Dry skin causes itching, red rashes and irritable skin. Although dry skin can affect most areas on the body, it is most commonly found on the hands, arms, legs and lower abdomen.
It occurs when the skin’s natural oils are stripped away, leaving the skin unprotected and deprived of moisture. The medical term for dry skin is xeroderma, and can manifest as a mild, short-term condition, or a more severe, long-term problem.
There is a range of factors that can result in dry skin. Some are external, such as air temperature, clothing and soaps, and some are internal, like medical conditions and ageing.
Misusing your moisturiser and moisturising too often makes your skin dependent on it, as it believes it has enough water, lipid and protein. This stops your skin producing these vital nutrients and causes the skin to become dry.
2. Winter Weather
Dry skin is exacerbated by cold winter weather. Because the humidity levels drop and the air is cold and dry, water in your skin evaporates more quickly, making it dry, flaky and tight.
3. Indoor Heating and Air Conditioning
Turning on the indoor heating to get warm during the harsh winter months or the air conditioning to get cool in the summer can also worsen dry skin. Indoor heating and air conditioning produce dry air and low humidity levels which pull the moisture from your skin.
4. Summer Weather
Warm weather dries out the skin by being low in humidity. Low humidity levels strip the skin of its natural moisture. Sun exposure also dries out the skin, as UV rays penetrate the skin’s layers and reduce its oil levels.
5. Hot Showers
Long, hot showers wash away natural oils which protect your skin and retain its moisture, leaving your skin tight and dry.
6. Soap and Over-Washing
Just like having overly hot showers, over-washing and using harsh detergent soaps also strip the skin of the essential oils needed to protect it. This leaves it more dry, irritated and vulnerable to cracking.
Clothing made from fibres such as wool can leave your skin irritated and dry. Exposing your skin to uncomfortable clothing will only worsen the itch, cause rashes and make your skin drier.
A number of medicines have been proven to dry out skin, such as medications for high blood pressure, cholesterol and acne. These medications reduce the water levels in your stratum corneum, leaving it dry.
9. Medical Conditions
Many medical conditions result in dry skin. Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis leave the skin flaky and itchy. Dry skin can also be caused by diabetes which dehydrates the skin, hypothyroid which reduces oil production, and malnutrition which deprives the skin of vital moisture-providing nutrients.
Dry skin is more common the older we get. As we age, the epidermis thins and the stratum corneum can’t retain as much water. Changes in hormone levels can also cause dry skin as we age.
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