Dry skin is common; as skin loses moisture it cracks. The inherited form of dry skin is known as ichthyosis. Dermatologists often call dry skin in later life xerosis or asteatosis. Dry skin looks dry, sometimes flakes, and often feels tight, especially if you have washed it with soap and water. Sometimes it is lacking some of the protective sebum and so it reacts to very hot and very cold weather by tightening up.
Dry skin most often occurs on the shins, hands and sides of the abdomen. It is more common during the winter months, when humidity is low. Some people also have a genetic, or hereditary, tendency to develop dry skin. In addition, elderly people tend to have more trouble with dry skin due to the natural changes in skin that occur with age.
One of the best and most effective things you can do to help dry skin is to moisturize your dry skin. Moisturizers are a very important part of dermatology since keeping the skin moist is one of the key factors in healthy skin. Most moisturizers available are composed of some formulation of oil and water, with added ingredients that may or may not help to combat dry skin. However, moisturizers are only capable of keeping moisture from escaping out of the skin, not putting moisture back into the skin.
Make sure you choose a product specifically for dry skin and apply as directed. For moisturizers that work by trapping moisture in the skin, the most effective available is petrolatum or vaseline, which provides a coating over the skin through which water cannot escape. Unfortunately, because it is greasy, not many people like to use it. Ointments are usually like petrolatum, since most have an oily base. They are also very greasy and are usually used at bedtime rather than during the day. Moisturizing creams contain more oil than water and, as a result, are also very effective. These also may feel a little greasy, but less so than ointments or petrolatum. Lotions are the most popular moisturizer because the absorb quickly, but because they contain more water than oil, they are not as effective. Moisturizers are now adding other ingredients to help add to their moisturizing capabilities.
Humectants are a class of moisturizers which do not contain oil and may be classified as oil-free. These contain glycerin, propylene glycol, urea, hyaluronic acid, glycolic acid, and lactic acid. Humectants work by drawing moisture out of the air and trapping it next to the skin. These are especially effective in more humid climates. Exfoliants such as alpha hydroxy acids actually improve the skin's ability to retain moisture by getting read of dead, dry skin. Dead, dry skin cells can add to the problem because these dead skin cells alllow water to escape through their cracks. Alpha hydroxy acids help the skin shed these skin cells and replace those skin cells with healthy cells that are able to creat a more effective water barrier.
Very dry skin often lacks the lipids found in healthy, young skin. These lipids help the skin keep moisture in the skin and keep it well hydrated. Without these lipids, water escapes easily and skin is left even more dry and cracked. If your skin is extremely dry, a lipid-replacement moisturizer will be the most helpful. Many moisturizers are now adding the lipids into their formulas in order to restore lipids where they might be lacking in the skin. Lipids are located in the outer layer of the skin and work by trapping water within the skin. When the lipid content is reduced, water in the skin evaporates quickly, resulting in dry skin. Use of lipid products can help restore the lipid content in the skin, allowing the skin to retain water naturally.
Be diligent, develop a routine, make it a priority. Apply a touch of your natural moisturizer over the freshly cleansed, toned, and dampened skin on your throat, cheeks, and around your eyes. Men should follow a two-step process. Apply moisturizer immediately after shaving. Wait ten minutes. Then moisturize again. It is very important if you have dry skin to have a skin care regimen that you follow daily. You should have a good nighttime moisturizer as well as a good day time moisturizer. After you clean and tone your skin, apply a splash of water or a water-misting. Pat almost dry with a soft towel, then smooth moisturizer from bosom to hairline. Allow five minutes for immediate absorption (cover your face and throat with warm washcloths to hasten penetration), then blot off any excess moisturizer with a tissue. Men can skip the toner but should moisturize the delicate skin around the eye area.
Reduce how often you bath or shower, using lukewarm water. Showers are better than baths. Each day when you take your bath or shower, try to use lukewarm water. Hot water dries out the skin. Try to limit your time to fifteen minutes or less in the bath or shower. Bathing should be done no more than once a day. If you bathe too frequently you will remove the natural oils from the skin causing dryness. In the morning, just splash cool water or use a moisturizing toner and apply moisturizer. Because cleansers can strip away sebum and natural moisturizing factors from your skin, washing at night gives your skin time to replenish itself, before you need to face outside elements. Morning scrubs don't give your dry skin time to recover its defenses before you go outside. Use mineral water to freshen your face. Don't use a washcloth-a rough texture can irritate. In the morning, apply a spray of mineral water on your skin misted on with a plant sprayer. (Do not use a sprayer that had been used for spraying insecticides.) Lightly pat dry.
Do not over-indulge in sunbathing. Excessive exposure to sun rays can cause dry skin, wrinkles and skin cancer. All areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, hands, and back of the neck should have a moisturizer containing sun block or a sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater applied daily. As much as possible, stay out of the sun. The sun is responsible for most of the damage done to the skin. It causes dryness, wrinkles, and even rashes and blisters. Always apply a good sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin if you must be in the sun.
Those with dry skin should stay away from deodorant or antibacterial soaps, since they can be drying to the skin. If the odor-fighting capabilities of these soaps are desirable, then it is recommended that they be used only on areas such as the armpits, etc...Cleansing creams and lotions are the most useful for particularly dry or sensitive skin. They leave behind a layer of oil that helps lubricate the skin much as moisturizers do, but they are only moderately effective at cleansing the skin. Mildly moisturizing soaps are probably the most useful for general use since they clean adequately without stripping the skin of it's natural oils.
Always rinse and dry hands carefully, particularly after contact with household products. Chapped and irritated dry skin on the hands is a common problem for people with dry skin. Try rubber gloves to protect them from hot water and detergents. If you are allergy-prone, wear a cotton pair underneath. You could develop contact dermatitis from the rubber in the gloves. Wear PVC waterproof gloves to avoid contact with detergents and other household irritants, or wear thin cotton gloves underneath waterproof gloves. Do not wear the gloves for long periods of time. Cotton gloves are useful for dirty work. Wash cotton gloves frequently. Avoid using fabric softeners, especially in the dryer. Keep irritating fabrics away from your skin. Don't wear clothing made of wool or other "scratchy" fabrics. Use cotton percale sheets on your bed.
Extreme weather conditions exacerbate and cause dry skin. - hot and sunny, cold and windy. At Home, do not set your central heating too high - hot air can be detrimental. Use a simple humidifier - a bowl of water beside a radiator is sufficient. Wear cloves in cold weather. Use a humidifier in your home during the central heating season. If sweating causes itching, modify your activity and surroundings to minimize sweating. Work and sleep in a fairly constant temperature (68-75o F) and humidity (45-55%). Remember to keep drinking plenty of water and other liquids to keep your skin moist from the inside, too.
Do not smoke. Smoking has a harmful effect on the skin for several reasons. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels, including the tiny capillaries that serve the skin. This deprives the skin of the oxygen and nutrients it needs for good health. Smoking also can make the skin dry and leathery.