The 5 Most Common Causes of Dry Skin

Beauty/Skincare, Healthy Living
on January 6, 2012
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Common Dryness Cause: The weather

“With the cold weather outside, we see decreased humidity levels, which corresponds to decreased water in the air available to hydrate our skin,” says Dr. Jennifer Peterson, a dermatologist in Houston. She notes that many of her patients experience dry skin and eczema only in the winter due to this drastic decrease in humidity.

Cure: While colder temperatures may send you seeking the warmth of the bath or shower, resist the urge to soak for prolonged periods of time in hot water, which saps moisture further and strips skin of its natural oils. Keep a humidifier running in your home and/or office to increase the amount of moisture in the air and in your skin.

Common Dryness Cause: Your genes

Some people are naturally predisposed to dry skin. It’s a good bet that heredity is to blame for yours if your whole body, from head to toe—including your scalp—tends to be dry year round, says Annet King, director of global education at Dermalogica’s International Dermal Institute.

Cure: If your battle with dryness knows no season, see a dermatologist, who can provide prescription skincare relief, if necessary. You may also need to moisturize several times each day, says Peterson. Sloughing off flakes a few times each week can also ensure that any moisturizer you apply, prescription or not, has a better shot of penetrating the surface.

Common Dryness Cause: Skincare ingredients

Heavily fragranced products, antibacterial cleansers and body washes, and traditional soaps with high pH levels can all remove surface oils from your skin, leaving its natural barrier against dehydration compromised.

Cure: Switch to soap-free and gentle products made for sensitive skin if you’re starting to feel dry, itchy or tight. “Switch out a foaming cleanser for a soothing cream instead, to replenish lipids and soothe sensitivity,” suggests King. You should also avoid antibacterial ingredients and products that contain alcohol. “Many patients apply rubbing alcohol to the skin because it feels cool and soothing to itchy skin,” says Peterson. “Unfortunately, it dehydrates the skin even further which actually leads to more itching. It can become a vicious cycle.”

Common Dryness Cause: Your diet

Low-fat diets can actually have an effect on the lipid content in your skin, says King. Cutting out fat means you’re limiting your body’s intake of healthy essential fatty acids (EFAs), which protect against water loss in your cells and skin.

Cure: Not all fat is bad: Be sure your diet contains plenty of foods that are high in healthy EFAs, like salmon, flax seeds, walnuts and canola oil.

Common Dryness Cause: Frequent washing

“Bathing more than once per day can be very drying,” says Peterson, yet many of us, especially those who are very active, wash off both in the morning and at night. Add in hot water and drying soaps and skin is going to be left parched.

Cure: No matter how sweaty you get, limit bathing to one time each day. “If you work out in the evening, then shower when you get home, but don’t shower again in the morning,” suggests Peterson. After your shower, be sure to pat skin dry and then immediately slather on body lotion to lock in moisture.