What Causes Dry Skin and How Can I Prevent It?
Dry skin is common, particularly in older adults, and can affect anyone. If you're suddenly experiencing dry skin, you may be wondering what you can do about it. Dry skin can be irritating and, if it gets severe, can lead to further issues.
We've done some research to find out what exactly causes people to develop dry skin, how dry skin can be prevented, and what can be done to soothe dry skin. Check it all out below and find the best treatments for dry skin.
What is dry skin?
Medically, dry skin is when not enough moisture is held by the epidermis or the top layer of the skin. It can show itself as scaling, cracking, and itchy skin. Dry skin can quickly become irritated and get worse if not treated.
Dry skin usually affects older people most, but anyone of any age can be affected by it. Dry skin typically affects the arms, hands and lower legs. There are many reasons why someone may develop dry skin, which we will discuss later, along with the best treatment for dry and irritated skin.
Types of dry skin
There are many types of dry skin and though most bouts are temporary, some can appear all year round. These include:
- Athlete’s foot: a fungal infection that causes the soles of the feet to become dry and itchy. For a natural solution, try this Thuja Ointment from Wildcraft Dispensary or this Botani Antifungal Cream.
- Contact dermatitis: an allergic reaction to external allergens that leads to dry, itchy, and red skin. A popular cause of contact dermatitis can be washing up liquid so using kinder dishwashing soap, like this Saba Organics Dishwashing Soap, or using Natralus Hand and Skin Liquid Gloves Formula before you wash.
- Eczema: a skin condition that is usually passed on through parents to children and can be made worse by allergens and stress. For a fantastic solution to eczema, troubles try this Eczema Relief Cream from Graham's Natural Alternatives.
- Seborrheic dermatitis: which causes dandruff and dry and flaky skin on the body.
Symptoms of dry skin
The symptoms of dry skin can vary but most are universal and include:
- Cracked skin, sometimes where cracks are so deep that the skin may bleed
- Itching and irritation
- Peeling, flaking, or scaling of the skin
- Rough or grey and ashy skin
- Tightness in the skin, especially when getting out of bath or shower
Complications of extremely dry skin
Dry skin can lead to cracked skin which allows bacteria to thrive. This can sometimes lead to infections. If you suspect your dry skin may have become infected then contact your doctor immediately. You may need to be treated with antibiotics or steroid cream.
What causes dry skin and can I prevent myself from developing dry skin?
The list of things that cause dry skin is rather long, with everything from bathing to handwashing causing it. We've listed all the known causes of dry skin below, check them out to see where you may be harming your skin!
- Overwashing, especially with harsh soaps. Overwashing can strip the moisture from your hands, while harsh soaps can cause irritation as well as dry skin.
- Overuse of sanitisers and alcohol-based products. (Try this Saba Organics Hand Sanitiser for a gentler option!)
- A change of seasons or a sudden drop in temperature. The sudden cold can leave hands feeling dry and cracked as the humidity is drawn out of the air.
- Low humidity and dry heat, like the kind you get from central heating and indoor fires.
- Repeated and long, hot showers and baths. The time spent soaking breaks down the protective layer on the skin’s surface, allowing moisture to be drawn out of the skin and leaving it dry and tight.
- Other skin conditions, like eczema, contact dermatitis, and psoriasis.
- Swimming pools that use chlorine to keep it clean. Chlorine is known to dry skin out and can be irritating for sensitive skin.
- Synthetic fragrances in moisturisers and creams. These chemically formulated fragrances can sap moisture out of the skin.
- Hard water in your area can make it hard for moisturisers to soak in.
- Acne medications and retinol, both of which speed up cell renewal which can leave skin feeling dry.
- Over-exfoliation, especially on the face. Removing the top layer of skin over and over can leave dry patches.
As well as external factors, there are other reasons your skin may be becoming dry. These include:
- Your age. Growing older means your skin does not retain moisture as well as it used to and so older people tend to be more prone to dry skin.
- Your job. Working in a job where you're constantly getting your hands wet, like hairdressing, can lead to dry and cracked hands. This is because you are repeatedly washing away the natural oils and moisture that the skin produces.
- Genetics. Unfortunately, dry skin tends to be passed down from parents to children. Like with eczema, your dry skin may be genetic.
- Where you live. The place you live can significantly impact your skin. While hot weather may make you feel itchy if you have skin conditions like eczema, cold, harsh, and dry climates tend to cause dry skin. With little moisture in the air, the colder the climate, the more you're going to see your skin dry out.
While the list may look endless of things that can cause your skin to feel dry, there are definitely ways you can prevent dry skin. Read on to find out how.
How to treat severe dry skin
Though all may seem bleak when it comes to dry skin, there are actually dozens of remedies and preventive measures for you to take. Below we've listed some of the best treatments to relieve dry skin. Check them out below.
- Wear rubber gloves when doing housework to ensure you're protecting your hands from any drying chemicals. Indeed, opting for chemical-free household cleaning products, like this Glass Cleaner from Koala Eco and this Multipurpose Spray from Saba Organics, could help to minimise the dryness in your hands as they're free from nasty chemicals.
- Shower and moisturise afterwards whenever you swim to lock in moisture. Try this Dr Organic Pomegranate Body Butter for effective moisturisation.
- Wash in moisturising cleansers, like Aqueous Cream.
- Use coconut oil to replenish moisture after showering. Try this fantastic Coconut Body Oil from Eco Modern Essentials.
- Try an oatmeal bath, or use products that contain colloidal oatmeal, a known moisturiser, like this Acure Moisturiser.
- Switch your hand sanitiser to a gentler option, like this EO Lavender Hand Sanitiser.
- Use fragrance-free soaps to ensure you're not letting synthetic fragrances dry out your skin. Try this Dr Bronner's Unscented Liquid Soap for great results.
- Limit the amount of time you spend in the shower and use only warm water, and not hot. Try not to take too many long baths either.
- Manage stress which can be linked to outbreaks of skin conditions as well as dry skin. Try aromatherapy and using lavender oil to soothe your worries. This Oil Garden Diffuser and Lavender Oil will help relax your worries in an instant.
- Keep hydrated!
Dry skin is a very common ailment but lots of natural and gentle remedies exist to treat and prevent it. While some may be more prone to dry skin, it can affect everyone at some point. Learning how to deal with it can help you to prevent and treat it easily.
Frequently asked questions
What are the main causes of dry skin?
The main causes of dry skin are:
- Overwashing, especially with harsh soaps
- Overuse of hand sanitiser
- Weather changes, especially to colder, drier climates
- Low humidity
- Central heating and other sources of dry heat
- Long, hot showers and baths
- Chlorine from swimming pools
- Other skin conditions, like eczema, contact dermatitis, and psorasis
- Synthetic fragrances in moisturisers
- Hard water
- Acne medication and retinol
How do you get rid of dry skin?
Dry skin can be treated in many ways. These include:
- Keep skin hydrated by using a moisturiser. Good moisturisers include coconut oil, shea butter, and moisturisers containing colloidal oatmeal.
- Keep yourself hydrated.
- Limiting shower and bath times and only using warm, not hot, water.
- Washing and moisturising after swimming in a chlorinated swimming pool.
- Switching to kinder hand sanitisers and avoiding the repeated use of alcohol on the skin.
- Managing stress and anxiety which can trigger skin conditions as well as dry skin.
- Wearing gloves when washing dishes and doing housework.
What could dry skin be a symptom of?
While dry, itchy skin is usually a response to external triggers, like cold and dry weather, allergens, genetics, and synthetic fragrances, some dry skin can be a symptom of other problems. Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, athletes foot and seborrheic dermatitis, present with dry skin. Other, more serious conditions, like diabetes and hypothyroidism present with dry skin too, as does malnourishment. Speak to your doctor if you're concerned that your dry skin may be a symptom of something more serious.
What drink helps dry skin?
While keeping yourself hydrated can help your skin stay healthy, no specific drink will help to rehydrated skin alone. To treat dry skin you will need to apply moisturisers topically. Choosing moisturising options like colloidal oatmeal and shea butter can help to replenish the skin’s moisture. In addition, avoiding long and hot showers and synthetically fragranced moisturisers can also be effective in treating dry skin.