual, consider upping your intake of vibrant fruits and leafy greens.
With the tips provided in this article, you will now be able to manage your dry skin better. These recommendations and tips can help you in combating dry skin issues resulting from external factors. However, you should also consult a dermatologist if you suspect internal factors like a medical condition causing dry skin issues.