Learn to manage dry skin with appropriate care
What is dry skin?
Dry skin is a common problem that can be found on any part of the body. When your skin is dry, it’s much harder for it to function as a natural barrier against the world around you.
What causes it?
For most people, there isn't a single cause of dry skin. Many different internal factors can contribute to dry skin, such as the genes that you inherit, hormone imbalances, and underlying conditions ‐ so you might naturally be more prone to dry skin. External factors can also contribute to dry skin, or make your dry skin feel worse: the environment (typically low humidity and cold temperatures) or using certain soaps or detergents. Also, your skin becomes more dry as you get older.
Healthy skin is like a brick wall: the bricks (skin cells in the uppermost layer of skin ‐ the stratum corneum in the epidermis) are held together snugly, with natural oils (called lipids) filling the gaps between the cells like mortar between bricks. This structure forms the skin's natural protective barrier ‐ helping keeping moisture in and irritants out.
Dry skin occurs when this ‘brick wall’ structure in the stratum corneum is disrupted: the skin can't retain enough moisture or the lipids holding the cells tightly together may be lost or damaged, which weakens the skin's protective barrier.
When your skin's protective barrier is weakened, less moisture is retained and more irritants can get in, causing further damage to the skin's protective barrier.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Dry skin typically appears dull, and might feel tight, rough, or itchy. You might see patches of red, scaly, or flaky skin.
Dry skin can be a chronic condition. By learning to manage your skin over time with regular use of an appropriate kind of emollient (a medical moisturiser that contains no perfumes or additional ‘anti-ageing’ ingredients) for you, your skin can improve and you can keep your symptoms under control.
Actively moisturising your skin can help it retain more moisture and strengthen its natural protective barrier.
When you’re managing dry skin, it’s important to use an appropriate emollient for you as part of a personalised skincare routine. Your routine needs to be something you can manage as easily as possible around other aspects of your life: the more it fits in with what you're doing, the more you can keep it up and keep your skin healthy.
Many people manage their dry skin by using emollients and soap substitutes - you can find out more about these here.
In severe cases of dry skin, your skin might crack or bleed. Sometimes, dry skin can be a symptom of other conditions, like eczema – if you’re worried about this, you should talk to your doctor or pharmacist.