Now that the weather has turned colder, many of us will start to notice that our skin is dryer than usual. Central heating, blustering winds, and lower humidity combine to sap moisture from delicate skin. For some people, dry skin is a year-round condition that requires careful and consistent maintenance.
In this article, we will explore several options you have to restore healing moisture back into your skin.
What are the causes of dry skin?
To best treat your dry skin, it is important to look at the reasons why the condition has developed in the first place. Often, our daily routines lead us to situations that inadvertently draw moisture away from the skin. Helping to understand the cause certainly informs more effective treatment! Here are some of the most common causes of dry skin:
When the air has low humidity, due to either natural atmospheric conditions or deliberate interventions such as air conditioning or central heating, it causes the moisture in your skin to evaporate more quickly. This causes the skin to dry out, and even when a moisturizer is used, it will need regular re-application. If you find yourself with chronically dry skin due to the climate control equipment in your home or workplace, consider whether the use of a humidifier is a viable option. It can be placed in your bedroom, living room, or office to provide some relief.
One of the main offenders when it comes to dry skin is regular, everyday soap. While it does a great job of keeping us clean, it also strips away the skin’s protective oils. This leaves skin with reduced moisture, and can lead to flaking, cracking, and even bleeding. Switching out your heavily perfumed soaps for milder, fragrance-free varieties can help to prevent further drying of the skin.
If you have a propensity to dry skin, certain cosmetics can exacerbate the problem. Setting powders, for example, help to control oil on the skin. This is useful if your facial skin is naturally oily, of if you have a combination complexion. However, for those with dry skin, these products should be used sparingly, or not at all.
In a similar way to soap, washing detergents for clothing are formulated to remove oil from fabrics. Unfortunately, detergent residue remaining on clothes after washing can irritate the skin in the same way, which has a drying effect. Non-biologic formulations can be helpful to help minimize and prevent skin dryness, and it’s best to avoid fabrics that cause itchiness and irritation.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, spending a long time in the bath or shower can actually contribute to drying out your skin. This is because water, particularly at a higher temperature, washes away naturally-occurring oils. It’s best to save long soaks in the bath as an occasional treat, and opt for lukewarm rather than hot showers, to minimize the negative effect of water exposure on the skin.
Many of us notice that skin tends to become dryer as the winter months roll in. Colder temperatures tend to coincide with a drop in humidity, both of which cause water in the skin to evaporate more quickly. Add moisture-sapping central heating into the mix, and you have a recipe for dry, flaky skin.
As important as it is to keep hands clean, problems with dry skin can begin to arise when they are over washed. This is due to a combination of soap and hot water, both of which act to remove natural oils from the skin. Over time, this can cause drying and cracking of the hands, which can be painful. Hand sanitizers also contribute to the problem. These convenient bottles are incredibly helpful when a quick refresh is required, but regular use will make a dry skin problem worse. As well as eliminating bacteria, hand sanitizers (particularly those which are formulated with alcohol) strip away protective oils. To prevent damage, look for sanitizers which have a moisturizer built-in.
Unfortunately, some medications come with side effects that can include drying of the skin. Known treatments that can result in this condition include diuretics (which help to alleviate fluid retention), retinoids, and statins. If you are experiencing severely dry skin that you suspect may be related to medication, speak with your physician to establish if there is an alternative treatment you can try, or to receive advice about a topical treatment to help improve your skin condition.
There are also some medical conditions that can contribute to dry skin. Eczema, psoriasis, and other skin diseases can cause dryness, either as a symptom of the condition itself, or as a consequence of treatment. Uncontrolled diabetes can result in dehydration, which dries out the skin, whilst hypothyroidism can reduce the amount of oil in the skin, with the same effect. Malnutrition, including that which is caused by eating disorders and extreme dieting, can contribute to skin dryness, due to a lack of required nutrients.
Treatments for dry skin
Once you have identified that you have a problem with dry skin, it’s time to start treating it. Fortunately, it can be straightforward to bring your skin back into balance. Keep reading to discover some of the simple steps you can take toward well-moisturized and healthy skin!
Select a facial moisturizer that is perfect for your skin type
Despite conventional wisdom, even naturally oily skin can dry out. This can lead to subsequent over-production of sebum, which causes breakouts. It’s important, therefore, to choose a moisturizer that is specifically-formulated for your skin type. Broadly, there are four categories:
- Dry skin tends to produce less sebum than normal skin, and can appear dull, dry, or flaky.
- Oily skin tends to produce more sebum than normal skin, and can appear shiny with visible pores.
- Combination skin carries a mix of dry and oily elements.
Most skincare companies offer moisturizers that are specifically tailored to each type. Even if you do not have naturally dry skin, moisturizing day and night with the correct formulation can prevent drying and promote healthy, beautiful skin!
It’s worth spending some time every day applying lotion all over the body. Pay particular attention to areas that can dry out easily, including elbows and knees. An everyday lotion will work for most people, and there’s no need to spend lots of money. Try to avoid heavily-fragrance moisturizers where possible, as the perfume within them can cause irritation and drying. If you have a particular skin condition that requires a specific treatment, make sure that this is regularly reviewed with your doctor or another healthcare professional, particularly if you notice that the treatment becomes less effective over time.
Our faces and hands tend to bear the brunt of exposure to the elements, and whilst it’s critical to find the perfect facial moisturizer, it’s just as important to cater to the specific needs of our digits, too! Hand creams are intensely moisturizing, and are generally more viscous than their general-purpose counterparts. Keep some hand cream in your purse, at your desk, and dotted around the home. The more you remind yourself to moisturize, the healthier your hands will be! Make sure that you always apply hand cream after washing with soap or using hand sanitizer, to prevent the specific damage these products can cause.
As strange as it may seem, oatmeal baths have been curing dry skin for centuries! As well as making a wholesome and filling breakfast, oatmeal possesses qualities that promote skin health. It’s naturally anti-inflammatory, and jam-packed with antioxidants; perfect to help reduce skin irritation and encourage moisture retention. To take advantage of this healing remedy, simply grab a cup of oatmeal and add to a warm (but not hot) bath; swirl the water for a minute then jump in and relax! If you have a food processor, you can use it to grind the oatmeal down to a fine powder. This helps the oatmeal to mix, which makes treatment more effective.
If you’re looking for a natural alternative to regular creams and lotions, coconut oil might just be the answer! It’s gained popularity in recent years for offering a vast range of health benefits, and skin is no exception. You can use pure coconut oil in the same way you would use any other lotion; spread an even layer on your whole body as a day-to-day moisturizer, be more liberal with dry patches, and rub a little on your lips to heal or prevent chapping. Coconut oil can even be used as an effective treatment for dry hair! If you have naturally oily or combination facial skin, it’s best to avoid coconut oil on areas that tend not to be dry, as it can encourage breakouts. Otherwise, you’re free to explore the benefits of this natural wonder!
Did you know you can treat dry skin whilst you sleep? It’s true! Start by picking up some cotton moisturizing socks and gloves, which be found for a reasonable price online. Then, apply an intensely moisturizing lotion (hand cream works very well) to your hands and feet, slip on the socks and gloves, then head to bed. When you wake up, your hands and feet will be beautifully soft and moisturized. Repeat this treatment once a week to maintain healthy skin, or more often if required.
If you’re experiencing dry skin, your diet may be a contributing factor. Essential fatty acids, such as Omega-3, have an effect on the health of your skin. Ensure that you’re eating plenty of foods that contain these skin-boosters, such as salmon, wild rice, eggs, flaxseed, and walnuts, as part of a balanced diet. You can even try supplements, which are available from all good health stores.
How can I maintain well-moisturized skin?
Once you have brought your skin back to a healthy condition, you’ll need to take some regular steps to maintain it. Fortunately, these are very straightforward and won’t take a great deal of your time.
As mentioned above, having your shower or bath at a high temperature can strip the skin of its natural oils. By turning the water down a few degrees, you’ll do wonders for your skin. There’s no need to jump into an icy cold shower – unless you need waking up! – but a modest reduction in temperature will help you to maintain healthy skin that is bolstered by its own naturally-occurring oils.
We discussed the detrimental effect that strong laundry detergents can have on the skin. They strip away naturally-occurring oils, and if they make fabrics scratchy, the resulting irritation can also contribute to dry skin. A simple way to minimize this risk is to change your laundry detergent. Many people notice a huge difference just from switching to a non-biological formulation. Biological detergents contain enzymes, which help the cleaning process by breaking down proteins, starches, and fats. This works wonders for fabrics, but residue can also break down oils in the skin. A non-biological detergent does not have this effect. If perfumed products are causing you problems, you can also look for mild detergents and conditioners that do not have added fragrance.
Although this may sound obvious, it’s also important to cover up as much as possible in the cold. Think about the two areas of the body that most frequently experience skin dryness; the face and the hands. They’re also the areas that are most often exposed to the elements. Don’t forget to wear gloves; even if you’re popping outside for a few minutes, that’s enough time for the cold, dry air to begin the process of drying out skin. Wear a hat and a scarf to protect the majority of skin on your head, and if you’re doing a sport that requires long exposure to cold temperatures, such as skiing, think about wearing a balaclava. You can even get snazzy designs to stay stylish and safe on the slopes!
We must stress how important it is to protect your hands from the elements. A winter stroll or dash to the store are not the only circumstances in which your hands will suffer from the cold. If you’re a runner, invest in a good pair of warm, reflective gloves. Not only will they protect your skin from the cold, but If you run at night, they’ll help you to be seen. If you’re a keen gardener, make sure you’re wearing gloves to keep your hands safe from chemicals and cold exposure. People who regularly work in cold temperatures, whether that’s a kitchen, refrigerated warehouse, or outside space, must ensure that they have protective gloves or mittens to use at work.
As we mentioned earlier, dry conditions encourage the skin to lose moisture through evaporation. Central heating and air conditioning can make your home or workplace uncomfortably dry. To bring balance back into the air, it’s worthwhile to invest in a humidifier. You can pick up a small misting humidifier for under fifty bucks, which can make a huge difference to air quality, and improve the condition of your skin.
Shaving can cause irritation to your skin, which in turn can lead to dryness. Bumps and red patches indicate that your razor has caused damage, which is often the result of a blade that has become too blunt. As you apply more pressure to get a better result, the razor damages skin underneath the hair you want to remove. Always use a sharp blade, and make sure that you moisturize directly after shaving.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can damage or even kill skin cells. Even if damage is not immediately visible, that does not mean that it isn’t taking place. It’s not only sunburn that causes harm to the skin. Over time, prolonged exposure to the sun’s rays can cause cell damage, pigmentation issues, and drying of the skin. As part of your skin health maintenance regime, it’s important to ensure that you are not overexposed to sunlight. You don’t need to cover up completely or avoid the sun to do this. Get into the habit of wearing sunscreen on your face and other areas of exposed skin. Many face creams and foundations come with an SPF, and you can use an everyday sunscreen for the remaining areas that need to be protected. Cover your head with a hat during the peak hours of sunlight; this also helps to prevent acute heat illness.
Now that you have the tools to help refresh and rehydrate your skin, dryness will be a thing of the past. Don’t forget that maintenance is just as important as treatment, and by taking simple steps to look after your skin, you’ll be glowing year-round!