Skin conditions are very common and are for the most part, not harmful or serious. The most common skin issue is dry skin. This can be caused by the environment, genetics, or medical situations.
More than 50 percent of adults suffer from dry skin type, the ones with higher risks of having this skin condition are those above the age of 40.
Dry skin can vary from temporary and short term to medical or severe cases. Temporary issues often have the same symptoms from itching to scaling. Whereas medically diagnosed dry skin can suffer from severe flaking and discomfort.
We will discuss the causes of dry skin, and its riks. We will share all the insights on how to improve your skin condition, the best at-home remedies, and the medical treatments that can help decrease symptoms or get rid of the dry skin:
- What is Dry Skin?
- What Causes Dry Skin?
- Symptoms of Dry Skin
- Diagnosis of Dry Skin
- Treatment for Dry Skin
- Consequences and Risk Factors of Dry Skin
What is Dry Skin?
Dry skin is a common condition that occurs due to various factors. The scientific name for this is xerosis. It often appears as cracking, drying, scaling, or flaking and is often itchy. For most, it is a temporary issue and occurs due to climate changes, lack of moisture, and/or skincare. Temporary dry skin typically appears on the legs, hands, and arms.
Sometimes, dry skin can be a more severe and long term. This can be due to various types of dermatitis, which are skin diseases. These include eczema and allergic reactions.
Dry skin in general, is not serious nor harmful. There are numerous ways that you can treat affected areas, which will be discussed later in this article.
With itchiness being the main symptom of dry skin, it is important not to scratch and worsen the affected areas. Instead, it is important to diagnose the condition and receive the right treatment.
After an affected area is treated and dry skin disappears, it is advised to retain the skin’s moisture to avoid getting dry skin again. This is usually the case for temporary dry skin.
For those with skin conditions that cause dryness, it is often recommended to continue with the treatment method to help with itchiness and discomfort.
Let’s take a look into the main causes of dry skin:
What Causes Dry Skin?
The most common cause of xerosis is due to environmental changes. The changes in temperature are therefore caused by external issues. For others, it can be caused by skin conditions or genetics which are internal issues.
Changes in the weather
Most people suffer from dry skin in winter. This is because it is more common for colder weather to cause dry skin due to a lack of moisture in the epidermis. The epidermis is the toughest layer of the skin and when it dries out, it causes dry skin on the surface.
Warmer weather can be more hydrating for the skin as it helps it maintain its water balanced. This keeps water levels at bay meaning the skin does not dry out.
Warm weather can also drain water from the skin and cause dehydration. This is due to humidity in the area sucking moisture from the epidermis. Similar to how cool weather lowers the moisture from the skin.
Artificial heating such as fires, log burners, and central heating systems work in the same way humid climates do when it comes to dry skin. Inside heating systems can cause an increase in body temperature which can drain excess moisture from the epidermis, causing dry skin. Similar to how hot climates work.
Body washing temperatures
Frequent dry skin can be caused by hot baths or showers. Heat decreases the skin’s moisture causing dryness.
Being in the water for too long can also cause xerosis. This includes swimming in pools, especially those that have chlorine.
Chlorine strips the external layers of skin from sebum, which is the oily layer that retains the skin’s moisture.
Similar to being in chlorinated pools, overwashing in baths or showers can dry up the skin. Being in water too often or too long can eventually cause the sebum to break down, which means the skin is no longer protected.
The drying of the skin occurs after immersion in the water. When the skin dries, the water and moisture in the skin evaporate. I
Harmful skin detergents
Most skin detergents – soaps, shampoos, gels – are formulated to strip oils from the skin. This is in order to remove bacteria. But, this removal of oil works the same way chlorine does. It removes the waxy layer that is needed to protect the skin from losing too much moisture. It is typically the sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in these products that strip the skin of essential moisture and oils. SLS is a surfactant and its key task is to remove oils from surfaces. Avoid this ingredient to retain moisture and protect the skin from dryness.
If your job involves being around harmful chemicals, this can have a negative impact on the skin. Similar to harmful skin detergents, there are many jobs that involve handling or being exposed to chemical ingredients and/or extreme temperatures, which can be harmful to the skin.
Jobs such as cosmetology, agriculture, construction, cleaning, painting, printing, and mechanics can involve extreme chemicals or temperature.
Diabetic patients experience a loss of fluids in the body due to high glucose levels. This loss of fluids means loss of moisture. The most common areas affected are the legs, elbows, and feet.
Alternatively, skin diseases can cause dry skin. These skin diseases include:
Dermatitis is the most common skin disease. This basically means dry skin. There are several different types of dermatitis to be aware of in order to understand how they start and why they cause dry skin:
- Contact Dermatitis: This type of dermatitis typically occurs due to allergens or irritants which cause inflammation. If the skin is exposed to an allergy or irritant, such as metals or bleach, cause an allergic reaction. This creates a skin irritation and in most cases dryness, soreness, itchiness, and inflammation.
- Seborrheic Dermatitis: unlike other forms of dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis is caused by an overproduction of oil. Most types are caused by a lack of moisture and oil. The reason too much oil causes dryness is due to it forming a red rash and scaling which causes itching. This usually occurs on the scalp and is most common in children.
- Atopic Dermatitis: this is the most common type of dermatitis and is an umbrella term for many skin diseases. The main skin disease is eczema which causes drying and scaling on many areas of the body.
Psoriasis is more of an internal skin issue. It is an autoimmune disease that causes a build-up of skin cells. First, the build-up begins deep within the skin layers. Here, the cell build-up is fairly rapid. Over time, it slows down. This is when the build-up of cells rise and appear as scaling and redness on the external skin.
The most common type is plaque psoriasis. Surveys reveal that it affects around 80 percent of patients. Psoriasis can be triggered by various factors from genetics to medications and infections.
There is a genetic skin condition known as ichthyosis. There are numerous types of this condition. But, the most common types of ichthyosis Vulgaris which causes severe scaling of the skin. It commonly appears on the lower legs.
If you are experiencing symptoms that you believe are dry skin, here is more on the main symptoms dry skin cause:
Symptoms of Dry Skin
Most people experience similar symptoms for dry skin. Sometimes they vary depending on the cause, age and health. But, for the most part, dry skin causes the following symptoms:
- The tightness of the skin
- Rough skin
- Gray skin
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to get the affected area checked in order to receive the right treatment.
Sometimes the dryness can be small and easily treatable at home with moisturizing products. But, if the symptoms are mild to severe or persist, it is best to see a dermatologist, doctor, or seek advice from your local pharmacy.
Catching dry skin early can significantly decrease the severity and symptoms. There are several methods of diagnosis:
Diagnosis of Dry Skin
Diagnosing dry skin is very simple. You can see a doctor or health care assistant in a pharmacy. Sometimes these can refer you to see a physician. Each professional person will use the same diagnose technique. First, they will assess your skin to see what may have impacted the affected area.
Questions will most likely be asked to assess your lifestyle, diet, medical history, and environmental surroundings to discover the likely cause.
If the condition is not easy to diagnose, a skin biopsy may be taken. This happens rarely but it is a useful method for scientists to diagnose a rare skin disease or dry skin cause.
A diagnosis will conclude what is the right treatment plan for your type and cause of dry skin:
Treatment for Dry Skin
For most cases of dry skin, a doctor will advise lifestyle changes. These will involve daily skin care from moisturizers, ointments, and general changes. The best option for everyday care is keeping your skin well hydrated.
Easy lifestyle changes and remedies
There are several ways to prevent recurring dry skin. To follow are some everyday lifestyle changes you can start doing now, or your doctor may advise you to do after diagnosis:
- Avoid washing with hot water
- Avoid washing too often
- Use moisturizing and SLS-free washing products (if your skin is severely dry, use petroleum-based products as they have and can offer higher moisture levels)
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid scratching the itchy areas
- Avoid rubbing your skin dry of water
- Apply moisturizer after every wash
- Coverup during colder months
- Wear rubber gloves when around chemicals or for frequently water immersion (for your hands)
For mild cases, it is best to hydrate your skin with effective lotions and ointments. Also, it is best to use the appropriate cleaners and soaps. Most can be bought over the counter.
For everyday use, lotions, creams, and mild soaps are good to cleanse and hydrate your skin with. The best options include:
- Cetaphil lotion
- Lubriderm lotion
- Curel lotion
- Aveeno cleanser
- Dove soapless cleanser
Mild products that are fragrance-free will less likely irritate the skin. Thicker creams work better for deep hydration. It is best to apply these products straight after washing, even if the skin is still a little damp. This will help retain moisture and prevent dehydration.
In some cases, a doctor or pharmacist will refer you to a skin specialist or dermatologist for a more in-depth skincare routine. Here, the dermatologist will offer various treatment methods. These cases and appointments are generally more severe or medical cases of dry skin. For example, for those who suffer from dermatitis, psoriasis or ichthyosis Vulgaris will be advised to anti-itch creams, ointments and/or medication. These include:
- Corticosteroid creams: these are topical steroid treatments that work to alleviate itching and hydrate the affected area. The most effective corticosteroid creams include hydrocortisone 1%, pramosone 2.5%, triamcinolone 0.1% and fluocinonide 0.05%. These should only be used on the face, underarm, and groin areas. Applying too much of the creams can reverse positive effects and cause skin thinning due to the concentration of steroids.
- Oral antihistamines: oral medications for dry skin include antihistamines. These work better at alleviating general itching as opposed to hydrating the affected areas. Antihistamines do not target the area of itching. Instead, they can reduce itching across the entire body. The most popular and effective are hydroxyzine and diphenhydramine.
These advanced treatments will be recommended to you by a professional. Generally, they will be prescribed to be collected from a pharmacy. Guidelines to follow will be given by your doctor or dermatologist. Do not use these creams if not advised.
Like any medical issue, there comes some consequences, complications, and/or risk factors. For dry skin, these include:
Consequences and Risk Factors of Dry Skin
There are just a few risk factors and consequences/complications to be aware of. Risk factors are present for a variety of people due to many factors. Dry skin is most common among those:
Over 40 years old
50 percent of adults over 40 years are prone to dry skin. As we age, the skin naturally produces less oil. Thus, dehydration occurs often. In fact, research suggests that most people over the age of 65 have one or more skin conditions.
With medical history
For anyone with skin conditions in their genetic line is more likely to suffer from dry skin. If dermatitis or psoriasis runs in the family, it can be more common for you to develop these diseases at some point.
Live in colder climates
The weather plays a huge part in dry skin issues. Those who live in colder climates are more likely to have dry skin. Studies demonstrate that cool air temperatures can break down the skin’s barrier and therefore, has limited protection against weathering.
Have poor washing habits
Over washing or being in the water for too long has a detrimental impact on your skin. It is an even higher risk if you are prone to dry skin due to genes, medical conditions, or your environment.
For those at high risk, it is highly advised to take good care of your skin. Doing what you can to prevent dry skin from occurring is key. Daily care with lotions, creams, and lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
If the right care is not complete, consequences/complications can derive from that. Complications usually only occur when the skin is tampered with, left untreated or the skin’s natural protective layers are compromised.
Infections are the most common complication. Too much itching of an affected area can cause the skin to open and appear wound like. Any bad bacteria that enter the wound can cause infection. It is best to avoid scratching and use anti-itch treatments to stop or decrease the itching.
If you have any more concerns, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about dry skin:
Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize?
If your skin still feels dry even after moisturizing, this is because your skin is severely dehydrated. Ensure you are using the correct moisturizers such as Cetaphil, Lubriderm, and Aquaphor. Using moisturizing without hydrating properties and/or skin-stripping ingredients will further dry out the skin.
Does drinking water help dry skin?
Drinking plenty of water can combat skin issues such as dryness, dullness, and in some cases, diseases. It is advised to drink water to keep yourself and your skin hydrated. It is not a cure but helps increase hydration levels.
What should I eat for dry skin?
The skin benefits from nutritious foods. Healthy balanced meals are as good for your skin as they are your body. High healthy fats such as fatty fish, avocados, seeds, and nuts contain omega-3’s which is great for the skin’s elasticity and overall health. Being deficient in omega-3’s can in fact cause dry skin, according to studies.
Other foods that can help dry skin include sweet potatoes, red/yellow bell peppers, and broccoli. All are rich in vitamin A, which is essential for healthy skin. It acts as a natural sunblock and works as an antioxidant to protect your skin from sun exposure. Too much sun can cause dry skin and peel.
More vitamin and mineral boosting foods for healthier skin include tomatoes, spinach, grapes, green tea, and soy.
What foods hydrate skin?
Yes, there are many foods that can benefit the overall health of the skin. But, there are a few intensely hydrating foods that are amazing for dry skin. These include water-dense fruits and vegetables such as berries, watermelon, plums, celery, peppers, and lettuce. Adding these to each meal can boost your water intake and hydrate your skin.
What does dry skin look like?
Dry skin can appear in many ways. It can appear as dry patches on random areas of the skin. Sometimes the skin can start to peel or flake, which indicates dry skin. Or, the skin can change color to grey, white or brown which is a signal of severely dehydrated skin.
Which fruit is best for dry skin?
Water dense fruits are the best for dry skin. There is an abundance to choose from but the top 5 hydrating fruits are watermelons, cantaloupes, strawberries, peaches, and oranges. Most that quench your thirst will also quench your skin’s thirst.
Should I put lotion on my dry skin?
Lotions are the most effective treatment for dry skin. Yet, you must use those with appropriate and effective ingredients. Any topical ointments from the list in this article are the best for dry skin.
Is Vaseline good for dry skin?
Vaseline is a petroleum jelly, which is very effective and hydrating for the skin. Many dermatologists and doctors recommend Vaseline as a cheaper alternative than other over-the-counter products. You can use it anywhere on the body from the lips and eyelids to underarms and legs.
How do you hydrate your skin yourself?
Making a few lifestyle changes and choosing effective products is the key to self-hydration. Drinking plenty of water, avoiding overbathing, moisturizing daily, and eating hydrating foods are a few steps towards more hydrated skin.
For our final thoughts on dry skin, treatments, causes, and more:
Dry skin is not a serious health concern. But sometimes it can cause complications, especially if left untreated.
When and if you notice any symptoms of dry skin, it is best to seek professional advice from your doctor. Dry skin issues that are more severe, such as dermatitis and psoriasis, need dermatologist attention in order to receive the right effective treatments.
There are several ways a person can prevent or slow the development of dry skin. A few simple lifestyle changes can make this happen. Treating dry skin early will decrease irritability and can sometimes completely get rid of the issue.
If you notice any symptoms, do consult your doctor to seek a diagnosis in order to receive the best treatment.
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