Six Causes of Dry Skin

Six Causes of Dry Skin

Debra Murray


With care, you can beat dry skin



Causes and Appearance 

What leads to dry skin doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be brought on by using harsh soaps, long, hot showers or even the wrong type of clothing. But medications can also lead to dry skin. It’s important to figure out what’s causing your dry skin in order to treat it. 



Dry skin can appear anywhere—most often found on the arms, handslower legs, and abdomen and quite often you just feel it instead of see it. It can make the skin look gray on people with dark skin and lead to embarrassment and self-consciousness about their appearance. Since the majority of dry skin problems are caused by external factors, it can be treated externally.  



Dry Air  

Dry air is probably the most common cause of dry skin, and winter just compounds the problem. Not only is the cold winter air responsible for drying out your skin, but the dry heat in your house is also to blame. To counteract the effect of dry air, use a skin moisturizer and consider using a humidifier in your house. Lowering the thermostat will also help. But this isn’t just a winter problem; air conditioning in the summer has the same drying effect as a heater. 



Hot Showers & Baths  

We all like hot soothing showers or baths. Long exposure to water, especially hot water will wash away all the natural oils which protect your skin. When you get out of the tub, if your skin feels tight that means it is dried out.


Choosing to shower over a bath will help and uses less water. But also try taking one with water that’s less hot and limit the length of your shower. When finished, pat your body dry and use a moisturizer while the skin is slightly damp. 




Soap is one of the biggest culprits of dry skin. Much soap contains harsh detergents and their use quickly strips the skin dry. Unless you have a really dirty job, you’re not going to get all that dirty during the day. Cleaning up doesn’t mean scrubbing yourself down. The only parts of your body that may actually need soap are feet, hands, groin and underarms. For the most part, all the body needs to get clean is a good rinsing. 



Avoid soaps with artificial fragrances and dyes and those that promise lots of bubbles and lather—those ingredients just dry out the skin. Look for fragrance-free soap or fragrances from natural ingredients such as rosemary or lavender. Soap featuring natural oils such as emu or jojoba is also good for the skin. 



Avoid or limit the use of abrasive sponges and such. These just help to strip the skin of its necessary oils. 



Scratchy Clothing 

If fabric itches when you try it on, then you may want to consider looking for something else. If it itches when it’s new, it will most likely always itch and that’s just an irritant to your skin. Dry skin is already sensitive so why expose your skin to irritating clothing? Tight clothing can also contribute to dry, sensitive skin and increase the skin irritation and itchy feeling. 



Medications and Drugs  

Many medicines have a side effect of drying out the skin. These include drugs for: 

  • High blood pressure, like diuretics 
  • Allergies, like antihistamines 
  • Acne and other skin conditions, like retinoids 


If you experience dry skin and you believe your medicine may be the cause, talk to your doctor about alternatives. It may be that changing the dose is all you need. 



Dry skin is almost always caused by external factors. However, it can be a sign of a something either a natural physiological change or an illness. 



Aging is a natural change that leads to dry skin. Most people develop dry skin as they get older, especially women. Changes in hormones can lead to dry skin and for many it’s just genetic—some people are just prone to it. 



Medical Conditions 

Medical conditions can also lead to dry skin. A few common causes are: 

  • Skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. In some cases specific treatment may be required, but the use of quality moisturizers may be all that is needed. 
  • Diabetes. Fluctuations in one’s glucose levels may lead to dehydration, and dehydration will dry the skin out. Diabetes can be slow healing which increases the risk of infections. If you suffer from diabetes, it’s very important to keep your skin healthy. 
  • Malnutrition. Not getting the necessary nutrients the body needs can leave the skin dried out. Excess sodium intake from soft drinks and processed foods can also dehydrate the body and skin. 



Diseases can lead to dry skin. Treating the illness itself may resolve the dry skin or it may require added help such as moisturizing regularly. Talk to your doctor to discover what you need to do. 



What Should You Do for Dry Skin?  

While dry skin may be related to a health condition, odds are it’s just due to genetics, aging or exposure to dry air and water. Dry skin may feel itchy and uncomfortable, but it is manageable if you are proactive in treating it. 




The first line of defense for dry skin is moisturizing. There are hundreds of moisturizers on the market and you may believe they don’t help. The problem may not be the moisturizer, but how you’re using it.  



Apply moisturizer while the skin is still damp so it can trap the moisture on your skin. Applying moisturizer after a bath or shower is the perfect time. Just pat your skin dry so it’s still slightly damp and then apply your moisturizer. Give it a few minutes to work and if there is excess, just towel it off. 



Emu oil is also known to help relieve dry skin as it enters the tissue faster and more effectively reduces the appearance of scars, wrinkles and burns. 



Changing Habits  

Be proactive in your skincare regimen and start feeling and looking better today. Shorter showers, less hot water, and moisturizing regularly can help. Use a humidifier if the air in your home is dry and stay away from harsh soaps and body washes that will strip the oily layer from your skin. If you’ve tried many things and nothing seems to help, then perhaps you may want to talk to your doctor to see if there is a contributing cause that he can help with. 




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