By Abby Vinas
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Dry skin is a common skin condition that affects millions of Americans each year. Medically known as Xerosis, dry skin can occur to anyone of any age, for a variety of reasons. Dry skin is characterized by a feeling of tightness in the skin, which is sometimes worse after water exposure whether that be in the shower or after hopping into the swimming pool.
Your skin may itch, and show signs of flaking or scaling. There may be patches of redness, or even areas of skin that look grey and ashy. In severe cases, you might even have deep cracks in the skin that bleed when irritated. Having dry skin isn’t fun, and while it’s a common condition, that doesn’t mean you have to simply live with it.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Dry skin is often hereditary, like the cause of acne, and if either of your parents struggle with dry skin, you’re more likely to deal with the same issue. While you can’t control your genetics, according to Harvard Health Publishing, there are daily habits that could be contributing to your dry skin. Learning which behaviors dry out the skin and circumventing these habits can help clear up dry, irritated patches.
If you take hot showers, you could be doing your skin a disservice. It might feel wonderful on those cold winter days, but according to Baylor College of Medicine, your skin may suffer the consequences of too much time spent in a steamy shower stall. The hot water and steam can strip the skin of its natural oils, depleting the pores of essential sebum. While too much of this oily substance leads to pimples, too little can lead to dry, brittle skin.
So what can you do instead? Simply limit your showers to five minutes—plenty of time to get clean without drying out your skin. If you like your showers extremely hot, it’s time to dial down the temperature. Lukewarm water is still comfortable and much more forgiving on the skin.
The time spent in the shower and temperature of the water aren’t the only factors affecting your skin when it comes to shower habits. Take a look at the soap you’re using. If you have a harsh soap that unnecessarily dries out the skin, you could be washing away not only dirt and bacteria—you can also wave goodbye to the healthy oils that keep your skin feeling soft and supple. Stick to gentle, simple cleansers that utilize natural ingredients. Your skin will thank you.
It’s important to avoid abrasive materials. If you notice you have a great deal of dry skin, you may be tempted to slough off those old skin cells with a pumice stone or scrubbing sponge. Unfortunately, this can do more harm than good. Use a soft washcloth that doesn’t irritate the skin, or simply stick to using your hands.
After getting out of the shower, don’t dry your skin too aggressively. Rubbing your sensitive skin with a towel can actually exacerbate dry patches and irritation; dab lightly and let your skin air dry as much as possible to retain as much moisture as you can.
Lack of Moisture
If you’re suffering from cracked, dry skin, there are plenty of treatment options and skin care tips to consider, but none more important than moisturizing. The cardinal rule for anyone struggling with dry skin is to moisturize regularly. Even those that don’t suffer from excessively dry skin should follow a daily moisturizing regimen.
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Select your moisturizer based on your skin type. Those with oily or combination skin should go for lighter, water-based formulas. What makes skin oily is the sebum produced within the skin's sebaceous glands; adding heavy moisturizers on top of this excess oil can worsen breakouts. Those with excessively dry skin should use heavier creams that can provide the utmost in moisture. You may find it necessary to switch moisturizers by season, with lighter lotions during the summer and thicker creams in the winter months.
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Your Acne Treatment is Too Harsh
Those that deal with acne and dry skin must be particularly careful about acne treatment products. Many products use benzoyl peroxide as a key ingredient; while this does have acne-fighting capabilities, it can also deplete the skin of moisture and irritate surrounding areas, which can exacerbate already dry skin and result in painful, red, unsightly patches.
Use acne treatments that avoid harsh ingredients. Our acne-fighting 3-step Clear Skin Routine contains salicylic acid, an effective acne fighter that penetrates pores without overly drying out the surrounding skin. This treatment is then followed up with gentle, restorative gel that soothes the skin and leaves your face looking clear and radiant.
You Haven’t Been Using SPF
No matter the season or the weather outside, it’s important to always apply a layer of sunscreen when you’re planning on spending time outdoors. Reapply frequently if you plan on being outside for hours at a time. Some people believe sun exposure helps skin issues, but can the sun help remove acne? Definitely not. Studies show that excess sun exposure can worsen breakouts, not help them.
Have you ever noticed that as the leaves change, the weather cools, and the wind picks up, your skin starts feeling itchy and cracked? This is thanks to dry air associated with winter weather, as humidity levels drop. Winter dry skin plagues much of the population, but there are ways to alleviate the effects cold temperatures and dry air can have on your skin.
Be wary of blasting your heater as it can further dry out your skin. If heating is a must, be sure use moisturizer and cover up your skin as much as possible to retain natural moisture. Also consider investing in a humidifier; they can put more moisture in the air to help prevent your skin from drying out.
When Should I See a Doctor?
Generally, dry skin isn’t a major cause of concern, but there are cases in which it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist or doctor about your symptoms. If you experience any of the following, you may want to consider making an appointment with a health care professional:
- Your skin is so itchy that it interferes with your sleep
- You have open sores due to scratching
- There are large areas on your skin that are peeling or scaling
- Your skin doesn’t respond to home remedies
Hidden Underlying Causes of Dry Skin
Sometimes dry skin is merely a symptom of a larger underlying problem. If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it’s important to receive a diagnosis to ensure there aren’t any hidden health issues causing your dry skin including diabetes, psoriasis, kidney issues, or thyroid problems.
Abby Vinas has long been an active member of the holistic health community, advocating in favor of its benefits to both our physical and emotional well-being. Her commitment to leading a healthy lifestyle has made her an authority on self-care practices. Abby is passionate about fitness, nutrition, and proper skincare, and is also an avid lover of avocado toast and dog-petting.