For those who suffer with dry skin, something as simple as washing your hands can cause rough, inflamed patches to appear.
Alleviating the condition requires patience, attention and a bit of trial and error! What works for some may not work for others. However, don’t fret! This post explains the causes of dry skin and the various ways to alleviate it.
What is Dry Skin?Dry skin occurs when your skin is stripped of the fatty oils needed to contain moisture.
It can affect the entire body, with symptoms ranging from mildly tight, flaky and cracked patches of skin to extremely tight, itchy skin all over the body.
In many cases, dry skin is the result of genetics. We are all born with different skin types, varying moisture balances and levels of skin sensitivity.
However, there are also external factors that can lead to dry skin.
What Causes Skin to Become Dry?As mentioned, dry skin can be brought on as a result of many factors. Most of these factors are external, and can be alleviated through making small changes - but more on this later!
Some causes, however, are beyond our control. This includes ageing. We all age at different rates and our skin reacts in various ways.
As we age, our skin’s ability to lock in moisture declines, as does our metabolism and skin elasticity. As a result, the skin can become dry and cracked.
Hot or cold, the weather can wreak havoc on our skin!
The dry summer weather, along with increased exposure to the sun’s rays can dry your skin as it loses moisture in the heat.
The same applies in winter. When the temperature is cooler, the low humidity levels sap moisture from the skin. This causes it to become flaky and dry.
Furthermore, turning on the air conditioning or central heating can exacerbate this, as the temperature change from hot to cold (or vice versa) increases your skin’s sensitivity.
Other than this, most contributing factors are avoidable. Therefore, simple adaptations to your daily routine will allow you to alleviate the symptoms and tackle your dry-skin woes!
How to Alleviate Dry Skin?There are a number of steps you can take to alleviate dry skin, and these will have varying impacts depending upon the severity of your condition.
One of the most simple, yet effective points to note is: resist the urge to scratch!
Dry skin can become incredibly itchy and uncomfortable, making the temptation to itch irresistable. However, the instant relief from itching is detrimental in the long run. When we scratch dry skin it increases the inflammation and irritation, causing it to worsen.
Improve your Skin Care Routine
For those who suffer with dry skin, following a structured skin care routine can play a significant role in relieving the symptoms and appearance of rough, cracked skin.
This doesn’t have to be a complicated routine, it simply needs to incorporate three steps: wash, exfoliate and moisturise.
When washing, keep the water set to a lukewarm temperature and avoid strong soaps to prevent your skin's protective barrier from being stripped of its essential oils and lipids.
Cleanse your skin daily with natural skin care products that won’t irritate or dry out the skin.
Pat your skin dry with a towel after washing. Rubbing aggravates hairs on the skin causing itchiness. Try not to dry your skin completely, as you should allow the moisturiser to lock some of the water.
Following this, you should incorporate gentle exfoliation into your routine 2-3 times per week. This helps to remove dead skin cells and encourages the absorption of moisture from topical moisturisers.
Whether exfoliating the face or the body, apply in circular motions and leave for a couple of minutes. Following this, simply rinse the exfoliator away with cool water.
Look for a rich moisturiser specifically tailored to care for dry skin. Apply a fair amount evenly to your skin and face.
Moisturisers form a protective layer between your skin and the harsh external environment. Furthermore, they nourish the skin, allowing it to absorb hydrating nutrients.
Opting for moisturisers with humectants such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid allow the skin to retain moisture and treat multiple signs of ageing.
Furthermore, we recommend you apply SPF daily, to prevent your skin from drying out when exposed to UV rays.
For extremely dry skin, incorporating oils such as coconut oil, jojoba oil and tea tree oil into your skin care routine can help to lock in moisture and relieve the itching sensation.
Alter your Diet
The foods we consume have a direct impact on the health of both our body and our skin. Avoiding unhealthy, sugar-filled foods and incorporating healthy fats and vitamins into our diet can significantly reduce the appearance of dry skin.
Fatty acids help to restore moisture levels within the skin, whilst foods rich in Vitamin E encourage retention of moisture.
Furthermore, our bodies’ level of moisture is determined by its water balance. Therefore, it’s important to try and consume the recommended two litres of water per day. This keeps the skin healthy and hydrated.
Pay Attention to your Clothing
Synthetic materials such as polyester and itch-prone materials such as wool can irritate skin, especially when you get too warm!
Using harsh washing detergents for your clothes can aggravate dry skin, as many of the chemicals and fragrances may induce a reaction.
Ditch the fake fibres and opt for 100% cotton or silk. These materials allow your skin to breathe and remain itch-free. In addition, use fragrance-free, hypoallergenic detergents, and don’t overload the machine!
Our daily habits, stress levels and busy lifestyles can all have an effect on our skin sensitivity. Firstly, lack of sleep deprives our skin of much-needed nourishment.
As a result of this, the skin can become dehydrated, resulting in dry, flaky patches. Furthermore, sleep-deprivation increases the skin’s inflammatory response, often leading to breakouts.
Combine this with increased stress levels and you have a recipe for disaster. As our stress levels increase, our outer layer of skin weakens, becoming more susceptible to dry skin and eczema.
Finally, smoking is another contributory lifestyle factor. There are many negative effects caused by smoking, but one of the less-known is dry skin.
As well as accelerating our skin's ageing process, smoking reduces the levels of Vitamin A within the skin. This results in dry skin and a host of other negative effects. Source: Wikipedia
Whether you’re experiencing dry skin as a result of internal or external factors, incorporating a daily skincare routine, improving your diet and altering various lifestyle factors can all help to significantly reduce or even eradicate the symptoms of dry skin.
Following these changes, if symptoms persist, this may be due to an underlying medical condition and we recommend you contact your GP.