Dry skin, or xerosis (originating from the Greek word ‘xero’ meaning dry & ‘osis’ meaning condition), is a common skin condition that many of us have experienced at some point in time. Dry skin isn’t usually a cause for concern, although it can become a nuisance when the issue doesn’t seem to resolve itself.

It may be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why your skin is constantly dry. That’s because your dry skin can be attributed to both external and internal factors.

Pay attention to both types of factors listed below and see if you can determine which one might be to blame for your dry skin!

External Factors That Cause Dry Skin

  1. Sun Exposure
    Prolonged sun exposure dries out your skin and depletes it of essential fatty acids. The sun’s harmful UV rays penetrate deep down into the dermis and damage your skin at a cellular level. When your skin is damaged, its cellular renewal process slows down and causes your skin to become dry and appear dull.
  2. Extreme Climates
    Whether you’re living in the hot desert or going through a harsh cold winter, both these extremes in climate cause humidity levels in the air to drop! This strips your skin of its moisture and causes it to become dry.
  3. Dry Air
    Air conditioners & heaters work by removing moisture from the air. Low humidity levels are bound to dry out your skin.
  4. Alkaline Soaps
    Bars of soaps and certain body washes contain surfactants that are alkaline in pH and strip your skin of its natural oils. These oils normally serve as your skin’s protective outer layer, but when these oils are gone, your skin can no longer hold in moisture.
  5. Laundry Detergents or Fabric Softeners
    Laundry detergents and fabric softeners contain many chemicals and fragrances that can irritate and dry out your skin.
  6. Cleaning Agents
    Cleaning agents contain harsh chemicals that can be drying to your skin.
  7. Fragrances
    Synthetic fragrances can cause skin irritation, even contact dermatitis outbreaks for people with extremely sensitive skin.
  8. Irritating Fabrics
    Wool and synthetic fabrics can irritate your skin and cause itchiness and dryness.
  9. Hot Baths or Showers
    Taking hot baths or showers feel nice, but unfortunately aren’t nice for your skin. They strip oils from your skin and dry it out.
  10. Chlorinated Pools
    Chlorine is another chemical that is drying to the skin.
  11. Hard Water
    Hard water contains high levels of minerals such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals build up and create a film on the surface of your skin which causes it to become dry.
  12. Certain Jobs
    Jobs that require excessive hand washing (nurse, dishwasher) or exposure to chemicals (hairdresser) can cause your skin to become dry.

Internal Factors That Cause Dry Skin

  1. Age
    As you age, your skin produces less collagen and it becomes thinner and dryer.
  2. Genetics
    Certain mutations in the gene that controls the production of a protein called filaggrin (which plays a role in skin barrier function) can be passed down from your parents. Those who have this gene mutation are prone to having skin conditions such as eczema. So if one of your parents had this gene mutation, it’s possible you’ve inherited dry skin from your mom or dad.
  3. Dehydration
    If you’re dehydrated, your skin can become parched. Drink water throughout the day to ensure you’re staying hydrated!
  4. Smoking
    Smoking constricts your blood vessels, depriving your skin of vital nutrients. Not only does your skin become dry, it also ages more rapidly.
  5. Low Fat Diets
    Low fat diets are very restrictive and deprive your body from essential fatty acids necessary for maintaining soft, supple, healthy skin. You need these vital fats to prevent water loss and preserve moisture.
  6. Vitamin A Deficiency
    Vitamin A is necessary for skin cell turnover. A Vitamin A deficiency can cause excessively dry, scaly, and thickened skin.
  7. Skin Conditions
    Certain skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can make your skin dry and flakey.
  8. Medications
    Acne medication, blood pressure medication, and nasal decongestants can all dry out your skin. Consult with your GP if you believe a certain drug might be drying out your skin.
  9. Disease
    Certain diseases such as diabetes can cause your skin to become dry. Seek out medical advice if you believe your dry skin might be due to a more serious condition.
  10. Treatment & Prevention of Dry Skin

    Here are a few tips to keep your skin soft and hydrated:

    1. Bathe/shower in warm water.
    2. Apply moisturizer/cream on damp skin to trap in moisture.
    3. Wear sunscreen daily!
    4. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated! Avoid alcohol and coffee.
    5. Eat nutritious foods (colorful fruits & veggies).
    6. Avoid antibacterial soaps.
    7. Use scent-free detergents & soaps.
    8. Wear gloves when handling cleaning agents and/or chemicals.
    9. Cover up when exposed to extreme climates (hot or cold).
    10. Use a humidifier in dry climates or during the winter when the heat is on constantly.