Dry skin can be caused by any number of things, some out of your control, but many within it. The uncomfortable itchiness can be an annoyance. And the red flakiness can have you feeling embarrassed and self-conscious.
You’ve covered yourself with lotion, but there’s still no relief. So where are you going wrong? What could possibly be causing your dry skin?
Too Much Sunshine
Yes, this once again makes it to the top of the list for bad guys when it comes to doing your skin wrong. The sun’s rays penetrate deeply into your skin’s dermis layer, robbing it of moisture and oils.
Don’t stay out too long, especially while the sun is at its strongest (10am to 4pm). Be sure to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 20 and reapply it every two hours. More often if you’re swimming or sweating.
Showers That Are Too Hot or Too Long
While this is great for stiff, tired, and sore muscles, it’s terrible for your skin. “Excessive exposure to water, especially hot water, can strip the skin of natural oils and disrupt the skin barrier,” explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Too much hot water removes the natural moisturizing ability of skin’s surface cells. If your skin feels overly tight after bathing, you’ve soaked too long.
Keep your shower time short, and avoid excessive temperatures. 84° is plenty hot enough. Apply a moisturizer or oil immediately after you get out while your skin is still damp.
“Fragrance has a tendency to irritate dry skin or make it worse, so avoid deodorants and skin care products that are filled with fragrance,” says Amy Forman Taub, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Northwestern University
Check ingredient labels for the word fragrance. Body lotions and creams are commonly packed with perfumes and can cause more harm than good. If you like the idea of products that smell good, look for formulas that contain ingredients like honey and vanilla, and bean-based butters like cocoa and shea, for hydration that also coats skin in delicious, non-drying scents.
Cold weather is also the driest. The low humidity means that moisture is constantly being pulled away from your skin’s surface. This can lead to skin that can crack and flake, leaving you even more exposed to outside irritants and more likely to have an inflammatory response. Cranking your air conditioner up can have the same effect, as well.
Try to avoid prolonged exposure to cold temperatures and make a concerted effort to moisturize more often. Adding a humidifier to your bedroom will also help to quench your parched skin.
“Traditional bar soaps use harsh cleansing ingredients called surfactants that have an alkaline pH,” explains Zeichner. “Alkaline products can disrupt the outer skin layer and prevent the skin from protecting itself properly causing dryness and irritation.” Soaps and harsh cleansers remove protective lipids and damage skin proteins, weakening the skin’s surface and exposing deeper and deeper layers to additional moisture loss. Your skin doesn’t just lose water – it loses the ability to retain water.
Look for a gentle, unscented soap to better match the slightly acidic pH of your skin. It should fully cleanse without compromising the integrity of the skin, Zeichner adds.
You should also choose your laundry detergents carefully for the same reason. Joel Schlessinger, MD, a dermatologist in Omaha, Nebraska, warns against harsh detergents and fabric softeners if you have dry skin. Look for gentle laundry soaps like All Free and Clear.
Not really what you wanted to hear, but researchers at the University of Dundee, in Scotland now say that dry skin can be inherited. They have found mutations in genes that control the production of the protein filaggrin (which plays a role in forming and hydrating the skin barrier) can cause several skin conditions. People with these mutations suffer drier skin and have a greater chance of developing eczema.
If dry skin runs in your family or if you’ve always suffered dry skin, it’s essential that you’re diligent with your daily moisturizer. “Look for ceramides and lipids in moisturizers, which help build and reinforce the skin barrier,” says Zeichner.
Too Much Exfoliation
While exfoliation can be very helpful for dry skin, too much exfoliation can lead to microscopic tears that result in inflammation, redness, dryness, and peeling. “The purpose of exfoliating is to remove dead cells from the surface of the skin and enhance radiance by allowing light to reflect off the skin surface,” explains Dr. Zeichner. When you do it too often, you’re removing healthy skin instead of just the dead skin.
Use those washes once or twice a week according to the label, and look for ingredients like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. “These ingredients dissolve the connections between skin cells so the cells gently exfoliate from the skin surface,” Zeichner says.
For relief for your dry skin, look to SciaEssentials DELTA-5 to effectively improve the skin’s barrier function. It contains linoleic acid plus sciadonic acid, a key fatty acid, to help build and improve the skin’s ceramide structure. Not only that, but it also helps to decrease molecules that cause inflammation of the skin, helping to break the cycle and provide relief for dry, itchy, flaky skin.