The Ultimate Guide to Soothing Dry Skin

Dry skin can be a real problem for many of us all year round. Since the cold winter months and summer heat can often leave our extremities feeling drier than usual, you might feel like you can’t get any rest from dry skin. If this resonates with your experience, know that there are many natural tips that can help you maintain more moisturised skin and improve your complexion. Read on to learn different methods you can use immediately to help soothe your dry skin.

Man scratches eczema on his arm

What is Dry Skin?

Unsurprisingly, dryness is an extremely common occurrence among people of all skin types, and it’s typically caused by a lack of moisture retention. The reasons behind the lack of moisture vary for everyone, but many times it can lead to rougher skin, flakiness, tautness and even itchiness.

To know how to treat or prevent dryness, it’s essential to know what causes dry skin in some. For example, dryness can occur on all types of skin and may be affected by the weather or environment. On the other hand, some experience extremely dry skin due to underlying skin conditions that generate dry and flaky patches. If you’re unsure what’s causing your skin to feel drier, the following brief points may help you identify what could be affecting you.

1. Xerosis: This is the medical term for describing dry skin in general, and it encompasses conditions where the skin lacks proper moisture. As I mentioned before, this kind of dryness tends to result in rougher and more uncomfortable skin textures and can affect all parts of the body, including the face, feet, legs, and hands.

2. Ichthyosis: This refers to specific types of dry skin, and most of these are completely caused by genetic factors. Further, each type has specific characteristics and patterns of inheritance. With this skin condition, genetic mutations affect the skin's ability to shed dead cells properly and can alter the function of proteins involved in maintaining the skin barrier and moisture balance.

3. Eczema: Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is another skin condition that typically leads to severe dryness with varying degrees of severity. Some other accompanying symptoms include scaly skin, intense itching, redness, inflammation, and the development of rash-like patches. Plus, some notice that inflamed areas of the skin may become swollen, cracked, or even start to ooze.

Contributory Causes of Dry Skin

You might find that a few different elements can lead to drier skin, so I’ve outlined a few common contributing factors that affect our skin’s moisture levels.

The environment often plays a significant role in our skin’s appearance, and various environmental elements can deplete the skin's natural moisture and lead to dryness. For instance, in regions with low humidity, such as during winter months or in arid climates, the air lacks moisture. In these cases, low humidity and dry air tend to draw moisture away from the skin, causing it to become dehydrated, tight, and even prone to flaking.

Additionally, many find that colder weather leads to dry skin - especially in colder climates like that of the UK. This is because cool temperatures can constrict blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the skin, which can impair the skin's ability to retain moisture. Plus, indoor heating during winter can lower the humidity levels inside the home, and this dry indoor air can rob the skin of moisture, exacerbating dryness and causing discomfort.

Woman's dry hands in the cold weather

On the other hand, excessive heat, particularly in dry or intensely sunny areas, can also strip the skin of its natural moisture. Staying out in the hot sun for prolonged periods can cause your skin to lose water content, leading to dehydration and, ultimately, dryness. Plus, extended sunlight exposure can lead to burning, flaking, and skin damage.

Another common cause of dry skin is overly frequent washing and bathing. This is because when you scrub your skin too often or use harsh soaps and cleansers, it can eliminate the natural oils and moisture that keep your skin hydrated. What’s more, the outermost layer of your skin acts as a protective layer, but constant washing with hot water and strong soaps can disrupt this barrier and strip away naturally occurring oils. As a result, your skin's capacity to retain moisture is compromised, leading to even more dryness.

How to Treat Dry Skin

Dry skin is common, but there’s no need to let it get in the way of your journey to a healthier body and complexion. That’s why I’ve created a list of tips and suggestions to help you naturally manage dry patches and gently restore your skin’s moisture levels.

Moisturising dry areas may seem intuitive, but it’s crucial to choose gentle moisturisers that contain ingredients that will hydrate the skin, such as avocado and coconut oil. Further, if your skin is especially dry and irritable, you might find it best to choose natural or fragrance-free creams to avoid more redness or flakiness.

Another tip to help your skin is to use chemical-free cleansers and moisturising body washes, as these can maintain your skin’s natural pH balance and minimise dryness, itchiness, and dehydration.

Exfoliating rough areas can also lead to smoother, brighter skin - so it may benefit you to exfoliate regularly but not excessively. In this case, choose a gentle exfoliator or use a soft washcloth to remove dead skin cells and promote skin renewal.

Also, consider adding humidity to your home environment during the drier months to prevent your skin from losing more moisture. Some find that using a humidifier creates a more comfortable environment for their skin as it adds moisture back into the air.

Protecting your skin from harsh weather conditions is also important to maintain its health and lessen dryness, irritation, and damage. Cold, windy weather can be especially tough on the skin, so regularly moisturising before going outdoors can be a simple way to treat seasonal dryness. Extremities such as our lips, face, hands, and nails are often the most exposed to chapping and dehydration. So, applying intensive balms and creams and wearing protective clothing can provide an extra barrier against harsh outdoor environments.

How to Prevent Dry Skin

It’s also a good idea to take preventative measures when it comes to dry skin, so here are some natural methods you can use to keep your skin hydrated and minimise flakes and dryness.

Also, it’s vital to strike a balance when it comes to bathing or showering to maintain healthy skin. For example, instead of using hot water when washing or cleaning your hands and face, opt for lukewarm water, as it is less likely to remove natural oils like sebum. Also, finding moisturising soaps and cleansers that are formulated for drier or sensitive skin can help protect the skin's innate moisture barrier.

After washing, it is essential to moisturise the skin promptly to lock in hydration and stop dry patches from forming. I recommend applying a cream or oil, such as jojoba, rosehip, or almond oil, to replenish any lost moisture and create a protective layer on the skin's surface. In line with my skin care protocols, changing elements of your diet can also prevent skin irritation, excessive dry areas, and inflammation.

You can protect your skin from within by eating foods that nourish your skin and body. For example, foods rich in antioxidants and vitamin E can help prevent damage caused by free radicals and replenish your body with their moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties. Avocados, leafy greens and nuts and seeds are well-known for their high vitamin E content and can be a great way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to keep itself hydrated and moisturised.

For some, alcohol, and caffeine lead to overall dehydration, resulting in worsened skin conditions such as dryness. If you feel this affects you, limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake while drinking a healthy amount of fluids may help to improve your skin’s moisture retention.

It’s key to remember that everyone's skin is unique, so it may take some experimentation to find the right combination of moisturisers, skincare routines, and dietary changes that work best for you. Plus, being more mindful of bathing habits and using gentle skincare products can help you avoid excessive moisture loss and maintain a healthy level of hydration in the skin.

Incorporating some of these natural tips into your lifestyle can be truly effective when it comes to combating overall dryness.

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