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Dry Skin

How Dry Skin Occurs

Whilst the causes or triggers of dry skin can vary, the underlying biological reason for dry skin is water retention. The outermost layer of skin named the strateum corneum is composed of dead skin cells which are fixed together to form a protective shield over the living skin cells underneath. The strateum corneum typically has the same surface area as the skin layers beneath it resulting in a healthy skin appearance, however when water levels are low, the strateum corneum layer shrinks making the surface area less than the layers underneath, this causes the outer layer to tighten leading to dryness, cracks and flaking skin.

The strateum corneum will always lose water due to evaporation, however certain conditions and triggers increase the rate of evaporation, with some also having a negative effect on the skin’s natural oil production.

Dry Skin can be caused by a variety of factors; here are the 5 most common causes of dry skin:

Although moisturiser is designed to treat dry skin, if not used correctly, it is unlikely to help. Moisturiser should only be applied to damp skin, as it can only keep existing moisture on the skin. If you apply it to dry skin, it doesn’t have any moisture to maintain. The skin should also not be soaking wet, as this will prevent the moisturiser from setting in properly, with the skin drying out after it has been absorbed.

Many of us forget that the winter is the harshest season for our skin. The wind can be very dry and abrasive, drawing the moisture out of the skin. Central heating and air conditioning can also be detrimental. The best way to counteract dry skin is to invest in a humidifier, ensure scarves, gloves and hats are worn outside in winter, and of course to use an appropriate moisturiser for dry skin.

The skin has natural oils, which help to keep it hydrated and protected. However when we take a long shower or bath, these oils can get washed away leaving our skin feeling tight and dried out. Spending time in the pool or sea can also cause this loss of natural oils. To counteract this, consider taking short showers instead of long baths and try to keep the water temperature lukewarm instead of hot. Afterwards, pat dry the skin instead of rubbing it dry, and then apply moisturiser to lock in the moisture to keep dry skin at bay.

Individuals taking certain medications are more likely to experience dry skin. This can occur with a variety of medications, including those used to treats conditions such as acne and high blood pressure. If the skin becomes very dry, it may be possible to switch medications to see if the effects are reduced.

Although dry skin is normally caused by environmental factors alone, it can also show as a symptom for certain medical conditions. These include the following common illnesses and ailments:

  • Eczema – proper use of moisturiser is a common treatment.
  • Psoriasis – proper use of moisturiser is a common treatment.
  • Diabetes – if glucose levels are not controlled, this causes dehydration leading to dry skin.
  • Hypothyroidism – low levels of thyroid hormones reduces the natural oils produced by the skin causing the skin to become dry and rough.
  • Malnutrition – if the body isn’t getting enough core nutrients this can cause the body to stop producing natural oils leading to dry skin.