What is Dry Skin?
Dry skin is generally a non-serious condition; it is uncomfortable and not pretty to look at though. The discomfort is usually due to itching, scaling, and cracking. It's a myth that people blessed with oily skin never have to deal with dryness. Even with naturally oily skin, people tend to get usual periods of dryness.
There are numerous underlying factors of dry skin. For instance, you might have dry skin naturally. However, other factors can also lead to dry skin. The condition can also affect any body part. Commonly, it tends to affect the arms, legs, and hands.
Since dry skin is not too serious of a condition, you don’t need to worry about the treatment. In most cases, treatment options like over-the-counter creams and moisturizers and little lifestyle changes are more than enough. If the dry skin remains untreated even then, then you should visit the doctor.
What causes Dry Skin?
Dry skin is generally the result of environment. However, there are a few other reasons such as allergy from something, or a reaction to any medicine. Even certain diseases can also significantly affect one’s skin. Potential causes include:
- Hot baths and showers: the more long and hot showers or baths one takes, the more chance of getting dry skin increases. The heavily chlorinated water of swimming pools can also be the cause of dry skin.
- Weather: people generally complain about dry skin during the winter when the temperature and humidity level take a plunge. However, it is not much of a concern until or unless one lives in the desert region.
- Heat: people who spend long hours in central heating, or use stoves which requires wood to burn, space heaters, or fireplace are usually the ones who complain about dry skin the most.
- Harsh soaps and detergents: several popular soaps, shampoos, and detergents strip skin of all the moisture as they are designed to remove oil.
- Skin conditions: Chronic conditions such as eczema1 or psoriasis also cause dry skin.
Types of Dry Skin
Research has indicated that following are a few of the possible types of dry skin:
- Allergic eczema: happens when one comes in direct contact with something that they are allergic to.
- Psoriasis: generally it is the result of sped up production of skin
- Dehydration: when one’s body starts to lose more water than the amount of intake, because of the loss of a significant amount of water from the body the skin starts to show symptoms in the form of dryness.
- Cholera: is a severe bacterial disease that can cause dehydration and diarrhea. Both of which can lead to dry skin because of the loss of water.
- Ichthyosis Vulgaris: when the skin does not shed its dead cells, and it starts to accumulate on the top. It results in dry patchy areas.
Signs & Symptoms of Dry Skin
Generally, dry skin is temporary, and people only complain about it during dry climates. However, for some, it may be a lifelong condition. Signs and symptoms of dry skin largely depend on your age, health, surrounding, and most especially how much time one spends out of doors.
Dry skin can subsequently result in:
- Fine lines
- Grey, ashy skin
- Deep cracks that may eventually bleed
- Skins that gives the illusion of roughness and times feel rough as well
- Skin feels taut, especially after a shower, bath, or swim
- Skin portrays slight to severe scaling, peeling, or flaking
Factors that increase the risk of dry skin
It is no secret that dry skin can affect anyone and everyone. However, there are risk factors that tend to increase the chance of you developing dry skin. These factors include:
With increasing age, people are more likely to become a victim of dry skin. As you grow older, the production of oil in the pores starts to decrease which, in turn, increases the risk of dry skin.
- Medical history
There's a higher chance of you experiencing allergic contact dermatitis or eczema, both conditions related to dry skin if you’ve a history of such conditions. Similarly, a history of other allergic diseases can also put you at an increased risk.
- Time of the year
Dry skin occurs more commonly during the dry months which are during the fall and winter when the levels of humidity are quite low. Contrastingly, in the summer, high humidity levels help to stop the skin from drying.
The treatment varies as per the cause of the condition. In some special cases, patients are recommended to skin specialists by their general physicians. At times apart from the usual medications, ointments, and creams, a life change is also recommended.
Simple lifestyle changes to soothe dry skin:
- Take short showers or baths and avoid using hot water when doing so. Also, decrease the frequency of your showers. Instead of bathing every day, shower on alternate days.
- When you go for a bath or a shower, make sure to use special moisturizing soap that will prevent dry skin. Plus, apply a moisturizer immediately after you have taken a shower.
- Instead of rubbing the wet skin dry, use a soft towel and pat the skin
- Avoid scrubbing or itching the dry skin patches
- Ensure you drink water; lots of it.
Using Creams and Lotions
Dry skin can only be completely treated if the right moisturizer2 is used. You can determine the right moisturizer with the help of your skin type. So, if your skin is excessively dry, then you need to choose a petroleum-based product.
During the summer months, you can switch back to a water-based solution, which is lighter, if your skin is comparatively less dry by then. Moreover, lotions with antioxidants and grapeseed oil can also help to trap water in the skin, thus reducing the dryness.
- National Eczema Association - What is Eczema?
- WebMD - Choosing the Right Moisturizer for Your Skin