Dry skin never sounds very serious. And in most cases, it’s definitely not. It can be caused by hot or cold weather, too little moisture, and even soaking in super hot water.
Fret not! You can do a lot to improve your skin situation by using specific moisturizers and avoiding drying harsh soaps. In all other cases that may become severe, you may need help from your Dermatologist for treatment.
Dry skin is known to many doctors as xerosis cutis. Most people experience this at some point in their lives. Dry skin happens when the skin loses water or cannot hold enough water or oil. This makes the skin feel tight, feel itchy or crack, and possibly start to flake.
In normal circumstances, a lot of times people wind up having to change the soap they use, or take colder showers or find heavy moisturizers to counteract the dry air they live in. Or, it could be something entirely different!
If you’re not sure what’s causing your dry skin, you may want to take a few things into consideration that may fuel potential triggers which cause the dry skin.
It’s very common to have dry skin be an after effect of the environment you’re in. As well as be a side effect to some skin conditions and disease:
Hot Baths and Showers: unfortunately for some of us, long, hot baths can dry out your skin. As well as heavily chlorinated pools.
Heat: just like showers and baths, excess heat from places like wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, central heating, and space heaters, reduce humidity and dry out your skin.
Weather: anyone who lives in the north knows that skin tends to be at its driest in the winter when it’s super cold and humidity levels drop.
Drying or Harsh Soaps and Detergents: a lot of soaps out there on the market are designed to remove oil. This includes detergent and shampoos.
Other Conditions: skin conditions like eczema and atopic dermatitis leave people prone to dry skin.
A lot of times, dry skin is not permanent and can be remedied. Or maybe it’s seasonal if you live in a naturally colder climate. Signs and symptoms can vary depending on factors like your location, how long you are outdoors, your age, and your health.
Dry skin is most likely causes one or a couple of symptoms such as:
- Gray, ashy skin
- Fine lines or cracks
- Skin that feels and looks rough
- Slight to severe flaking, scaling or peeling
- A feeling of skin tightness, especially after showering, bathing or swimming
- Deep cracks that may bleed
- Slight to severe flaking, scaling or peeling
- Itching (pruritus)
So When Should You See A Doctor
In the majority of dry skin cases, your dry skin will respond to a basic home remedy or lifestyle change. If it doesn’t, you should consider seeing your doctor if:
- Dryness and itching interfere with sleeping
- You have large areas of scaling or peeling skin
- You have open sores or infections from scratching
- Your skin doesn’t improve in spite of your best efforts
- Dry skin is accompanied by redness
Many people experience this in the winter. Colder temperatures mean lower humidity, which means dryer skin. Dry skin can affect some people all year-round if they live in a naturally cold climate or a hot, low-humidity climate.
Not just cold weather, but the indoor heating that comes coupled with that time of year can rob you of the moisture and oil in your skin. All of it lowers the humidity and removes moisture from your skin after long exposure.
The sun. Excess heat from the sun leaves the skin needing moisture. Even sun damage is an indicator – by visual looks – that the skin is dry. It may look rough and dry with excess sun damage.
Daily habits can be the cause of dry skin. Harsh facial skin care products with high-concentration retinol products, harsh soaps and detergents like antibacterial soaps remove the skin of natural oils. Even caustic laundry detergent can be a trigger for dry skin.
Frequent long hot showers and baths break down the skin’s barrier to seal in moisture.
Smoking. Which helps accelerate the aging process including contributing to dry and/or coarse skin.
Constant hand washing. People who wash their hands too frequently contribute to their own dry skin. Healthcare professionals tend to be prone to dry hands by having to constantly wash and dry their hands. Which is actually a hand eczema trigger.
Swimming. Swimming in heavily chlorinated pools can dry the skin out. The chemicals in the water are not helpful!
Fitness outside. Being exposed to the elements like the sun and the wind, may cause moisture in the skin to evaporate.
People who have brown, black, or fair skin typically are more likely to deal with dry skin. As opposed to those who have a medium complexion such as a Mediterranean background. Genetics!
When we get older, our skin produces less sebum, which means less skin protection and moisture. For women, they see a steep decline in sebum in their 40s. Unlike men, who see it much later on in life.
Certain medications may have a dry skin side effect. Most prescriptions for conditions like high blood pressure, allergies, acne or cholesterol see it in several types of drugs.
Vitamin deficiencies. If you are low on vitamins A, D, niacin, Zinc, or iron can make your skin dry.
Certain skin conditions. Dryness often goes hand-in-hand with eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.
Diabetes. This is super common in people with diabetes. The skin changes a person may see, actually tend to be the first indicator. When blood sugar skyrockets, the body pulls fluid from cells to be able to create urine and dispose of sugar in the body. This means the skin will become dry.
“Hypothyroidism. An underactive thyroid can cause dry skin. The thyroid hormones regulate many bodily functions, including the turnover of dead skin cells. When thyroid hormone levels are low, it takes far longer for dead skin cells to be shed and replaced by new ones, so skin looks dry and flaky.”
“Kidney disease. People in the later stages of kidney disease develop extremely dry, often itchy skin that feels rough and cracks easily. The cause is chronic dehydration and, in the end-stage of the condition, shrinking sweat and sebaceous glands.”
“HIV. Because people with HIV have a weakened immune system, they’re more likely to develop certain skin conditions that cause dryness, including seborrheic dermatitis and fungal infections.” Trusted Source
Dry skin is extremely common but you can become more prone if you fall under one or several of these:
- If you are in your 40s or older. This affects more than 50% of adults.
- Swim often
- Have a job that requires you to constantly wash your hands, such as nursing. Or a profession that manages to keep your hands immersed in water such as hairstyling.
- Live in dry, cold or low-humidity climates.
- Swim frequently in chlorinated pools.
Normally dry skin is nothing to worry about. However, it should be cared for. It could lead into issues such as:
- Infections. Dry skin may crack, allowing bacteria to enter, causing infections.
- Eczema. If you’re prone to develop this condition, excessive dryness can lead to activation of the disease, causing redness, cracking and inflammation.
This can happen when your normal protective mechanisms become compromised. Cracked skin can become extreme and cause bleeding, fissures, or deep cracks. This can expose you to unwanted bacteria.
Here a few ways to combat excessive dry skin:
- Avoid soaps that strip the oil. Try cleansing creams, gentle skin cleansers and shower gels with added moisturizers.
- Cover exposed parts during harsh winter colds or extreme weathers. Wearing a scarf or gloves when you go out keeps the skin protected.
- Avoid long water exposure. Keep bath and shower time to 10 minutes or less. Turn the dial to warm, not hot. Try to bathe no more than once a day.
- Moisturize. Moisturizer seals skin to keep water from escaping.
- Wear rubber gloves. If you have to immerse your hands in water or are using harsh cleansers, wearing gloves can help protect your skin.
Sometimes it takes time to find the right moisturizer for you. Make sure to switch your soaps to gentle cleansers, take limiting showers in warm water, and make sure to choose a facial cleanser that helps to hydrate your skin. All this goes a long way to keep the integrity of your skin.
However, if you’ve tried all the above and cannot figure out what is going on and what’s causing it, talk to your dermatologist about a skin evaluation, talk about your medical history and come up with a treatment that fills your specific needs.
Dry Skin? Call Dr. Balshi at Balshi Dermatology In Delray Beach, FL!
Dr. Balshi, a board-certified dermatologist in Delray Beach, treats various skin conditions. No matter what skin issue you are experiencing, don’t hesitate to make an appointment! No concern is too small. Call us at (561) 272-6000 or send us a message on our Contact Page to set up your appointment.