It’s January which means we’re knee-deep in the season of dry skin. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who isn’t dealing with dry or itchy skin this month, but some people have chronically dry skin year-round. Whether you have dry skin all year or it’s more of a seasonal trouble, here’s everything you want to know about dry skin.
What Causes Chronically Dry Skin?
The short answer is that your skin is dry when your body isn’t producing enough of its natural oil. That oil, called sebum, holds moisture in your skin.
But why do some people’s bodies produce less oil than others? There are countless reasons. It could be genetic, hormone-related, or caused by certain health circumstances. There are environmental factors too, like cold air, indoor heating, use of hot water or frequent washing and bathing, use of harsh chemicals, and so on. But in most people with dry skin year-round, it’s a simple matter of genetics or hormones. In other words, that’s just your body’s normal.
So, If Dry Skin Means I Have Too Little Oil, I Should Use Oil-Based Skin Care, Right?
Naturally, if your skin is dry because you aren’t producing enough oil, you might reach for oil-based skin care products to solve the problem. But this isn’t necessarily the solution. For some people, oil-based products do give their dry skin what it needs, but for others, those same products will trigger acne breakouts. If your skin is acne-prone, opt for water-based products instead like water-based moisturizers.
Does Drinking More Water Help with Dry Skin?
Another assumption people make is that if their skin is dry, they can hydrate it from the inside out by drinking plenty of water. Does this really work? It’s a resounding “maybe.”
It’s true that your skin is an organ and it relies on you drinking water, just like your other organs. But when you drink water, your body sends it to the organs that need it the most, which are your vital organs – your brain, your liver, those types of heavy-hitters. Your skin gets a relatively small amount of the water you drink.
So will drinking more water help your dry skin? It might, if you’re not drinking enough water already. If you’re already drinking enough water, kicking it up a notch won’t make a difference in your dry skin. In either case, drinking water alone isn’t enough to soothe dry skin – topical products are the more effective way to go. Keep in mind too that there is such a thing as drinking too much water, so don’t just chug as much as you can.
Why is Dry Skin More Sensitive?
If you suffer from chronically dry skin like me, you may have noticed that your skin is more sensitive than most. That’s not a coincidence.
Your skin has a protective barrier called the stratum corneum. That protective barrier blocks irritants, pollutants, and other nastiness from reaching the deeper layers of your skin. It’s also largely made up of water. So, when your skin doesn’t have enough hydration to fill out the stratum corneum, that protective barrier is weaker and it makes your skin more vulnerable to irritants.
The good news is that, in this case, keeping your skin moisturized will give your protective barrier the hydration it needs so when your skin is less dry, it’s less sensitive too.
Will My Dry Skin Change as I Get Older?
Everyone’s body has its own quirks and variations, and so does your skin, so there’s no hard-and-fast rule about how dry skin will and won’t change throughout your life. In many cases, though, skin tends to get drier as we get older because of our shifting hormones. This is especially true for people going through menopause.
What Should a Skin Care Routine for Dry Skin Look Like?
Skin care for your dry skin doesn’t have to be overly complicated. The basic staple skin care routine is to start with a hydrating cleanser (this is important because most cleansers will strip moisture from your skin that you can’t afford to lose). Then, follow it up with a robust moisturizer. You should do this in the morning and at night, but make sure you then top off your morning routine with sunscreen.
You can add in other products as needed too. If this simple routine isn’t giving your dry skin enough hydration, add a hydrating serum or lotion between your cleanser and moisturizer. You can also add a hydrating mask on occasion, an exfoliator if you have dull or rough-textured skin, and so on.
What Should I Look for in Skin Care Products for Dry Skin
As you’re shopping for the best skin care products for dry skin, there are a few clues to watch for that a product might be a match made in heaven for your skin. First, look for products that are noted to be effective for dry skin (that’s easiest if you’re shopping online, because some brands list this on the packaging but others don’t).
Second, look for a few key ingredients that have excellent hydrating powers. Some of the top powerhouses are hyaluronic acid, humectants, and emollients.
Finally, if your skin is sensitive like most dry skin is, choose products that are sensitive skin-safe – again, this may or may not be listed on the packaging so it’s easier if you shop online. In the process, avoid ingredients that are commonly irritants like fragrances and dyes.
Getting to Know Your Dry Skin
Dealing with dry skin on a daily basis can be frustrating and challenging, but give your skin a little grace. You just need to learn what it needs and find the right combination of products to keep it relaxed and happy.