Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist) on 18th Sep 2020
If You Have Dry Skin, Here’s How You Can Take Care Of It And Make Sure It Looks Healthy
Nourished and glowing skin has been the goal for everyone. But there can be challenges you have to overcome to have the skin of your dreams! Pollution, UV rays, harsh chemicals, and low humidity are some of the challenges that can come your way.
Dry skin, which is low on natural oils and moisture, can leave that smooth, youthful, and glowing skin out of reach. If your skin feels flaky, rough, then its a wake-up call that your skin is drying out and needs immediate attention and lots of care.
Here’s a quick guide to understand your skin type and deal with it.
Understanding dry skin
Dry skin is a very common skin condition characterized by a lack of proper amount of natural oils and moisture in the topmost layer of the skin. Although dry skin is known to affect men and women equally, older people often experience this skin condition.
This is because as we age, the glands on our skin that secrete natural oils and moisture tend to get smaller and less efficient. This makes our skin get extremely dry. The face, hands, and lower legs are more prone to experiencing dry skin.
Why does this happen?
The most superficial layer of the skin is known as the epidermis. This has 30% of water within it. When the water content of our epidermis drops below 10%, it leads to dry skin.
This decrease in our skin's water content can cause sloughing off cells, which can lead to flaky, itchy, dull skin.
What causes dry skin?
Dry skin isn’t something that people experience in winters, but it can happen in summers.
There is not any single fixed cause of dry skin. There may be numerous external and internal factors that can contribute to making your skin dry.
External factors are the most common causation of dry skin and are easier to cure.
External factors include:
- Decrease in humidity
- Increase in temperature
- Prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV rays
- Exposure to pollution and dry winds during summers
- Being in air conditioners for long hours
- Swimming in chlorinated water pools often
- Washing your face too much with harsh chemicals and soaps
Internal factors include:
- A decrease in water intake
- Increase in caffeine consumption
- Smoking and drinking alcohol too often
- Certain medications for acne
- Genetics and family history
- Various skin conditions like Atopic dermatitis, Seborrheic dermatitis, Ichthyosis and Xerosis
The science behind dry skin:
Before we discuss ways to treat dry skin, let’s first understand the basic science behind dry skin. Our skin naturally produces an oil called sebum, which keeps it hydrated and moisturized. When our skin is not able to produce it, it can become dry. Also, our skin has various factors like NMF (Natural Moisturising Factor), which are natural humectants of our skin.
They absorb water and keep up the water levels of the skin. Our skin also consists of a lipid barrier that protects our skin and keeps moisture within the skin. When our skin is exposed to pollutants, harsh chemicals, drugs, or stress, the natural barriers get damaged.
Our skin’s moisture gets evaporated more easily, which decreases the water content of our skin and leads to dry skin.
What is the treatment for dry skin?
Any approach to treating dry skin includes restoring hydration, natural oils, and moisture into the skin, preventing water loss, and improving conditions like flakiness, itchiness, and dry patches in the skin.
Simple treatments and prevention measures are very effective in getting rid of dry skin, such as:
The most important and obvious step to treat dry skin is moisturized with a suitable OTC moisturizing cream or lotion. If you’re struggling with dry skin, just slather some moisturizer daily to ease your dry skin. A moisturizer also helps in reducing flakiness, irritation, and dry patches.
Studies show that moisturizers help in treating dry skin conditions by softening the topmost layer of the skin and maintaining healthy skin.
They also help in reinforcing the skin’s protective lipid barrier function and strengthen it by preventing moisture loss, keeping the skin soft, smooth, and hydrated.
“applying moisturizer right after stepping out of the shower.”
However, there are various key ingredients and additives in a moisturizer like:
- Occlusives: They form a barrier film over the topmost layer of the skin and seal in the moisture, preventing water from escaping. The most common occlusives are mineral oils and petroleum jelly.
- Emollients: They lubricate your skin and smooth out the surface of the skin and fill in the cracks produced due to flaking. These include jojoba oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, beeswax, fats, and lipids.
- Humectants: They absorb and draw in moisture into your skin from the surrounding environment. They include glycerin, Hyaluronic acid, honey, and fatty acids.
So basically, a good moisturizer not just lubricates your skin, but also helps in absorbing and trapping in the moisture into your skin.
1) Use a gentle cleanser:
It is always prudent to use a mild face wash and cleanser, hypoallergenic, preservative-free, and fragrance-free. Limit the use of face wash for only two times a day and wash it off using cold water. Using hot water can dry out your skin by stripping off the moisture content from your skin. Avoid using face wash and cleansers that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), parabens, diethanolamine (DEA), monoethanolamine (MEA), and triethanolamine (TEA).
2) Use a humidifier:
Humidity in the air is imperative to help improve dry skin conditions. In this scorching heat, as we all are often sitting indoors and have constantly running air conditioners, they can remove the moisture off from your skin. Therefore, if you want to keep the natural moisture into your skin, use a humidifier which increases humidity in the air indoors. This is especially advisable for infants, babies, and people with sensitive skin.
3) Use Aloe Vera:
Aloe Vera is a magical ingredient. It not only helps in treating different skin conditions but also provides moisture to the skin. The amino acids in it help in smoothing out the skin cells and restores moisture levels into your skin. It is also believed to have soothing properties that prevent flakiness by keeping the skin cells in the epidermis intact.
4) Oatmeal Bath:
Oatmeal is an essential ingredient which is widely used in different skincare products. Oatmeal is an age-old remedy which practiced since our grandmother’s times to treat and heal dry skin. According to a 2015 study, Colloidal oatmeal is much effective in relieving dry skin concerns such as itchiness, eczema, rashes, flakiness, scaling, and roughness.
Oatmeal exhibits Antioxidant and Anti-inflammatory properties, which help in soothing out dryness and roughness. It strengthens the lipid barrier in the skin and helps to trap in moisture.
5) Vitamin C:
Vitamin C is a very popular ingredient that benefits the skin. Studies have shown that topical vitamin C application can help relieve dryness and roughness and improve skin texture. Research suggests that Vitamin C strengthens and repairs the damaged lipid barrier on the topmost layer of the skin.
This restores and retains moisture levels into the skin, making it soft and hydrated.
Your dermatologist or skincare specialist may suggest some topical ointments, creams, and lotions treat your dry skin, which does not improve with other conventional treatments.
General OTC medications to treat dry skin contain hydrocortisone, lactic acid, or urea.
How to prevent dry skin?
Always remember, “better safe than sorry.” Include the below things in your day-to-day routine to prevent and combat dryness and keep your skin moist and healthy.
- Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day to keep your body well hydrated and healthy. This will keep your skin moist and keep its water content.
- Limit caffeine and alcohol intake as they dehydrate the skin.
- Avoid long hot showers.
- Always wear loose clothing made up of soft fabrics. Tight and rough clothing can irritate your skin and can cause rashes. Studies suggest that loose clothing is always a preferable option if you’re struggling with dry skin conditions.
- Always apply a moisturizer when your skin is a little moist, like after taking a bath or washing your face. This helps in trapping in the moisture in your skin.
- Wash your face with a mild, non-foaming cleanser free of harsh chemicals, not more than twice a day.
- Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen before you step out in the sun. UV rays can not only damage your skin but can also rip off the moisture content.
- Drink water rich in antioxidants to detoxify your body and keep your skin healthy.
- Eat fruits and vegetables high in water content, rich in antioxidants, and Vitamin E and C, which helps maintain healthy skin.
- Practice frequent application of moisturizers that are rich in emollients and occlusive contents.
- Avoid over-exfoliation of your skin.
Incorporating these few simple treatments and measures in your skincare routine can help in solving your dry skin issues such as flakiness, roughness, itchiness, and scaling. Although dry skin is not considered as a serious health issue if left unchecked, it can lead to serious complications such as chronic eczema, secondary bacterial infections, bleeding from fissures, and skin discoloration.
If these treatments and measures are not successful in improving your dry skin symptoms, consider seeking a dermatologist’s advice before your condition worsens. They may recommend you some prescription-based creams and ointments.