Skin Science

What Causes Dry Skin

by Neostrata
February 9, 2023

DRY SKIN SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

Feel like you’re battling dry skin – no matter what time of year it is?

Dry skin happens when the skin doesn't retain enough moisture-rich water, lipids and oils that keep it healthy. As a result, the skin barrier becomes impaired and the skin looks and feels dry, rough, scaly and itchy.

Signs and symptoms of dry skin range from mild to severe and can vary depending on age, coexisting medical conditions and environmental factors, but likely include one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Skin that feels and looks rough, scaly or flaky
  • A feeling of skin tightness, especially after bathing or swimming
  • Itching (pruritus)
  • Burning, stinging or redness
  • Fine lines or crepiness in the skin
  • Calloused, rough, cracked skin
  • Gray, ashy skin


WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF DRY SKIN

Anyone can develop dry skin. While the cause is most often environmental or genetics, certain diseases can also play a significant role. Causes of dry skin can include one or more of the following:

CLIMATE

Skin is generally driest in the winter when temperatures and humidity levels drop. “Winter can also cause preexisting skin conditions (like eczema and psoriasis) to worsen. Unfortunately, many people may develop red or hyperpigmented, cracked or chafed skin that has a burning or tingling sensation.” Explains Dr. Hope Mitchell, a board-certified dermatologist based in Ohio.


HUMIDITY

“Drier air draws moisture right out of the skin.” Says Dr. Mitchell. Winter is a peak time for dry skin due to low humidity in the air and from central heating systems, “which can also dry out the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose, lips and mouth,” Dr. Mitchell warns.


BATHING AND SWIMMING

Showering or bathing for long periods with hot water can strip the skin barrier of precious lipids. Frequent swimming in heavily chlorinated pools can have the same effect.


HARSH CLEANSERS

Harsh soaps and detergents can also wreak havoc on skin. Normal skin has a balance of moisture and oils and is slightly acidic at a pH of ~5.0. Soaps tend to be much more alkaline with a pH of ~10.0. Synthetic detergents are a better choice with a pH closer to healthy skin.


SUN EXPOSURE

Sun exposure in any climate can dry out the skin. UV rays penetrate deep below the skin's surface, leading to wrinkles and sagging skin. Sun-exposed skin gradually loses moisture and essential oils, making it appear dry, flaky and prematurely wrinkled.


LIFESTYLE FACTORS

Our daily habits, stress levels and diet can all have an effect on our skin. Lack of sleep, increased stress, smoking and alcohol use can all contribute to dryness and premature aging of the skin.


GENETICS

We are all born with different skin types (like dry, normal or oily) and levels of skin sensitivity. Genetics are believed to be linked to our skin type and why some people develop skin conditions like eczema, ichthyosis vulgaris and psoriasis.

Researchers have found that some people have a gene flaw that causes a lack of a type of protein, called filaggrin, in their skin. This protein is essential for skin barrier function, helping to form a protective layer at the surface of the skin that keeps water in and foreign organisms out. Reduction or complete absence of this important protein leads to impaired formation of the skin barrier.

AGING

As we age, we tend to lose collagen and natural oily secretions from glands in our skin. Normal cell turnover slows down (even if we don’t), our skin barrier becomes weaker and can’t repair itself as easily. Couple this with environmental exposures, hormonal changes and any medical conditions or medications – and you have a recipe for dry skin.


MEDICATIONS

There are certain medications that cause dry skin by reducing the stratum corneum's water content. Common medications that can cause dry skin include retinol, acne or blood pressure medications.


A REGIMEN TO CARE FOR DRY, SENSITIVE SKIN

The ideal regimen for dry, sensitive skin should reduce skin dryness, irritation and itching, as well as enhance the skin’s appearance and protective function by helping to restore the skin barrier.


CLEANSER

Dry, sensitive skin needs a gentle, soap-free, fragrance-free cleanser. PHA Facial Cleanser gently cleanses and prepares the skin to optimize the skincare regimen that follows. Formulated with a non-irritating Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA), known to lightly exfoliate without drying skin's protective moisture barrier.


SERUM

Applying a serum before moisturizing will give dry skin an extra boost and add a layer of protection from the elements. Try our Bionic Face Serum with 10% Polyhydroxy Bionic Acid, a potent antioxidant to help support skin's moisture barrier and protect against environmental factors.


MOISTURIZER

The best moisturizers for dry skin have a combination of moisturizing ingredients that prevent water loss and restore skin hydration. Bionic Face Cream is an excellent choice to combat dry winter skin because it provides intense hydration and helps soothe and revitalize the look of stressed skin. It’s also non-comedogenic and fragrance free – ideal for dry, sensitive skin. “Bionic Acid attracts and retains moisture in the skin,” advises Dr. Mitchell. Bionic Face Cream is a soothing emollient with a rich balm-like texture ideal to help protect against environmental factors that winter can bring.


EYE CREAM

The skin around our eyes is more delicate and thinner than other facial skin, which can be exaggerated for those with dry skin. PHA Eye Cream combines antiaging Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) technology known to protect the skin's moisture barrier in a light cream, containing nourishing oils and Hyaluronic Acid to hydrate and soothe the delicate eye area.


SUNSCREEN

Everyone should wear sunscreen, every day, all year long. Sheer Physical Protection Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 combines potent antioxidants with a Polyhydroxy Acid (PHA) complex to protect and support skin's moisture barrier against environmental aggressors. Formulated exclusively with mineral sunscreens: Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.


Looking for other ways to treat dry skin and learn how tweaking certain everyday habits can help treat dry skin? Checkout this article to find out details: How To Treat Dry Skin.

LEARN HOW TO USE OUR PRODUCTS

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References

  • Guenther L, et al. Pathway to Dry Skin Prevention and Treatment. Journal of cutaneous medicine and surgery. 16. 23-31. 10.2310/7750.2011.10104.
  • Dry skin – American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/dry-sweaty-skin/dry-skin#causes
  • Dry skin – Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-skin/symptoms-causes/dxc-20248892
  • Madison K. C. 2003. Barrier function of the skin: "la raison d’etre" of the epidermis. J. Invest. Dermatol.121: 231–241.
  • Tončić R, et al. Skin barrier and dry skin in the mature patient. Clinics in Dermatology,Volume 36, Issue 2, 2018, Pages 109-115.
  • Proksch E. pH in nature, humans and skin. The Journal of Dermatology. 2018;0(0). 10.1111/1346-8138.14489
  • Tarun J, Susan J, Suria J, Susan VJ, Criton S. Evaluation of pH of Bathing Soaps and Shampoos for Skin and Hair Care. Indian J Dermatol. 2014;59(5):442-4.
  • Ortiz A, et al. Smoking and the skin. Int J Dermatol. 2012 Mar;51(3):250-62. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2011.05205.x.
  • Altemus M, et al. Stress-induced changes in skin barrier function in healthy women. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2001;117(2):309–317.
  • Sandilands A, Sutherland C, Irvine AD, McLean WH. Filaggrin in the frontline: role in skin barrier function and disease. J Cell Sci. 2009;122(Pt 9):1285-94.
  • Hashizume, H. (2004), Skin Aging and Dry Skin. The Journal of Dermatology, 31: 603-609.
  • Itchy, Scratchy Skin: Preventing and Managing Xerosis https://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2013/ june2013/itchy-scratchy-skin-preventing-and-managing-xerosis

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