Dry skin, at its worst, can be known as Dermatitis, Ichthyosis, or Eczema. Those topics are discussed elsewhere if appropriate. This section is just for mild to moderate dryness.
Dry skin is recognizable by its tight, rough feel and its dull appearance; it is apparent in its upper-most layer, the epidermis. Roughly 80% of the body's epidermal cells are made of keratinocytes, composed of soft protein keratin. The epidermal cells are born in the lowest layer of the epidermis, the basal layer. As these cells rise toward the outer layer, they undergo many changes, including the increase in the amount of keratin they produce. By the time the cells reach the top, they are no longer alive, and are formed entirely of keratin.
Keratin needs water to keep it pliable and healthy; when there is not enough water, the keratin crumbles and the cells can't stay together. This is what happens when the skin becomes dry. When the water content of your skin drops below ten percent, it gets rough, chaps, and scales. The skin's surface normally contains 10%-20% water. When there's too little water in the outermost layer, it loses flexibility, itches and may crack. In order to keep this from happening, a way must be found to keep water trapped in the skin, keeping the keratin healthy.
General Tips for Dry Skin
If you're like most people, your personal cleansing and bathing habits probably grew out of your childhood and teenage years. For most of us that means frequent baths and showers, deodorant soaps, and a variety of facial cleansers. But if you have dry skin, those habits and products may be one of the main reasons why your skin is in such poor shape. These habits can strip your skin of the scanty amounts of moisture and oil that it has. Here are some steps to take, which can restore moisture and suppleness to your skin:
- Cut back on baths and showers, even facial cleansing.
- Scale back showers or baths to at least every other day or less. In between, you can perform sponge baths on odor-causing parts of your body.
- Where the face is concerned, dry skin sufferers should wash with a cleanser only once a day, preferably in the evening. In the morning, just splash cool water or use a moisturizing toner and apply moisturizer. Because cleansers can strip away sebum and natural moisturizing factors from your skin, washing at night gives your skin time to replenish itself, before you need to face outside elements, such as wind, cold, and sunlight. Morning scrubs don't give your dry skin time to recover its defenses before you go outside.
- Rinse off thoroughly. Soap can leave a film on your skin that is drying. Wash off all residues of soap carefully. Some doctors recommend that you rinse your face carefully-from fifteen to twenty-five splashes-to remove all soap.
- When drying off, pat your skin - rubbing can irritate dry skin.
- Avoid using astringents and clarifying lotions on your face. These products contain alcohol and can irritate dry skin.
- Overheated houses are one of the main reasons dry skin seems to occur more often in the winter. The less hot air that circulates, the better chance you have of keeping some humidity in the air. Frequent warming and cooling can also contribute to skin dryness. Use a humidifier in dry areas, or add more plants, which perform much the same job as a humidifier, keeping more moisture in the air.
- Saunas and steam baths can make you sweat, and sweat can leach out natural moisturizing factors in your skin, leaving your skin drier than it was before.
- Protect your hands by wearing gloves. Chapped and irritated dry skin on the hands is a common problem for people with dry skin. Try rubber gloves to protect them from hot water and detergents. If you are allergy-prone, wear a cotton pair underneath. You could develop contact dermatitis from the rubber in the gloves.