Warm climate or cool, there’s relief for those who suffer from Dry Skin (xerosis cutis), no matter their skin type.
Dry skin (xerosis cutis) is more than an occasional annoyance for many in the world. Even those in warm, tropical climates deal with it! But ‘dry skin’ is a broad and general description for several different skin conditions.
Skin is the largest organ of the body and serves many functions to keep us healthy and regulated. If we don’t treat the underlying causes of dry skin, a whole host of not-fun symptoms can become aggravated, such as:
- Skin sensitivity
- Allergic dermatitis
In this guide, I hope to help those of you who suffer from itchy, dry skin understand what’s really going on. I’ll also show you how to address your unique situation and even share products that I believe can help almost anyone.
What causes dry skin?
Though there are too many factors to address in detail here, those with dry skin have lost excessive amounts of water or moisture from their skin. This is also referred to as TEWL—Transepidermal Water Loss.
This water loss is the result of impaired or inadequate skin moisturizing factors, including:
- Sebum (the oils your skin secrets naturally)
- Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) (the cocktail of chemicals that keep skin hydrated)
- Aquaporin (proteins that channel water in the skin)
- Stratum corneum lipids (more on this in a moment)
With inadequate amounts and ratios of these vital skin factors, the skin loses too much moisture to evaporation. Then, it becomes dry, dull, irritated—not to mention itchy and flaky!
There’s little moisture to keep it plump and healthy, further compounded by a lack of skin lipids to help hold or seal in the much-needed moisture for normal, healthy skin.
The Hydration Problem
The stratum corneum plays a critical role in the skin’s ability to maintain skin hydration. First, a little background.
The stratum corneum is made up of keratinocytes surrounded by ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids. Think of it this way:
- The stratum corneum is the outer layer of the skin
- Keratinocytes are the skin cells that produce keratin, the protein that forms a protective layer on the skin
- Ceramides are waxy molecules that limit moisture loss
When these components are present in adequate amounts, the skin is balanced, healthy, protected, and watertight. Yay! That’s what we want!
But when these critical substances are out of balance, the skin cells are not as neatly ‘glued’ together as they should be. The skin appears dull and flaky. It often feels tight and itchy.
Before we continue, here’s some esthetician insider lingo!
Whenever you hear a discussion about skincare, here are some terms you’ll run into. (Now, you’ll feel like a pro!)
A quick note for those who live in dry or high-altitude environments: humectants can have the opposite effect in low humidity. So, don’t go overboard!
These are moisturizers that have a high percentage of lipids or fatty ingredients. Not only do they help prevent the evaporation of water from the skin, but they also soften rough skin (emollience).
Typically heavier and oily-feeling, they tend to sit on the surface and not absorb rapidly into the skin.
These oily substances also help smooth, soften, and lubricate the skin. They reduce that “tight feeling” and absorb into the skin more quickly than occlusive ingredients.
This is simply irritation or inflammation of the skin. Specific environmental factors and product ingredients can cause it, among a wide variety of other variables.
This is a medical condition in which patches of skin become rough and inflamed with blisters. Eczema is nasty. It causes itching and bleeding, sometimes resulting from a reaction to irritation (eczematous dermatitis), but more typically has no apparent external cause.
How to Care for Your Dry Skin
Once you know what you’re dealing with, caring for dry skin is relatively straightforward. Since your skin’s watertight barrier is impaired and NMF is diminished, you have to proceed with caution to care for your skin.
First, moisturize your environment
Dry skin conditions always worsen in the dry, cold winter months when humidity is already lower. What’s worse, forced hot air reduces the moisture in the air even more. You feel it all over your body, whether you know it or not.
So, do yourself a favor. Use humidifiers and vaporizers. Let them moisturize the air around you.
Baths, Showers, and Soaps
Baths and showers can do a lot of damage to our skin! When it’s time to get clean:
- Try to limit baths and showers to no more than once daily (or less if you’re brave)
- Use warm rather than hot water
- Use a smaller amount of skin cleanser
- Keep it brief
Then, look out for the soap you use, especially avoiding foaming cleansers. Many of them are harsh on dry skin. They dissolve and wash away too much of the protective oil on your skin, contributing to the dryness cycle. And nobody wants to contribute to the dryness cycle!
Instead, opt for a creamy type of skin cleanser that contains mild, new-generation cleansing agents. You’re looking for low-foam or no-foam cleansers, like our Bath and Body Oil and Luxury Creme Body Wash.
Next, dry skin needs more than just emollients (creams, lotions, and gels).
It needs moisture, so it’s imperative to apply heavier, occlusive moisturizers immediately after bathing to ‘seal’ in the moisture and slow water loss. Effective hydrating moisturizers often contain occlusive ingredients like:
Products that contain beeswax, cocoa butter, and shea butter provide a better occlusive barrier to help prevent TEWL. Moisturizers of this type typically have a heavier or greasier feel. But if your skin is dry, “heavy” and “greasy” can be a very good thing as the day wears on.
Unsure what to do next?
All of this information can be overwhelming, especially if your skin is compromised by another factor, such as age, allergies, or sensitivities you already have.
Please feel free to contact us and we can help you get started.