The appearance of dry skin occurs when the outer layers of skin are depleted of moisture.
There are many factors that can cause dry skin making it appear flaky, white, rough, and sometimes causing itchiness.
- Ageing - as the skin ages, less oil is produced, causing more dryness and irritation. The skin also becomes thinner, and cells repair and divide more slowly.
- Colder weather can dry out the skin due to less humidity in the air.
- Heating and electric blankets increase moisture loss.
- Gender and life cycle – oestrogen helps to maintain skin moisture and after menopause women often experience more dryness.
- Irritation – washing or being in contact with the wrong products, especially for sensitive skin, can cause dryness. Soaps and detergents can strip away the lipid layer in the skin which not only protect us and give the skin a waterproof coat, but also help prevent allergens and irritants causing irritation and dryness.
- Genetics – some of us are born with dryer skin.
More severe conditions such as eczema and dermatitis are largely inherited skin conditions, whereby the skin has an inability to repair damage causing dry, scaly, weeping and even bleeding skin. This needs to be managed by a healthcare professional.
Some ways to maintain healthy supple and glowing skin include:
- Choosing a soap-free or pH neutral body wash. The skin is made up of layers of skin cells, water and oils. Washing with soaps which are alkaline and not pH balanced can cause dryness. Choose products which are made for sensitive skin as they don’t tend to have as many harsher chemicals which can strip away oils, leaving skin which is dryer.
- Exfoliating the outer dead skin cells as often as needed can help keep skin looking fresh and glowing
- Showering or bathing in lukewarm to warm water, not hot water. Additional heat can cause moisture loss and skin to dry out. Also, try and minimise the amount of showers taken daily.
- Moisturising the skin with a good quality daily moisturiser especially, in winter.
- Install a humidifier to help maintain moisture and prevent skin dryness.
- Supplementing with nutritional oils such as flaxseed oil is a good way to get omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin.
- Eating a variety of nuts and seeds for food options of omega-3.
- Applying aloe vera gel or fresh plant to irritated skin
For skin which does not respond to self-management, it is best to see a healthcare professional.
References available on request