Dry skin is a common affliction for many people, but thankfully it’s usually not too serious. It's also often temporary, such as dry skin during the winter season, versus something you deal with every day for the rest of your life.
Even if you have somewhat oily skin and follow an oily skincare routine, you can still develop dry skin and if you are older, then you are probably more susceptible to dry skin than young adults and children. If you don’t know how to get rid of dry skin, you have come to the right place. Our experts are going to break down everything you need to know about what causes dry skin, how to treat it, and how to prevent it so you can always have beautiful, hydrated skin on a daily basis. With just a few simple changes in your face care products, you’ll be able to give your skin the hydration it needs to create a youthful and brilliant complexion.
What Is Dry Skin?
This seems kind of obvious. It’s a lack of moisture, right? While this is true, it's more specifically a deficiency of moisture in the epidermis, the most superficial layer of the skin. Usually dry skin is most prevalent on areas like the arms, legs, feet, and hands. Elbows and knees are also known to develop dry, rough skin. Generally speaking, when your skin produces insufficient levels of natural oils, that’s when dry skin develops.
Of course, that doesn't mean that dry skin is always benign and can’t be a sign of something more serious. Occasionally, dry skin does indicate some kind of underlying health or skin issue. Your doctor or dermatologist can better help you to determine whether you should be concerned. Regardless, if the dryness of your skin becomes so severe that it’s painful and interferes with your quality of life, you should seek professional help sooner rather than later. Dry skin is an inconvenience, but it shouldn’t interfere with your ability to go about your daily life. Whether you suffer from an underlying skin condition or you just have dehydrated skin, it's always recommended to speak with your dermatologist for further recommendations on how to deal with dry patches and itchiness.
What Causes Extremely Dry Skin?
When a moisturizer can no longer handle your dry, flaky skin, it may be just a result of older age. Age is certainly a big factor in the health of your skin. As we age, our bodies tend to become depleted of vital nutrients that slow down everything. Unfortunately, our skin is no different which is why dry skin affects older people a lot more frequently than those who are young and healthy.
The elderly in particular have significantly reduced levels of natural fats and oils in their skin that helps to provide a protective moisture barrier. This reduction of protective oils on the skin leads to uncomfortable dryness. It can even contribute to fine lines and wrinkles.
Though age is a biggie, the reality is that most contributors to dry skin are related to your environment. Extreme temperatures and low levels of humidity wreak havoc on skin moisture. Because the air is so cold and dry during the winter months, many people tend to develop flaky skin. Of course, if you live in the desert where the weather is dry year round, you might find that your skin never gets hydrated.
Indoor heat sources can be a contributor to dry skin. Fireplaces, space heaters, and central heat all leech the moisture from both the air and your skin. That’s one of the reasons winter months can be so bad. Needless to say, that constant back and forth between dry weather conditions and indoor heaters can make your skin look and feel dry, crackly, and flakey.
This one might be news, but soaps and detergents can be a problem as well. Many of these products are too harsh for your skin and can strip away its natural oils, causing dryness. Soaps and detergents strip the moisture not just in your skin but in your hair as well.
That’s why it’s important to use gentle cleansers at all times. Even excessive hand washing, sanitizing, and frequent bathing can be a big no-no, especially if you’re someone who is prone to dry skin already. It’s also wise to avoid long baths or showers, especially in hot water. Try a lukewarm bath or shower instead.
Frequent trips to the beach, exposed to sand and salt water can dry out your skin. So can swimming in a chlorinated pool. Both of these environments can cause healthy skin to dry out and become itchy, which is why you should always rinse with fresh water after taking a dip in the pool or ocean.
Underlying Health Issues
Finally, some people may suffer from certain underlying health conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis. Both of these health issues contribute to excessively dry skin.
Can Dry Skin Heal Itself?
Actually, dry skin can heal itself to some degree when you give your body what it needs to do so. Many moisturizing products feel amazing when you apply them but can sometimes be more of a short-term fix. They often only mask the problem of dry skin, without necessarily treating it or healing it. That’s because true healing tends to come from the inside out. This requires lifestyle changes to your diet and exercise as well as to your skincare routine for dry skin.
Is Vaseline Good for Dry Skin?
The truth is that it’s not necessarily bad for your skin. Vaseline is actually petroleum jelly, and can create a strong waterproof barrier that may help your skin retain moisture. Unfortunately, petroleum can be greasy and feel quite heavy, so it may not be the best choice for frequent daily use.
However, it is a great option if you want to soften your feet or your hands overnight. Simply apply some Vaseline to the dry areas, and then cover your feet and hands with a pair of socks just before bed. You’ll wake up to baby soft skin in the morning.
Vaseline is also good for areas that are drier than normal, like your knees and elbows. Fortunately, Vaseline isn’t too pricey, which is why many people choose to use it straight out of the jar. There are many products that contain petroleum jelly, except they are less messy and are more light-weight when worn on the skin. This makes petroleum based products a better choice for daily use.
Symptoms of Dry Skin
The symptoms of dry skin can vary, but generally you should look for signs like:
- Your skin feels tight
- Your skin feels or looks rough
- You notice peeling, flaking, or scaling
- You suffer from itching
- You can see fine lines or cracks in your skin
- Your skin looks red and inflamed, or gray and ashy
- You notice deep cracks in the skin that sometimes bleed
Keep in mind that if your skin becomes painful, or starts to crack and bleed, you should see your doctor right away. Broken skin makes it easier for infections to form.
Treating and Relieving Dry Skin
Dry skin can be extremely frustrating. If you are constantly dealing with this skin condition, you may be searching for some quick relief. Some ways to help combat your problem and prevent dry skin from forming in the first place includes:
- Limiting your exposure to water, especially extreme temperatures or water that contains harmful chemicals like chlorine.
- Moisturizing frequently to help keep your skin barrier hydrated.
- Using gentle shower gels and cleansing creams, and avoiding harsh soaps that dry out the skin.
- Using rubber gloves when you wash dishes or clean surfaces.
- Keeping your skin covered in cold weather.
Though you can’t always prevent your skin from drying out, you can still do certain things to help it heal faster and stop it from recurring. Things like:
- Limiting your bathing times to 5 or 10 minutes, in lukewarm water.
- Washing with gentle cleansers.
- Using “just enough” lather so that dirt and oil are removed.
- Keeping the bathroom door closed so the steam doesn’t escape.
- Blotting your skin dry after bathing.
- Moisturizing as soon as you get out of the bath or shower.
Bonus Tips to Keep Your Skin Moist and Healthy
There are other ways to help your skin stay hydrated and supple, such as lifestyle and environmental changes.
- Drink plenty of water. You’re basically hydrating from the inside out. If you are feeling thirsty, then you can almost guarantee that your skin is thirsty as well.
- Invest in a humidifier to add moisture back into the air. This is great for keeping your bedroom moisture at the perfect level. That way your skin doesn’t dry out while you’re trying to sleep.
- Avoid sitting in front of a direct heat source like a fireplace. The closer you are to heat sources, the more drying the effect.
- Eat a nutritious, whole foods diet with plenty of healthy fats, like avocado, coconut oil, cashews, butter, and salmon. The fats in these foods help regulate the hormones in your body, which in turn improves other bodily processes that contribute to your overall health.
Figuring out how to get rid of dry skin may take some experimentation at first. You might not get it right in the beginning. That’s okay, just keep trying. Your skin can only protect you when it’s healthy, and you deserve to feel your best.