7 Shocking Truths About Dry Skin
Our skin is the largest organ of the body and serves many purposes other than just covering our flesh. It is the first line of defence against the environment and acts as a pathway for toxin removal via sweating.
What is dry skin?
Dry skin or xeroderma, is a very common skin condition characterized by diminished amount of water in the epidermis, the most superficial layer of the skin. Dry skin tends to affect older individuals as they tend to have low amounts of natural skin oils and lubricants.
The epidermis is normally composed of lipid and protein. It is the lipid portion which helps prevent skin dehydration. The skin loses its protection and moisture more easily when the skin’s fatty oils are removed. As skin becomes dry, it becomes sensitive and prone to rashes and skin breakdown.
Dry skin is likely to feel tight, especially after showering, bathing or swimming, feels and looks rough as well as itching. It may develop into flaking, scaling or peeling with fine lines or cracks. In severe cases, there is redness due to inflammation and have deep cracks that may bleed, which may cause secondary infection.
Why do we suffer from dry skin?
The causes can be broken into external factors and internal factors. External factors include things such as weather and environment, soap and bathing, and external products. Meanwhile internal factors include age, hormonal influences, genetic influences and health issue as well as diet and nutrition.
Weather and environment
Dry skin is most common in very cold or very hot condition. This is because the air is too humid that it dries out the skin as well. This means working outdoor under the sun or indoor with air-conditioner both causes dry skin.
Sitting in an air-conditioned room for an extended period of time or closer to the vent will cause dry skin to get worse because the air is colder and the breeze is blowing right on you.
Working under the sun for too long without any protection does more harm. Sun not only dries the skin, but its ultraviolet radiation penetrates deep into the skin. This will cause significant damage deep within the skin, causing wrinkles and sagging. UV exposure also increase the rate of skin ageing, and skin becomes more prone to dryness as it ages.
It is very important to avoid heat source such as sitting in front of an open flame or other heat source as they reduce humidity and dries the skin.
Soap and bathing
Not all soaps and detergent are the same. Soap is an emulsifier that removes oils on the skin. Harsh soaps will further strip moisture from your skin. Therefore, excessive use of soaps can worsen dry skin as more oil is being removed. Deodorant and antibacterial soaps are even more damaging whereas many shampoos may dry your scalp.
Although bathing and showering add water to skin, it is the evaporation of this water that results in dry skin. The longer the baths and the hotter the water is, the quicker the natural oils in our skin dried out.
Frequent swimming does no good too, especially in heavily chlorinated pools.
Products which contain substances such as alcohol, paraben, fragrance, retinoid, or alpha-hydroxyl acid (AHA) not only causes the skin to be dry, but also thins the skin layer, making the skin prone to more irritation and inflammation. These substances are widely used in skin care products and cosmetics. Hand sanitizer also contain some amount of it, therefore, limit the usage of it and opt for a “free” based products (alcohol-free or fragrance-free).
When our skin is dry and raw even clothes and laundry detergent can be irritating. Wear cotton or silk under your clothing made of wool or another material that feels rough to reduce irritation whereas pick laundry detergent labelled “hypoallergenic” or specially formulated for sensitive skin.
Medications which are diuretics promotes the production of urine and increase the excretion of water from bodies. Some examples are drugs for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, and acne. If you are under these prescription, you are prone to skin dryness. Keep in mind that caffeine is also diuretic. You may want to cut down on coffee, tea or other beverages containing it.
As people get older, the skin’s ability to produce sweat and lipids also decreases. This is because there is a reduction in function of sebaceous and sweat glands in the skin. Hormone level also changes, leaving the skin more prone to dryness and prone to the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. As we age, collagen breaks down more rapid compared to its production. Collagen is very important in making the skin firm. Diminished collagen will cause skin to be inelastic and loose besides being dry.
Dry skin is most common during pregnancy and menopause. This is because the amount of oestrogen in the body is reduced, affecting the skin’s moisture balance.
Genetic influences and health issues
Every person has a unique set of genes, which is why different people will have different moisture and lipid levels in their skin, not to mention different skin colour as well.
In addition, eczema, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and malnutrition are all associated with dry skin. Diseases such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and diabetes often, but not always, have a genetic link.
Diet and Nutrition
Treat your dry skin inside out. After all, you are what you eat. However, dry skin is often the first sign of dehydration. When the body is dehydrated, it is unable to supply adequate amounts of water to the skin. Skin needs moisture to stay flexible. Even mild dehydration will cause your skin to look dry, tired and slightly grey. Keep your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water especially elderly people, people on manual labour or a lot of exercise.
Dry skin is also associated with imbalances of good fats in the body. Fatty fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and sardines contains omega 3 fatty acids which act as a natural moisturiser for your skin, keeping it supple. Avoid deep-fried fish as the fried oil are terrible for your skin. Do opt for grilled, baked, poached, or roasted. Avocados are a great source of vitamins C, E, and monounsaturated fats, which help your skin lock in moisture.
Include phyto-estrogen rich soya, wholegrains, fruits and vegetables as part of a balanced diet as they help to combat skin dryness by keeping the hormone levels in balance.
High glycaemic index carbohydrates like biscuits and sugary drinks raise glucose level in the blood very quickly, leading to increased production of insulin. Excessive insulin in the blood may damage collagen and accelerate wrinkles. Opt for low glycaemic index carbohydrates like beans or pulses as their sugar are slowly releasing in the blood.
Collagen and antioxidant are very important to keep the skin moist, free from damage and necessary repair. As we age, the production of these also decrease. Supplementing in these is very important if you skin cannot handle the dryness anymore. CoQ 10 is one of the collagen that can be taken. Antioxidant is abundant in fruits and vegetables, particularly raw ones. Besides having those, vitamin C and vitamin E helps in repairing skin problems and can be taken via supplement.
Zinc is involved in the normal functioning of the sebaceous glands in the skin and helps to repair skin damage and keep skin soft and supple, whereas selenium preserves elastin in the skin, helping your skin stay supple, smooth, and tight.
Constantly losing and gaining weight can cause skin sagging, wrinkles and stretch marks. Crash diets are often short in essential vitamins too. Lose weight or gain weight slowly and consistently will be the best for your skin beauty.
The skin reflects the overall inner balance as well. This means that if our internal is not healthy and has toxins accumulation, it will reflect on our skin wellness. There is no point using many products and cosmetics to cover up if the root cause is not resolve. The products we are using also must be light, to give your skin a break to breathe. Frequent wash is necessary to remove impurities from our skin, only if you are exposed outdoor or unclean environment.
Water-based skin cleansers or body bath with added moisturising factors are suitable for dry to very dry skin, while oil-based are ideally suited for the skin care of extremely dry skin. Special moisturizers containing lactic acid or urea are also effective in hydrating the skin. Anyhow, moisturizers should be applied within three to five minutes of bathing when the skin is still damp to lock in moisture.
Detoxification every now and then especially the liver, is very important for skin health as well. This is because toxins in the blood may reduce the blood flow. This results in a slower metabolism within the skin. Skin may dry out and age prematurely. Smoking and alcohol consumption may worsen this condition. You may want to try to detox via colon enema or ozone therapy to quickly resolve your skin problem.
For chronic or severe dry skin problems, it is advisable to seek evaluation from a dermatologist, especially after doing the necessary changes.