Dry Skin

Skin dryness is one of the most common dermatological problems, experienced by most people at some time or the other. You could experience dry skin because of various factors and while some could be common, everyday reasons, others could be a major cause for concern. At times, dryness in the skin could be a one-off occurrence, which lasts only for a short period of time. However, there are people who have also suffered from chronic skin dryness.

Although anyone can suffer from excessive dry skin, there are some people who are more prone to it, as compared to others. This problem is more common as you age and also tends to affect those who live in cold or fairly dry climates and bathe too many times a day. Since most women follow a skincare routine of moisturizing their skin at least once in a day, they are less likely to get dry skin, as compared to men. Dry skin problems are usually the most prevalent on the arms and lower legs. However, this is not necessarily the case in all people. It has been seen that many people have dry skin problems mainly on the face.

In most instances dry skin is not really serious; however, it can be very unsightly and could also lead to severe itching. There are some people, in who dry skin leads to disfiguring, which is why it causes a significant amount of psychological distress. Skin dryness can be a condition, or it could also be a symptom of an underlying condition. On its own, dry skin is not really a major complication. However, there are some complications that could occur in case the skin is not tended to properly. Some of the problems that could be seen in such cases are eczema or atopic dermatitis, cellulitis and folliculitis. However, these complications are not very common and only occur in case the normal protective mechanisms of your skin have been severely compromised. Even if a skin condition does not develop, excessively dry skin could lead to fissures or deep cracks that can bleed and get infected. Therefore, in case your skin dryness lasts for a long period of time, it would be best to consult a dermatologist and seek professional treatment for it.

Symptoms of Dry Skin

During the winters, almost all of us are afflicted with dry skin for a couple of weeks or possibly for months. However, in some, it is more of a lifelong concern, regardless of the climate or weather. The signs and symptoms of dry skin vary from one person to the other, based on many factors. Some factors that may influence the prevalence of the condition include the age, residential location, overall health condition and levels of physical activity, to name a few. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dry skin include:

  • Stinging or tight feeling on the skin, which gets worse after taking a shower or swimming
  • Itchiness that can be quite severe and intense
  • White lines or patches on the skin, especially after scratching
  • Flaking, peeling and scaling of the skin, either in patches, or over a wider area
  • Development of deep cracks, fine lines and wrinkles on the skin
  • Redness or appearance of a rash on the skin
  • Appearance of deep fissures that bleed

In case of dry skin problems, it is not uncommon for your skin to look like it is shrunken or dehydrated. While the skin should be smooth and supple at all times, dry skin tends to feel quite rough, most of the times.

In case the problem is not a result of underlying conditions, your skin should respond positively to home remedies and a healthy skin care routine. You need to consult your doctor in case:

  • You have larger areas of peeling or flaking skin
  • The intense scratching has led to open sores or infections
  • Sleeping patterns are disturbed because of the dryness or itchiness
  • Severe redness accompanies the dry skin

Causes of Dry Skin

Studies indicate that most of the causes for dry skin include environmental exposure. However, in many instances, health problems could also trigger off dry skin problems. Given below are some of the most common causes for dry skin:

  • Climatic Conditions: The weather is one of the most common factors leading to dry skin. It is a fairly well-known fact that the skin becomes dry during the winters. People living in very hot climates too could be at a risk for skin dryness, if the levels of humidity are low.
  • Hot Water: In case you have the habit of bathing or taking a shower several times a day with hot water, you could suffer from dry skin problems. You could also face this problem, in case you go swimming in chlorinated water very often.
  • Over-exposure to Harsh Sun Rays: While sunlight is essential for our health, over exposure to sun light can cause severe damage. Skin that has been damaged severely by the sun has the tendency to appear dry and shriveled.
  • Psoriasis: This is a common skin condition that is characterized by the buildup of dead skin cells that are dry and thick.
  • Spending Time Indoors: Artificial heating and cooling devices like air conditioners and heaters don’t just control the temperature, but they also reduce the humidity levels in the surrounding, which causes dry skin too.
  • Harsh Chemicals: Most brands of soaps and detergents contain harsh chemicals that strip the water and lipids from your skin. The most damaging factors include antibacterial soaps and deodorants. The use of certain shampoos could also cause your scalp to dry out.
  • Thyroid Problems: Health conditions like hypothyroidism causes a reduction in the activity of your sweat glands and oil glands, which in turn could lead to dry and rough skin.
  • Atopic Dermatitis: Also known as eczema, this is one of the most common skin problems, which leads to increased sensitivity and dryness in the skin. Unfortunately, many people confuse mild cases of eczema with dry skin and leave the condition unchecked and untreated.

Remedies for Dry Skin

Dry skin that is simply caused as a result of environmental or other lifestyle conditions, rather than as a result of some skin condition, can be treated quite effectively at home. If you find that home remedies and lifestyle and diet changes yield no results then it would be advisable to consult a dermatologist without further delay. Given below are some of the most widely recommended remedies for dry skin:

  • Apply a generous amount of skin moisturizer to keep the water from leaving your skin. A thick moisturizer should work quite well, so apart from the use of branded creams and lotions, you could also try some petroleum jelly. It is best to apply a moisturizer on your skin, immediately after a shower, while your skin is still moist. In case you are using cosmetics, choose the ones that contain moisturizers.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend while bathing and reduce the temperature of your bath water, as these factors remove the natural oil from your skin. Make sure that you do not spend more than 15 minutes taking a shower and use lukewarm to warm water.
  • Use a bath or shower gel that contains added moisturizer, instead of using a soap that is harsh and drying. Fortunately, there are several cream based body washes easily available at most stores today. However, it may take you a while to identify the brand that suits your skin the best and you may need to try more than a couple of brands in order to do so.
  • Avoid rubbing your skin vigorously after a shower, as it damages your skin and causes it to dry up. Instead, after a shower pat your skin dry gently, with a soft towel and allow some of the moisture to remain on your skin.
  • It would also help to use a humidifier if you spend a lot of time indoors, in an artificially heated or cooled environment. However, a serious effort has to be made to keep the humidifier clean and free of bacteria and fungi.
  • The clothes that you choose have an effect on your skin; some fabrics, like cotton and silk allow your skin to breathe and therefore are good for the health of your skin. Certain fabrics like wool and polyester can irritate your skin, leading to dryness, itching, and so on.

Diet for Dry Skin

Although most of the causes for dry skin are external, a few dietary changes can go a long way in keeping your skin hydrated, moist and healthy. In case you suffer from dry skin on a constant basis, you need to consult a doctor. However, while trying out other dry skin remedies, you could improve your skin health by increasing the consumption of certain foods in your diet, such as:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: This nutrient is found in foods like nuts, avocado, tuna fish, salmon and flax seed
  • Zinc: Foods that are high in zinc include beans, beef, crabs and oysters
  • Sulfur: In order to keep your skin smooth, you need to increase your intake of eggs, onions and garlics
  • Vitamin C: This vitamin encourages the skin to absorb moisturizers that have been applied on to the body and can be found in kiwis, papaya and citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit.

A diet for dry skin is incomplete without an adequate intake of water or other liquids. It is important for you to drink at least 8 glasses of water in a day. In addition to water, you could also consume fresh fruit juices, coconut water and herbal teas. However, alcohol and caffeinated beverages (coffee, sodas & hot chocolate) should be strictly avoided as they have diuretic properties and will result in further dehydration and loss of moisture.

Suggestion for Dry Skin

There are several ways in which you can prevent your skin from getting dry, but it is important that your endeavor is a continuous one. In case you stop taking care of your skin, you are likely to suffer from dry skin once again.

If you have recently been put on any medications for any other health condition, there is a possibility that the dryness you experience may be a side effect of the medications. In such a scenario it would be advisable to consult your doctor or dermatologist and if a connection is established, your doctor will recommend alternative treatments.

Dry Skin Treatments - more information
Dry Skin - Frequently asked questions