What is dry skin?
Dry skin is a very common condition which can appear at any age. For the majority of people, having dry skin can feel slightly uncomfortable. Unfortunately, for some people, dry skin can become a frustrating, painful and even embarrassing problem which affects every aspect of their life.
The first step in understanding how to look after your skin is to understand what type of skin you have. There are four common skin types: normal, sensitive, dry and oily. Gently blotting a clean tissue on your skin in the morning is an easy way to find out your skin type.
The skin is made of three layers that form a protective barrier between the body and the environment. The outermost layer of your skin, called the epidermis, plays a big part in keep your skin healthy. To help protect the epidermis from losing water, the skin produces an oily substance called sebum.
A normal skin typeis skin that has good circulation and won’t leave any trace of sebum (or oil) on the tissue. Normal skin will feel soft to the touch and appear to have a smooth, even skin tone.
An oily skin typecan leave blots of facial oil on the tissue, particularly from the T-zone – the cheeks, nose and forehead. This type of skin has overactive sebaceous glands, producing more oil than necessary. Oily skin can be hereditary, caused by diet, hormone levels, pregnancy, using unsuitable cosmetics or skincare and stress.
A dry skin type, on the other hand, will have a low level of sebum and does not maintain oil easily. Dry skin can appear dull, flaky and in severe cases can even crack. Dry skin can affect most people at some point during their life.
For those with a sensitive skin type, it can look and feel different to different people. It can refer to a range of conditions, from genetic ailments such as rosacea, eczema or allergies. While many people can experience a reaction to a product or ingredient on their skin occasionally, it is those that experience persistent issues that are classified as having sensitive skin.
Dry skin causes
Even though dry skin is often triggered by low humidity in the surrounding air, meaning it is more common in colder months and drier climates, there may be other triggers causing your skin to be dry. These include:
Taking long, hot baths or showers
Using the incorrect skin care regime for your skin
Overwashing or scrubbing your skin
Using strong soaps, detergents or other cleansing agents
Frequent exposure to wind and sun can evaporate water from the skin
The most common areas where people experience dry skin are the lower legs, hands and forearms.
“Ensuring your showers and baths aren’t too hot and soapy will also help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.”
Is it the same as dehydrated skin?
While both involve a loss of moisture from the skin, dehydration relates to the lack of water, not oil. You’ll know if you suffer from dehydration if your skin often looks ashy or papery. In fact,skin can be dehydrated as well as dry, as it’s possible to be lacking in sebum as well as water, whichis found in the very top layer of the epidermis called the stratum corneum. If you feel tightnessand tenderness to your skin after drying yourself, this could be dehydration.
When does dry skin become a problem?
For many people, dry skin is characterised by the following symptoms:
- rough or dry patches of skin on your face or body
- skin sensitivity
- skin that is red in colour
- skin that is flaky, tight or even cracked
- skin that is itchy and makes you want to scratch
So, how do you know if your dry skin is becoming a problem? Simply, problem dry skin is when your symptoms become so severe that they start affecting your day-to-day comfort. If your dry skin does become uncomfortable and irritated, you should speak to your local pharmacist for advise on how to look after your skin as well as start using a cream specifically designed for extremely dryskin.
How to help dry skin
If you want to know how to get rid of dry skin,there are few things you can try first. If you’re the mainperson who does the washing-up in your household, then it’s a good idea to put on some rubber gloves, as dunking your hands in hot soapy water won’t be doing your skin any good. Ensuring your showers and baths aren’t too hot and soapy will also help prevent your symptoms from getting worse.
If you’re unsure about the cause of yourdry skin, it’s always wise to arrange a visit to your GP to find out more. In the meantime, using topical creams and lotions to calm the appearance and any discomfort are the best ways to manage very dry skin.