Common Causes of Dry Skin
Having dry skin is no fun. It’s thick, feels rough, looks dull and can even be painful when it moves. To make matters worse, the longer your skin remains in a dry state the drier it will become.
This is because skin that is left dehydrated will start to become keratinized, which is a process where dead cells gradually build up on the surface of the skin and form a thick layer over it.
Once your skin becomes keratinized, it’s virtually impossible to moisturize it. This then causes the skin to become even more dehydrated and suffer from flaking, peeling and cracking.
All of these factors can also accelerate aging of the face by making you more susceptible to developing fine lines and wrinkles that make you look older than your years.
The good news, however, is that with the right treatment and care, dry skin is very often a temporary condition that can be reversed and so is not something you should have to suffer with for the rest of your life.
What Causes Dry Skin?
There are many different things which can cause a person’s skin to become dry. The most obvious of these is a person’s genetic makeup, as you could, for example, have been born with a dry skin type that naturally predisposes you to having dry skin.
However, even if you were born with a dry skin type the type of lifestyle you live, and the type of skincare routine you follow, can both make a significant difference to the overall health, condition and appearance of your skin.
So it’s important not to make the mistake of thinking that there is nothing you can do about your genetics, because the very latest in scientific research has shown that environmental factors are often more important than genetic factors.
All your genes do is provide a blueprint for how your body develops, but it is the environment that largely determines how those genes then express themselves.
For this reason, being aware of the most common causes of dry skin can help you to avoid those causes and thus improve the condition of your skin.
Some of the things that you might want to avoid, or pay extra attention to, if you have dry skin, are listed below:
If you are in an air-conditioned room, the air in that room will have very little moisture in it. The same applies to rooms which have a dehumidifier or electric fan heater in them.
If you are in a dry environment for a prolonged period of time, your skin may not be able to produce enough natural oils, or sebum, to compensate for that dryness thereby resulting in your skin becoming overly dry.
You can help to lessen the effects of a dry environment by ensuring that your face and hands are moisturized with an oil based moisturizer, by drinking plenty of water and/or by installing a humidifier to add moisture back into the air.
If you don’t want to buy a humidifier, but tend to drink tea regularly throughout the day, try moving your kettle from the kitchen into the room in which you normally spend most of your time.
When you boil yourself a cup of tea, the steam produced from the kettle will naturally humidify the air and so you should notice an improvement in the condition of your skin over time.
Exfoliating your face on a regular basis is a good skin care practice to follow. When you exfoliate, you remove the build up of dead cells that can accumulate on the surface of the skin which then makes it look fresher, clearer and with an improved complexion.
This is especially important if you already have dry skin because you will naturally accumulate dead cells at a rapid rate.
So if you don’t exfoliate often, the appearance of your skin will suffer and it may even start to become keratinized which will then make it thicker and drier.
However, whilst exfoliating certainly can be a very beneficial practice to follow, over exfoliating can result in dryness and inflammation, both of which you want to avoid because they can accelerate the aging process.
For most people, exfoliating 2-3 times a week should be sufficient, and possibly 4 times if you feel the need to do so.
Some topical prescription medications such as Retin-A, benzoyl peroxide or hydroquinone can dry out the skin in addition to causing it to become red and inflamed.
If you notice dryness or redness after using such medication, cut their use back to every other day or every third day.
You may also need to adjust your skin care routine while you are on medication. For example, benzoyl peroxide is often used by sufferers of acne because it can be very effective in helping to control acne and minimize the occurrence of breakouts.
However, it is also tends to be very drying and so many acne sufferers find that they have to use a thicker moisturizer to provide their skin with the same level of hydration that a less dense moisturizer used to provide.
So always be willing to reassess your current beauty routine and the products you use whenever you notice any major and sudden changes occurring to your skin, as what may have worked for you in the past, may no longer be effective for you now.
Skin Care Products
If you use the wrong type of cleanser or toner for your skin, you could end up irritating it and cause it to become dry and inflamed as a result. And if you use the wrong moisturizer, your skin is likely to dry out prematurely during the day.
The type of product you use should therefore be as closely matched to your skin’s type as possible.
The main types of skin are classified as being either normal, dry, acne, sensitive, oily or combination, and you should be able to find cleansers, toners and moisturizers which are specifically designed for use on each of these skin types.
As a general rule, if you have dry skin avoid using a cleanser or toner that contains alcohol, as that will probably be far too drying for you. For a cleanser, you will probably get best results with a lotion based cleanser, rather than a liquid or gel based cleanser.
For a toner, rosewater or an alcohol-free toner is your best bet. And for your moisturizer, choose something that’s oil or waxed based, or use a natural alternative such as emu oil or coconut oil.
In addition, avoid the use of soap also, as this too can be very drying.
Just like how using the wrong skin care products can cause your skin to dry out, so can using the wrong type of cosmetics. This includes products such as foundation, lipstick and perfume/deodorant.
Most make up products are now formulated to work with different skin types. For example, if you have dry skin, you can get foundations and lipsticks that contain humectants which help to lock moisture into the skin.
If you notice that your skin feels dry a few hours after applying your cosmetics, switch to something else as you are most likely using the wrong type of product.
If you still find that your skin is dry even after using something which should have worked well for you, then it may be the ingredients in that product which are causing you to react badly.
In such cases, try to use an all natural alternative or something which contains as few artificial ingredients as possible.
Chemical peels are like a more intense version of exfoliating facial scrubs, and although some peels, such as a glycolic acid peel, can be done fairly regularly without adverse effects, other peels, such as a TCA peel, can quickly dry out your skin if they are done too frequently.
If you have chemical peels done professionally, it’s probably strong enough to warrant waiting at least six weeks before another treatment.
If you do chemical peels at home, you may be able to get away with more frequent treatments depending on the type and strength of peel that you are using.
Harsh weather can be very drying to the skin on your face, neck and hands. This is especially true when it’s windy, cold and you live near a coastal area because the salt in the air will cause your skin to dry out faster than it normally would.
The only thing that you can do in such circumstances is to protect yourself from the weather as best as you can.
This means covering up your hands by wearing gloves, covering up your neck by wearing a scarf and covering up your head by wearing a hat. You may even choose to wear glasses to protect the skin around your eyes.
Unfortunately though, unless you wear a balaclava, you won’t be able to cover up your entire face. So the best you can do is to use a thick moisturizer and apply some lip balm to your lips.
Licking Your Lips
When you are out in cold or windy weather, or even during hot weather, you should avoid the habit of licking your lips and moistening them with saliva.
Even though this may appear to rehydrate your lips, when the saliva evaporates, it will cause a further drying effect to the skin which will make your lips become even more dry and cracked.
Lots of medications can cause your skin to dry out, and if this is the case with your medication, you should be able to see this listed as one of its side-effects on the leaflet that came with your medication, or by looking on the internet.
So if you are at a loss as to what is causing your dry skin, check your medication and then see if it’s possible for you to stop taking it for a while to see how your skin responds.
You should not, however, suddenly stop taking your medication as that could be dangerous. Instead, inform your doctor of your intentions and ask for their advice on how best to stop.
You may even find that they can prescribe you with an alternative type of medication which will not result in dryness.
Having a cold or the flu can dehydrate your body, as can more serious illnesses. So when you are feeling unwell, be sure to drink plenty of water and continue your regular skin care routine as this will help to minimize the effects of your illness on the condition of your skin.
In addition to illness, certain medical conditions such as thyroid disease, diabetes, eczema and psoriasis can all result in excessive drying of the skin.
Living in a busy city means that your skin is exposed to a lot of pollution each day. The result of this is that your skin dries out faster, looks duller and becomes more susceptible to premature aging.
If you live in such an environment you should therefore ensure that your face is properly moisturized with a moisturizer that will last you for the whole day, but without making your face look greasy.
A good natural moisturizer to use for dry skin is coconut oil or emu oil. My favorite is emu oil as it penetrates very deeply into the skin and keeps it moisturized for a long time even in very dry weather. Coconut oil can be used externally, although I prefer to consume it on its own or with food.
Foundation that contains humectants to lock moisture into the skin can also be used by women to prevent dryness and guard against pollution.
Not many people are aware of this, but when you fly in an airplane your body becomes much more vulnerable to suffering from dehydration and drying of the skin. This is because air becomes drier with increasing altitude and not all airlines humidify the air.
To reduce the risk of suffering from dehydration when flying, be sure to drink water before you fly and during your flight. If possible, keep a small moisturizer with you that you can apply to your face or hands if you feel that they are starting to dry out.
Alcohol is a diuretic which means that it causes your body to excrete water. The more you drink the more your skin will dry out. The only way to counter this is to drink water as you drink alcohol or by reducing the amount of alcohol that you drink.
The same also applies to some non-alcoholic beverages such as nettle tea, coffee and sodas.
Smoking dries your skin both internally and externally. The only way to prevent this is to stop smoking.
Not Eating Enough Fat
Ensure that your diet contains an adequate amount of fat, as a lack of fat can quickly cause the skin to become dry.
Look to include omega-3 fish oils and coconut oil into your diet, as both are wonderful for keeping the skin moisturized from within. In addition, cod liver oil can also be very beneficial due to the vitamin A that it contains.
Chlorine is added as a disinfectant to water to reduce the risk of contracting water bourne disease. However, chlorine is also very drying to the skin, especially when you come into contact with it for a prolonged period of time.
If you find that your skin feels very dry after having a shower, then it is likely that you are reacting to the chlorine in the water. One way to avoid this happening is to use a shower filter that removes chlorine from the water.
In addition to showering, swimming in chlorinated pools can also cause skin dryness, so you may want to avoid or limit how much you swim if this becomes a problem for you.
Not Drinking Enough Water
It is a myth that drinking lots of water will help to improve dry skin. Water is only beneficial in this regard when you are already in a dehydrated state, and the most obvious sign of this are dry/cracked lips.