Dry, flaky skin is such a common problem that many of us take it for granted. We blame it on the weather, stress, or a lack of time to take care of our skin. But dry skin isn’t just uncomfortable or unattractive-it’s actually a sign that our skin is unhealthy, and in desperate need of care.
This week, I’ll help you prevent dry skin, and give you some tips on treating it when it shows up.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Dry skin has lost moisture because of something outside, like products or environmental stressors, or something inside the skin itself, like a lack of proper nutrients, oils, or essential fatty acids.
- Dry climates, heating, and air conditioning all pull moisture from the skin.
- Irritating chemicals in detergents, personal care and household products disrupt the natural moisturizing oils in the skin.
- Harsh ingredients in personal care and cosmetic products like sulfates, drying alcohols (like SD alcohol 40 in toners), and fragrances can damage skin, reducing its ability to retain moisture. Bar soaps are particularly drying, and often contain irritating sulfates, fragrances, and lye.
- Dehydration (even mild dehydration), or excess caffeine and alcohol can cause the body to conserve water near the critical organs, pulling it away from skin.
- Dead cell buildup on the surface of skin creates a barrier against moisturization.
- Excessive hand washing: Too much soap and hot water strips the skin of its natural oils.
- Medical conditions, treatments, and medications can all irritate, damage, and dehydrate skin, creating dryness and flaking.
Dry skin can also be inherited, so if one or both of your parents had it, you have a greater chance of having it, too.
Dry Skin is Vulnerable Skin
If your skin is dry, the surface is compromised, or damaged. This is not a good thing, because damaged skin:
- Is more vulnerable to attack from environmental pollutants
- Is not able to protect you as well from bacteria and other germs
- Is more likely to allow harsh chemicals to penetrate into deeper layers of the skin, and maybe even into your bloodstream
- Is more likely to react with redness, inflammation, irritation, and itching
- Is more vulnerable to sun damage
- Is more likely to show premature signs of aging like lines, wrinkles, and dullness
If you have dry skin, take it seriously, not only for your appearance, but your health!
To Prevent It
Preventing dry skin requires you practice regular daily habits of good skin care.
- Avoid harsh soaps and detergents: A harsh cleanser is enemy number one when it comes to dry skin. You absolutely must choose a moisturizing, gentle cleanser. Try Desert Essence Gentle Nourishing Organic Cleanser.
- Use lukewarm water: Avoid washing with hot water. It strips the natural oils and moisture from your skin.
- Protect, protect! This type of skin is vulnerable, so make sure you protect it from the sun and from environmental elements. Get used to wearing sunscreen every day (choose zinc oxide for safety), and consider scarves-light ones in summer-to cover up when you go out into the wind and dust.
- Avoid irritants in your products: Alcohols, fragrances, sulfates, preservatives, and more can be very irritating to dry, sensitive skin. Look for natural and organic formulas with plant-based ingredients that nourish and moisturize.
- Consume more omega-3 fatty acids: These special fats help moisturize your skin from the inside out, but many of us don’t get enough of them. Try a fish oil supplement, or make it a habit to eat more flaxseed, walnuts, fatty fish, and sardines.
- Choose a hydrating toner: Used to be that toners were all filled with alcohol and harsh, drying ingredients. Not anymore. Now you can help tone your skin after cleansing and add moisture at the same time. Try Aubrey Organics Revitalizing Therapy Toner for Dry Skin.
- Be smart about your moisturizer: Yes, you need moisturizer, but not just any kind of moisturizer. Those full of alcohols, fragrances, petrolatum and preservatives may provide some moisture at first, but leave your skin thirsting for more as the day goes on. You want lasting moisture that also nourishes and plumps your skin. Try CV Skinlabs Calming Moisture for Face, Neck, and Scalp.
- Use a humidifier in your room: Nighttime is when your skin repairs itself, so give it every chance by providing extra moisture in the air. Otherwise, you could be slowly losing moisture to the dry air around you as you sleep.
- Use a repairing night cream: Speaking of sleeping, you need a good night cream that will hydrate and plump overnight, helping you to wake up with happy, moisturized skin. Dry skin, however, also needs repair. So moisture isn’t enough. For dry lips, hands, cuticles, elbows, heels, and more, try CV Skinlabs Restorative Skin Balm. For face, try Sanre Organic Skinfood Sleeping Beauty.
To Treat Dry Patches
Sometimes, dry skin gets worse, and forms patches of extra dry, flaky, cracked, or even hardened skin. This requires emergency care!
- Exfoliate: This has to be your first step. You will never get moisture into your skin through that dry, flaky cover. Be careful, though-harsh exfoliants can cause further irritation and even infections. Try Pai Kukui & Jojoba Bead Skin Brightening Exfoliator. Exfoliate one-to-two times a week or more, depending on how your skin reacts.
- Hyper moisturize: Step up your moisturization and concentrate on “repair.” Extra dry skin is essentially wounded skin. You need to heal it. Try Herbal Choice Mari Magic Healing Cream Moisturizer for Dry Skin. Apply more than twice a day to see real results. For dry skin on the body, try CV Skinlabs Body Repair Lotion at least twice a day.
- Use a hydrating mask: In addition to your daily moisture, you need a weekly or twice-weekly hydrating mask to really soak your skin in hydration. Try Essensa Organics Rose Hydrating Mask.
You can also use natural essential oils, which can be very moisturizing to extremely dry skin. Try olive, jojoba, coconut, aloe vera, calendula, chamomile, or safflower.
- Exfoliate: Use a gentle exfoliating product to gently remove flaky skin so the surface of your skin is as smooth as possible.
- Moisturize: Always apply moisturizer before your makeup.
- Use liquids & creams: Skip the powder foundations and finishing products, as they only call attention to dry skin. Choose liquid or creamy foundations, concealers, and blushes instead. On really dry days, mix in a little moisturizer with your liquid foundation before applying,
- Highlight: Highlighter is your best friend if you have dry skin. You can apply it under your foundation to simulate a healthy glow, or apply after foundation under your brow bone, on the bridge of your nose, and on your cheekbones.
- Don’t overdo it: Dry skin is unforgiving, and will look “made up” before other types of skin. Go easy on your products and avoid using powder. Use lighter strokes of blush on your cheeks and choose creamy eye shadows.
Do you have other remedies for dry skin? Please share your tips.