DRY SKIN (also called xerosis) is a very common problem that affects nearly everyone at some point of their lives.
It is not serious but sometimes it can be difficult to treat and and it will bring discomfort.
If you just have dehydrated skin then don’t worry, it is reversible. However if your skin is generally dry then you can help yourself in various ways which I explain here.
Whether you have dry or dehydrated skin can be determined by your family history, age of onset, distribution of dry skin, other features like eczema, abnormal hair, nails or conditions where you live and work.
DRY SKIN is a skin TYPE that in general is lacking moisture in the outer skin cell layer (stratum corneum) resulting in cracks in the skin's surface.
There is an overall reduction in the lipids in the stratum corneum (outer layer of the skin)
The ratio of ceramides,
cholesterol and free fatty acids may be normal or altered
The capacity of the cells for water holding is reduced.
What does it look like?
Skin is thin
Skin feels rough scaly, sometimes painful and itchy
It can crack causing fissures that may bleed
It has dull surface
It is less pliable, supple, elastic
Feels overall tight
Who gets dry skin?
Males and females of all ages
Nearly everyone aged over 60 due to metabolic changes, tendency to reduce liquid intake, skin thinning and lost of elasticity.
Dry skin that begins later may be seen in people who have certain diseases and conditions:
- Hormone imbalances that occur in menopause
- hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
- Malnutrition or weight loss
- Chronic renal disease
- Taking certain drugs like diuretics or oral retinoids
DEHYDRATED SKIN is rather a CONDITION that is reversible
it lacks of water in the outer surface of the skin (stratum corneum)
skin is rough, scaly, matt and dull looking
it can get red, even inflamed
it can feel tight in some places
Dehydrated skin happens mainly due to environmental factors like dry air (AC in supermarkets, offices, cars, public transport, cafes and restaurants), low humidity and cool, windy conditions. But it can also develop with:
excessive bathing - long baths in hot water increase the loss of natural oils from the skin and worsen dryness
everyday contact with soap, detergents and solvents (they dissove dirt, grime, make up but also remove the oils from the skin's surface and dry it out)
using alcohol based cosmetics (anti-acne skincare, tonners and creams). Alcohol is a popular penetration enhancer for some ingredients used in mainstream cosmetics.
wearing rough, tight clothing (wet suits?)
As a result, water is lost from the skin and cracks open up between the skin cells, leading to the development of COMPLICATIONS like ATOPIC ECZEMA, CONTACT ALLERGY (eg. to nickel, has also been linked with barrier function defects) or SKIN INFECTIONS (when bacteria or viruses penetrate a break in the skin surface).
There are few tips that you can use to PREVENT dry skin:
choose showers over long, hot baths (if you choose a bath, don't make it boiling hot and add some oil to the water)
avoid using antibacterial soaps
use a mild, non-soap based skin cleanser (try using the emollient cream as a soap substitute). Yes, your lotion can wash too, even if it isn't foamy. For washing your face try the Oil Cleansing Method
avoid rubbing or scratching your skin (if itchiness is intense and interferes with daily activities you can try antihistamines pills and if itchiness is worse at night your GP may prescribe you a sedative antihistamines). Keep your fingernails short.
avoid irritating and tight clothing - most eczema sufferers prefer cotton clothes, while silk also feels cool to wear (or lie in bed..)
avoid dehydration caused by drinking alcohol and by neglecting to replace fluids lost through sweating
wear hat, gloves and scarves during cold months
The TREATMENT includes:
fundamental treatment in dry skin conditions is using CREAMS, EMOLLIENTS or OINTMENTS several times a day, liberally (they should be dabbed onto the skin then stroked lightly across in the direction of the hair growth - if emollient is rubbed firmly then infection can develop as hair follicles become blocked). They reconsitute the hydro-lipidic film holding water in the skin and protect damaged and sensitive skin making it softer and smoother.
If you like using NATURAL OILS - it's fine if that works for you. Oils work by sealing water in the outer layer of the skin. However if your skin is really dry there is not much water to be sealed. Thats why oils work best right after the shower on damp skin or after applying toner or flower water. Water also soften the dry skin cells making it more pearmable to oil ingredients.
Natural oils that work best for dry skin are:
- macadamia oil
- avocado oil
- wheatgerm oil
- shea butter
- argan oil
- calendula oil
finding the right emollient that suits you. It is more likely that you will use it more frequently which will help to improve your skin
if your skin is particularly hot and itchy you may find it helpful to cool your cream or lotion in a fridge
some creams and lotions have extra hydrating agents called HUMECTANTS (glycerine or urea), they draw water from the deeper layers of the skin to the surface
Using topical STEROIDS and other treatments:
short- or long-term treatment with mild steroids is sometimes required if you have FLARE UP (especially for eczematous, inflamed and itchy skin). Steroid cream is usually needed for up to a week to calm the skin. Side effects usually occur following the incorect use of potent steroids over a long period of time.
PHOTOTHERAPY - it has long been known that eczema can improve when the patient takes a holiday with plenty of sunshine. The improvement is caused by decreased activity of the immune cells by the action of ultraviolet radiation from the sun's rays. The use of sunbeds as a treatment for eczema cannot be recommended.
GAMMA LINOLEIC ACID from Evening Primrose or Starflower Oil taken orally in high doses for 2-3 months has been found helpful but there is not enough evidence to prove it.
Herbal tablets include BURDOCK, ECHINACEA and NETTLE
OK, now I slightly moved away from dry skin topic to the eczema but it is hard not to mention it as those two are closely linked. However I will leave eczema now as it is a material for another blog post.
In case of any questions regarding your dry skin just write to me on firstname.lastname@example.org