It is not uncommon for many women to experience dry skin, sometimes very severely dry and flaky skin that can also often be itchy and uncomfortable.
For many of us, as we get older our skin tends to look less like an oil spill and more like a terrestrial dryland with desert conditions. Dry skin requires care and attention, as well as frequent hydration to keep it looking healthy. If you’re one of the people who suffers from dry skin, you are not alone. Dry skin is rather common, particularly in dry climates or during the harsh winter months.
There is so much awareness about how to prevent and reduce oily skin and acne, yet there is so little on what to do for dry, flaky skin. The good news is smooth, glowing and hydrated skin can be yours with just a bit of work on your part.
We reached out to skin care experts to get the lowdown on what you can do to get rid of this problem, and repair dry flaky skin once and for all.
Dry Skin Causes
Unfortunately for some people, dry skin is inherited and they are naturally more prone to flakiness. “Scientists have found many mutations in essential proteins that play a role in forming the skin barrier. These mutations leave people with naturally dry skin,” Jerome Garden, MD, tells Self.com. For people with this problem, dermatologists recommend moisturizers with ceramide, which is a moisturizing protein that people with naturally dry skin easily lose.
2. Health Conditions
Eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis are all relatively common causes of dry skin. They can often also cause problems like itching, redness, inflammation, etc. Moreover, thyroid disease and diabetes are also known to cause skin to be overly dry. For these conditions, you can be diligent about moisturizing and hydrating internally by drinking plenty of water (at least 8 glasses a day).
Certain medications can have the side effect of causing dry skin. “Some meds dry your skin as part of their action, such as acne medications like benzoyl peroxide or retinoids, but other medications used for conditions like high blood pressure can dry your skin as well,” Jerome Garden, MD, tells Self.com.
4. Over-Cleansing or Over-Exfoliating
Although cleansing and exfoliating are important steps of any skincare routine, overdoing both can be a problem. “The skin has a natural barrier, consisting of oil, water, and something called the ‘natural moisturizing factors.’ When we wash our skin 1. with a cleanser, soap, or body wash, it strips all the good skin hydrators off,” Lily Talakoub, M.D., tells Self.com. Exfoliating too often with harsh ingredients also strips away natural oils that provide hydration.
5. Not Drinking Enough Water
Although we’re supposed to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day, not all of us actually do so. If you’re not drinking enough water, you may be causing your skin to dry without even realizing it. “Proper hydration with water is important to keep fluid moving efficiently through the capillaries. It’s easier to get dehydrated when we are not making it a priority, or when it’s cold outside and water is evaporating faster,” Dendy Engelman, MD, tells Self.com.
Types of Dry Skin
1. Regular Dry Skin
This is the “garden variety” type of dry skin that affects everyone at some point. Things like taking a very hot bath or shower, not drinking enough water, swimming in chlorinated pools for too long can all contribute to dry skin that is usually temporary. You can combat it by moisturizing regularly for a few days to restore the natural hydration of your skin.
2. Dry Scaly Skin
Dry scaly skin is often a symptom of atopic dermatitis. This is a chronic skin condition that causes scaly patches to appear on your body. Another cause can be contact dermatitis, which causes dryness and scaliness when you come into contact with an allergen like detergent. Contact dermatitis will usually go away fully with treatment, whereas atopic dermatitis can be treated but may return occasionally.
3. Dry Rough Skin
This type of dry skin can be found typically on knees, elbows and feet. Skin is often more likely to be dry and rough in those areas. Feet can get especially rough because of closed shoes like sneakers and boots, which create a hot and humid environment that sucks all the moisture out of your feet. It’s important to moisturize these areas with thick lotions regularly, maybe even multiple times a day.
4. Dry Flaky Skin
As your skin loses moisture, it is more likely to start peeling and becoming flaky. This can be irritating and annoying because the flakiness is very obvious, and may even be a source of embarrassment. Beyond that, however, dry flaky skin can be very uncomfortable. Eczema and psoriasis can also be causes of flakiness that may sometimes be very hard to get rid of. Some people with extreme eczema and psoriasis will need intervention from a doctor.
7 Best Dry Skin Treatments
1. Use the Right Type of Face Wash and Body Wash
You will want to choose cleansers that are gentle, hydrating and natural instead of relying on more chemical-inclined cleansers that contains sulfates and fragrances that can strip skin of its natural oils.
Sulfates are particularly stripping, although they are also what cause soaps, cleansers and shampoos to lather. But if you have dry skin, you will want to steer clear of anything that contains sulfates. Ever notice how your skin feels extra dry after a shower? That’s because the hot water (another cause of dry skin) and sulfates from body washes and shampoos strip all that natural oil on your skin and cause dryness. This is why it’s important to moisturize as soon as you step out of the shower. A great choice is the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser or the Fresh Soy Cleanser or cleanser with essential oil, which is also great for sensitive skin.
2. Use the Right Type of Moisturizer/Serum
Choosing the right moisturizer is so important. You will want one with highly moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, hyaluronic acid and ceramide that will protect the natural skin barrier and prevent the loss of moisture.
Taut’s Intensive Recovery Face Serum is a wonderful choice, as it contains powerful botanicals to help repair the skin barrier and keep it strong. Another option is First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Cream that contains ceramide, shea butter and soothing colloidal oatmeal to help calm distressed, flaky, dry skin.
3. Use Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring ingredient found in our bodies, in places like the joints and eyeballs. It is also found in the skin, and is one of the substances that keep it hydrated.
Hyaluronic acid is renowned for its ability to retain a tremendous amount of moisture, one thousand times its weight in water. That’s remarkable, and the reason why it’s found in so many moisturizers and serums. You can use a hyaluronic acid serum first before applying your moisturizer for maximum hydration.
4. Use a Facial Mask or Hydrogel Mask
A facial mask can quench your skin’s thirst efficiently when used regularly. Facial masks are loaded with hydrating ingredients and plant botanicals that soothe and nourish skin. You can use one daily or a few times a week.
Hydrogel masks (made of a gel that holds 99% of liquid) are great for soothing sun-damaged skin, invigorating fatigued skin and boosting collagen. Hydrogel masks help lock in moisture to fully hydrate dull, dry skin and remove flakiness for a smooth complexion. Hydrogel masks are also better able to allow for maximum absorption than regular sheet masks.
You can also try a HydraFacial, which is a treatment that combines cleansing, exfoliation and hydration by infusing skin with loads of hydrating and deeply moisturizing serums. "Many dermatologists are wary of offering traditional facials in the office, as outcomes can vary, with some patients getting quite inflamed, or even scarring from overly aggressive techniques, but the HydraFacial is consistently safe and effective," Arash Akhavan, MD, tells Allure.com.
5. Drink Lots of Water
As mentioned above in “Dry Skin Causes,” lack of water consumption can lead to dry skin. Hence the importance of drinking plenty of water, even up to 10 glasses a day if your skin is especially dry. Keep a water bottle nearby while you’re working, or set a reminder on your phone or smart watch to tell you when it’s time to have another drink. This can go a long way in hydrating your skin.
6. Load Up On Healthy Fats
Omega 3 fatty acids also help nourish the body and keep skin well moisturized. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in seafood like salmon, mackerel, herring and oysters.
Other foods that contain omega 3s include flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans. Even if you’re vegetarian or vegan, you can make sure to supplement your diet with plenty of these hydrating foods.
7. Retain Water and Moisture with Hyaluronic Acid
Although applying hyaluronic acid onto your skin can help, it can be even more helpful to supplement your diet with hyaluronic acid from within. Fifty percent of hyaluronic acid in the body is actually found in the skin, giving it its bounce and elasticity while also keeping it moisturized.
As we age, hyaluronic acid begins to diminish – this is why older people often have drier skin than younger people. By taking a hyaluronic acid supplement regularly, you can make sure you keep the supply of this remarkable substance replenished in your body.
Taut’s Hyaluronic Acid supplement is vegan and includes grape seed extract to hydrate skin from within, plumping it up and making it look younger while also improving texture and elasticity. Moreover, this supplement works on the entire body to penetrate deep into the dermis where it can be the most beneficial for skin. Still doubtful? Clinical studies have shown that oral supplements of hyaluronic acid can replenish moisture and inhibit wrinkles.
Whether you’re going through a dry phase, as many of us do during the winter, or simply were born with a permanent lack of moisture, there is always something that can help your skin feel hydrated and moisturized—and therefore, supple, soft, firm and radiant. Start with our tips and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your skin will revive itself!