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- Dry skin is a common skin type that can be caused by a number of things, both environmental and genetic.
- You could be drying out your skin without even knowing it – your self-care routine could be a culprit.
- No matter the cause, you can find relief. Dermatologists told INSIDER some typical causes of dry skin and ways to hydrate it.
- View INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Many people feel the tightness and discomfort of dry skin, or xerosis, in cold winter months, but you might find that your skin is still flaking and begging for moisture even in the warmer seasons. Like most skin issues, dryness can be caused by any number of environmental stressors. Or, it could be genetic.
INSIDER talked to dermatologists to find out just what could be making your skin so dry and how to give it the moisture it needs to glow all year long.
Genetics may be to blame for dry skin
Some people can curse their DNA for skin that has a weak lipid barrier and is low on natural oils.
“Some people genetically have skin that cannot maintain hydration as well as it should,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “The skin may be dry and flaky, and in more severe cases, it may become red, itchy, and inflamed.”
Medical conditions can contribute to skin dryness
People with certain medical conditions may have dry skin as a symptom or medication side effect. “Most dry skin is worsened by environmental ️factors, meaning it can be managed for the most part,” Dr. Barry Goldman of Goldman Dermatology in New York City told INSIDER. “But chronic or severe dry skin conditions may require help from a board-certified dermatologist.”
Xerosis that is genetic or related to a medical condition should be evaluated by a healthcare professional for treatment.
Common fillers, dyes, or fragrances could be the problem
Many skincare products, soaps, and household cleaners contain harsh chemicals, fragrances, dyes, preservatives, or other pesky ingredients that can irritate delicate skin.
“Some ingredients are directly caustic to the skin, causing disruption of the outer skin layer with loss of hydration and inflammation,” Zeichner said. “Ingredients like hydroxyacids, along with harsh scrubs, are common causes of skin irritation.” Such ingredients strip the natural oil barrier of our skin, which can cause rashes, irritation, cracking, or bleeding.
Goldman recommended choosing “a mild, fragrance-free cleanser for your shower and laundry detergent.” He also suggested not to over-exfoliate with a rough sponge or brush, and to use plain soap and water to wash your hands instead of antibacterial soap or hand sanitizer. Finally, wear cotton-lined rubber gloves when you’re washing dishes or using cleaning products.
Unwinding with a long, hot shower is drying out your skin
We get it: It just feels nice to stand in a steaming, hot shower after a long day. But all that exposure to water is drying out your skin, especially when the water is hot. “It strips the skin of natural oils that protect the skin barrier, causing dryness and irritation,” Zeichner said. “Keep showers under 10 minutes and use lukewarm water – around the temperature you would expect a heated pool to be in the summer.”
Skipping moisturizer is a big mistake
It sounds like common sense, but if you’re in a rush or have a million things on your mind, it can be easy to skip moisturizing after your shower.
Goldman recommended patting dry, then putting on lotion to lock in the residual moisture from the shower. Zeichner also suggested leaving the bathroom door shut to keep the humidity inside while you moisturize, which you should do within five minutes of exiting the shower.
Showering multiple times a day is bad for your skin
Goldman pointed out that there is no need for most people to shower more than once a day. By showering multiple times, you continue to strip moisture and natural oils from your skin, leaving it dry and vulnerable to cracking and irritation.
Dry air, whether indoors or out, equals dry skin
Maybe you live in a desert climate, where the air is dry year-round. Or, as many people have experienced, you might feel the sharp bite of dry, blustery winter winds. Either way, this air is lacking humidity and will draw moisture out of the skin, Goldman said.
Air inside your home or office is likely not doing you any favors, either. “Inside, forced heat, fireplaces, and even air conditioners further reduce humidity in the air and draw moisture out of your skin,” Goldman said.
To combat this dryness, keep the heat or air conditioning at a reasonable level – not too hot or too cold. Add a humidifier to your bedroom and pick up a small, portable humidifier for your desk at work, Goldman suggested. If it is cold outside and you must go out, bundle up. Protect your skin with layers of clothing and thick accessories: scarves, hats, socks, and gloves.