Dry Skin Causes, Treatment and Remedies
What do we mean by dry skin?
Our skin plays a protective role against external aggressions and helps to interact with the environment (other living organisms, heat, cold, UV rays, etc.) When there is a problem with our skin, for example if it becomes dry, these physiological functions can be diminished.
Dry skin, also called xerosis or xeroderma, is characterised by decrease in fat or lipid layer in the outer layer or superficial (epidermis) of the skin. The latter is also called the stratum corneum.
This results in a significant loss of water, because the lipid barrier can no longer play its protective role and consequently it is impermeable to water. Dry skin is often accompanied by greater sensitivity with a risk of irritation and infections as well as long-term complications such as atopic dermatitis (neurodermatitis), eczema or psoriasis.
What are the causes of dry skin?
Dry skin causes are varied:
- Atmospheric conditions: sun, cold, dry air (especially in winter in overheated places), severe winter weather, pollution, etc.
- Taking too many baths or showers (especially with hot to very hot water). Indeed, excessive exposure to water will remove the protective layers of the skin or the oil naturally present in the skin, resulting in dry skin
- The use of a basic soap (alkaline) and products containing alcohol in the galenic form
- Heredity: some people have genetically less lipid in the outer layer of the skin. For example, people with black skin tend to have dryer skin
- hormonal problems: for example, women going through menopause
- Age, with the years passing, it is normal to have dry skin
- Symptoms of a skin disease (dermatosis) such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, etc.
- The consumption of certain drugs (this is the case for example with isotretinoin, a drug used to treat severe acne, this drug often causes dry skin as a side effect)
- Due to excess of Vitamin A, with a daily intake higher than 100000 IU's
- Sunstroke (heat stroke)
What are the symptoms of dry skin?
The symptoms of dry skin are often easily noticed. Dry skin is thinner, less robust and more sensitive to weather conditions (cold, dry weather, high temperatures) and also to the use of inappropriate products. A vicious circle is established, whereby due to scratching the pain will increase and when the skin feels itchy, we tend to scratch even more. The symptoms can be temporary or season-related, for example a person may suffer from dry skin every winter but not during other seasons.
What is the treatment for dry skin?
In general, dry skin is treated with products for external use (topically); but for guaranteed effectiveness, it is important that the active agents of these products penetrate the skin. In other words, they must not remain on the surface but must enter the tissues of the skin to be active. There are many remedies for dry skin such as, ointments, lotions, creams or oily baths for sale in pharmacies, which help to hydrate dry skin. These products often contain a fat base such as paraffin (paraffin oil), propylene glycol petrolatum or glycerine. For each type of skin, a different product is advised.
Urea may increase the level of hydration of the skin by 60%. Urea-based creams or ointments are therefore strongly recommended for dry skin. In severe cases of dry skin, the use of oil (eg. oil for baby) is one of the best dry skin remedies. The oil is more effective than moisturising products to fight against dry skin.
Consult your dermatologist who will recommend a full treatment for dry skin. This might include creams, oral medications. In addition, natural remedies that can be easily found at home are usually effective.