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6 Ways You're Drying Out Your Skin by Accident (and How to Stop It)

Woman treating dry skin with cream

Who doesn’t love fall? It’s a season of coziness and warm sweaters but without the harsh cold of winter. We get the joy of multiple holidays but those holidays aren’t as rough on the budget as Christmas and Hanukkah. It’s basically the best of all worlds, except for one pesky thing: dry skin.

The moment the temps start to drop in the fall, it seems like every drop of moisture in my skin packs its bags and jumps ship to spend the cool months at its beach house. As much as we all hate dry skin, though, chances are that you’re actually making it worse by accident.

It’s okay, we all make mistakes. The first step to a less itchy and flaky fall is finding out how you might be adding to the problem and cutting out those habits. Check yourself for these six common but harmful habits to cut out of your life.

1. Over-Indulging in the Shower

I know, I know, there’s something amazing about a hot shower on a chilly morning. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your skin isn’t as crazy about a long soak or shower as you are.

Your skin has natural lipids or fats which make up a type of moisture barrier around your cells. Those lipids hold in hydration so it doesn’t evaporate and dry your skin.

Unfortunately, hot water pulls those essential lipids out of your skin and creates a drying effect. The hotter the water and the longer the shower or bath, the worse the problem will be.

There are a few ways to solve the issue. For one, take the shower temperature down a bit. It doesn’t have to be reminiscent of the Ice Bucket Challenge but stick with warm water over hot water.

It also helps to shorten your showers. If you have a hard time getting through your routine in ten minutes or so, wash your hair in your sink instead of washing it in the shower.

No matter how you modify your showers, you also want to apply a body moisturizer and facial moisturizer as soon as you get out of the shower. This replicates that moisture barrier and blocks in the hydration your skin still has.

2. Rubbing Your Towel to Dry Your Skin

Sticking with the shower theme, how do you dry off after your shower? If you rub your skin with your towel, you might be making your dryness worse.

The friction of rubbing the towel on your skin will damage your moisture barrier. If you’re taking a long, hot shower and then scrubbing yourself dry afterward, it’s double trouble. It’s better to pay yourself dry instead so you don’t cause friction.

3. Using Scented Soaps and Cleansers

We tend to associate cleanliness with great smells, so who doesn’t love a soap with a great scent? Your skin doesn’t love it, as it turns out.

Fragrances are notorious for being harsh on your skin. Not only do they sometimes irritate your skin, but they tend to break up your moisture barrier too.

In other words, you’re making your skin drier and you’re also adding to the irritation of uncomfortably dry skin. Especially during the fall and winter when the air is dry, stick with unscented cleansers and soaps.

4. Drinking Too Little Water

I’ve talked a lot about the lipids in your skin but remember that those lipids have the job of holding in the moisture in your cells. You could have lipids galore but if there’s no moisture for them to hold in, you’ll still feel dry.

The moisture comes from the hydration inside your body, and that comes from the water you drink. The medical community still debates about how much water each person needs. A common rule of thumb, though, is to divide your weight in half and drink that many ounces of water per day. So if you weight 150 pounds, you need 75 ounces of water per day.

5. Over-Exfoliating

Many of us have gotten stuck in a vicious cycle in the dry months. We see flaky dryness on our skin and decide to get rid of it by exfoliating more. We wind up exfoliating too much which breaks down our moisture barrier, making our skin drier and flakier. We keep upping the exfoliation because we see more and more dryness, not realizing that the exfoliation is the problem.

Fall and winter is the time to take it easy on your skin. Don’t exfoliate more than twice per week and stick to gentle exfoliants rather than grabbing the strongest product you can find. The trick is to maintain a gentle but steady routine rather than overreacting when you see flakes.

6. Using the Same Facial Moisturizer You Used During the Summer

I know, you find a skincare product you love and you want to stick with it day and night. I hear you. But the air is very different in the summer compared to the fall and winter, so your skin has different needs.

While a lightweight moisturizer is usually best during the spring and summer, the fall weather means it’s time to bring out the big guns. Choose a more intense moisturizer to give your skin more hydrating power.

Keeping Your Skin Cozy This Fall

As much as we all love pumpkin patches and scarf shopping in the fall, don’t forget to give your skin some TLC during this time of the year too. Cut out the skin-drying habits above so your skin can enjoy more moisture than the steam from your pumpkin spice latte. Happy fall!

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