The itching and flaking that come with dry skin are typically associated with winter weather, but dry skin can happen at any time. Whether it’s a hot day at the beach or a chilly night out in the snow, dry skin can strike at any time. And although dry skin isn’t usually a severe or life-threatening issue, it can be uncomfortable and indicate health problems.
As people age, the skin becomes drier, thinner, less plump, and loses its elasticity. As hormones change, oil glands diminish, and decreased cell renewal causes the skin to become prone to dryness and itching. The top layers of skin become dryer as the older people get, and the skin also becomes much more prone to infection. When there’s insufficient moisture within skin cells, dry skin occurs.
9. Causes of Dry Skin
Keeping skin clean is a vital part of staying healthy, but sometimes too much cleansing can cause the skin to become dry and cracked. Washing skin might remove dirt, germs, and grime, but it also takes away healthy bacteria and oils that keep the skin moisturized. Soaps and cleansers can also be harsh on the skin, causing the skin to crack and itch.
Dry patches of skin may also occur due to medical conditions or medications. Psoriasis, for example, appears as red or silvery patches of dry skin due to an immune system issue. Eczema, another dry skin condition, happens when the top layer of skin lacks the protein necessary to keep it moisturized. Acne treatments and antihistamine medications can also foster conditions that lead to dry skin. In these cases, if dry skin persists, it’s best to check with a physician.
When it comes to skin, the moisture in the air matters more than if the air temperature is hot or cold. Dry, hot air can be just as damaging to the skin as dry cold air. Low humidity levels cause moisture to evaporate from the skin, leaving the skin dry, chapped, and wrinkled. It’s not just the climate or weather that can affect the skin; indoor air can also lead to dry skin. Air conditioning systems, especially, tend to remove indoor moisture from the air and cause the skin to dry out.
Moisture is integral to having healthy skin. The outermost layer of skin, called the epidermis, mirrors the moisture of the air surrounding it. If the air surrounding the skin is dry, the epidermis will also tend to be parched. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent and alleviate dry skin. The following are eight methods you can use to keep skin hydrated.
8. Limit Baths and Showers
Keeping your skin clean is imperative, but hour-long baths aren’t necessary. A short five to 10-minute shower is sufficient to cleanse the skin without stripping it of its precious oils. Despite how great a hot shower feels on a cold day, hot water can remove the skin’s natural protectants. A short, lukewarm shower does the job without harming the skin and saves on water and energy, too!
7. Add Moisture into the Air
Humidifiers, devices that emit water into the air, can change the surrounding environment, helping to heal chapped lips and flaky skin. A humidifier, set to about 60%, can introduce enough water into the indoor environment to keep skin moist. A small portable humidifier next to the bed can help moisturize the skin during the night by scattering tiny water droplets into the air.
6. Minimize the Use of Harsh Cleansers
Soap does an excellent job of removing oils, perhaps a little too well. Soap, with its high pH level, can strip valuable skin oils, making the skin itchy and dry. Other cleansers may contain synthetic products that pull moisture from the skin. People who are prone to dry skin may benefit from using gentle cleansers and avoiding soap.
5. Treat the Skin Gently
Exfoliating skin, the process of removing dead skin cells from the top layer of skin, can help moisture to penetrate deeper into the skin’s layers, keeping skin looking bright and healthy. However, over-exfoliation can remove the layers that safeguard the skin’s moisture, making it more dry and prone to infections. Striking the right balance can be a challenge when exfoliating, so it’s best not to start with products that are too abrasive.
4. Stop Scratching
Although scratching doesn’t necessarily cause dry skin, it can break the already brittle dry skin layer and create small abrasions. These tiny cuts can introduce bacteria into the skin, possibly causing an infection. Scratching can also create a vicious cycle, making dry skin itch even more. If the itching is unbearable, a cold pack can numb the itch, and moisturizing can reduce dryness.
3. Drench Yourself After Bathing
Moisturizing the skin after bathing is a must for people who have dry skin. After a bath or shower, gently towel off by patting, not rubbing the towel to remove excess water. Immediately apply moisturizer to the damp skin to trap water in the skin’s layers.
2. Moisturize the Skin
Moisturizers trap water and oils in the skin to keep them from evaporating or washing away. Oils, like baby oil, are excellent at sealing water within the skin layer. Ointment, like Vaseline, can also keep skin moisturized but might feel thick or greasy to some people.Related: 9 Remedies to Fight Dry Skin
1. Choose Soft Fabrics
Clothing and bedding that feel rough to the touch can exacerbate the itching of raw, dry skin. Wool, for example, might make dry skin itch and create flakes. Instead, choose cotton or silk and avoid harsh detergents when washing clothes.
Don’t Forget Your Face and Hands
The face and hands, which are exposed to the elements, tend to be the first areas to become dry. Dry air, especially on windy days, can make facial skin tender, dry, and red. And repeated handwashing and sanitizing can strip moisture away from hands, causing them to crack and flake. To keep skin in these areas moist, keep them protected during harsh weather (use gloves and scarves) and moisturize them often.