Just imagine the moment of perfect comfort for your body. You are happy and relaxed, and there are no unpleasant sensations on your skin. Having dry skin makes it impossible. There is always something. Usually, skin tightness followed by itching, stinging or even cracking, not to mention the rough texture and the hundreds of tiny wrinkles.
The majority of people will experience some degree of skin dryness through their lives. Pinpointing the cause not only can help to bring back the healthy look but also prevents further skin irritation associated with the dry skin condition.
Dryness or Dehydration
There is the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. The dry skin produces little or none of sebum. The oily layer which would stop water from evaporating is practically nonexistent. Dehydration occurs as the aftermath of this condition.
People with normal or even excessive oil production can also experience skin dehydration. In many cases, the oiliness appears as a protective mechanism of the body which tries to stop any further water loss of already dehydrated skin.
Causes of Dryness and Dehydration
Dryness occurs when sebaceous glands ( little sebum factories located near hair follicles) get a signal to stop or limit the production of sebum – oily/waxy layer which protects water in the skin from the evaporation. This “stop signal” could be caused by various internal factors which affect body processes:
- Genetical predisposition (Burden inherited from our ancestors; Thank you Granma!)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Side effects of certain medicines both taken orally or applied topically
- Autoimmune response
When we deal with internal factors, it could take much longer or be even impossible to change sebum production level.
If the dry skin is persistent, please consult with your doctor. It could be a symptom of a more serious condition such as diabetes, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis or even thyroid disease.
In the case of dehydration we deal with external/environmental factors:
- Cold weather which tights the pores and decreases the activity of sebaceous glands. On top of that, a low level of humidity both outside and in heated buildings, and strong wind promote higher water evaporation from the skin.
- Long hot baths or showers
- Prolonged exposition to sun and UV rays
- Already produced sebum layer is stripped away by overwashing and using ingredients which dissolve/absorb oils, or there is no sebum production
As soon as these dehydrating conditions are (considering that sebaceous glands produce some oil) removed, the skin should easily back to normal state.
Can Drinking More Water Help to Improve Dehydrated Skin?
The answer is yes and no. It depends on your usual daily water intake including not only drinks but also water-rich food.
If you consume too little water during the day, an increase in hydration will give you noticeable results: better digestion, glowing skin, less fatigue.
If you already consume enough water (3 liters for men and 2.2 liters for women according to Mayo Clinic), you won’t see any difference. In fact drinking too much water flushes essential electrolytes causing a dangerous imbalance in your body.
Dry Skin Action Plan
W have explained the causes of skin dryness and dehydration, now it’s time to prepare an Action Plan “to make our skin great again:
For many years we were told that more bubbles the better and the healthy skin is “squicky-clean” skin which could be achieved by deep cleanse using foaming cleaners.
The majority of cleaning/washing products on the market contain SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) – two high foaming agents which not often get contaminated with potentially harmful substances in the production process, but often cause sensitization and strip the oily film from the skin completely.
You can find them even in toothpaste. If you keep wondering why your lips are constantly cracked and dry, this could be an adverse reaction to SLS or SLES.
Very dry/dehydrated skin could be easily cleaned without excessive foaming by using very gentle products such as micellar cleansers ( they also contain detergents, very gentle ones, such as Caprylyl/Capryl Glucoside, Decyl Glucoside or Cocamidopropyl Betaine.
I know several people who were able to balance their dry skin by replacing foaming products with oils, cleansing milks or even wiping the skin with a moisturizing cream. One of them is a long-time smoker, but you wouldn’t guess after seeing her complexion. She claims that avoiding detergents helps to keep her skin looking youthful and glowing.
Many people are afraid of greasiness when skipping the foamy part of a skincare routine, but I can assure you that when using wet cotton pads or washing cloth when taking the oil products off, your skin will feel cleansed and refreshed.
What about soaps?
If your skin dryness is already very severe, I would suggest ditching the soaps too. Especially those commercially made are strong surfactants with similar properties to SLS/SLES. Furthermore, commercial soaps contain additional substances which irritate the skin and could be potentially toxic.
Some small manufacturers produce soaps with increases oil content (more added fat that required by saponification- the soap making reaction ratio). Those are the only soaps that could help to keep the skin moist.
However, the alkaline nature of soaps strips the acidic skin mantle – natural barrier protecting the skin from harmful microorganisms.
Lock the water
Taking care of the dry skin can be compared to preparing a primary segment of the lasagna dish. I know sound weird but absolutely makes sense:
Dry pasta – representing our dry skin
Sauce – the more moist, the better (professional advice from chefs!) to soften the pasta; this is the water with humectants- the substances which work like a magnet for water by keeping it in place.
Cheese/ Béchamel – fatty layer which protects the layers underneath from evaporation; This is an emollient – an oily substance supplementing your low level of sebum.
Now, let’s translate it into the skincare routine:
For your face:
- Soften and plump the skin – spritz/splash your face generously with lukewarm water. When still wet apply humectant such as Hyaluronic Acid and lotion mask (wet compress made with cotton pads or thick cut strips of paper towel) and keep for 15-20 minutes. You can replace this step with hydrating, spreadable mask.
- Lock the moisture – apply emollient: oil, butter or rich moisturizer. In the case of very severe dryness the more opaque emollient, the better. When we deal with oily-dehydrated skin, a small amount of oil with skin -balancing properties such as Raspberry Seed Oil or Plum Seed Oil will help without clogging pores.
For your body:
Prepare a warm oatmeal bath (not too hot! Hot water will dry out your skin ). Pour two cups of finely blended watery oatmeal to the bathtub. If you don’t have a blender, submerged pouch made of thin sock or cheese cloth filled with two tablespoons of dry oats will do the job.
Oats act as a humectant and soothes irritated skin. After 30 minutes of immersing your body, you can rinse it off with warm water, gently tap soaking areas and apply oil or butter all over before putting on your clothes.
Before exposure to extreme weather condition and dry air:
In this case, a usual morning-evening moisturizing routine is not enough to keep the skin from dryness. I would suggest applying oils or butter before each exposition to extreme weather.
If in the room you spend the majority of the time the heating/ air conditioner makes the air dry it would be a good idea to invest in a humidifier or hang wet cloths on radiators or in front of AC airflow.
Rich moisturizers are your shield in the fight against itching and tightness but they rub off easily and regular application is the only solution since your skin is not able to produce their own moisturizing agents.
Should I exfoliate my dry/dehydrated skin?
Many brands promote enzymatic peels as a very gentle option for safe exfoliating in severe dryness cases.
Exfoliation improves skin absorption, but you must remember that the extremely dry/dehydrated skin is technically incomplete without a balance in sebum and water and thus very prone to sensitization. Minimizing exposition to as many cosmetic ingredients as possible will be beneficial in improving the skin condition. Less (ingredients) is more for dry skin.
Consider performing very gentle mechanical exfoliation by gentle circular rubs with soft damp muslin cloth or face towel during the bath time and before applying moisturizing products. Also, delicate massage with tiny particles such as Corundum or powdered oats could be recommended as dry/dehydrated skin friendly scrubs.
I’ve been using these methods for the last couple of years. Uncomfortable dryness in certain areas of my body is a reminder that I’m not taking care of my body enough. The Fighting against dry/dehydrated skin a hard everyday work but it’s absolutely worth it to win back the feeling of being comfortable in your own body.