When your body is thirsty, it needs water. However, this principle does not apply to dry, thirsty skin. We tend to think that drinking a lot of water can cure dry skin, but the truth is that it’s not effective.
A normally-hydrated person probably won’t see a difference in their skin after drinking an increased volume of water. Drinking an excessive amount of water can lead to other health problems and is not recommended (nor effective) for dry skin.
Dry skin is an external problem and is best treated from the outside. External factors such as cleansing products, environment and oil glands determine how dry your skin is or will become.
What Causes Dry Skin
In general, anything that causes loss of water and reduces barrier function of the top layer of skin, or stratum corneum, can lead to the feeling of dry skin. Exposure to outside irritants such as chemicals, solvents, detergents, and excessive water can make skin dry.
Other things that can dry skin out are fragrances such as perfume, excessive bathing or swimming, and even certain weather conditions.
Low humidity, cool air and dry winds are drying for the skin. We typically see dry skin often in the winter when all of these factors are playing a role. The humid Arkansas summers can bring relief to dry skin sufferers.
Solutions for Dry Skin
The best solution for dry skin is to treat it from the outside with moisturizers such as a lotion, cream, ointment or oil, which forms an effective barrier to water loss. Try applying the cream within a few minutes of bathing, when the skin is damp, which will lock in moisture.
When it comes to cleansing your skin, mild, fragrance-free soaps or soap substitutes are the best. Many soaps tend to strip the skin’s oils or lipids, which are part of the skin’s normal protective barrier. Deodorant bars, antibacterial soaps, perfumed soaps and skincare products tend to be more drying.
Other ways to treat or prevent dry skin include:
- Limit bathing time to about 10 minutes once a day and use warm water instead of extremely hot water, which robs the skin of moisture.
- Try white petrolatum as a body moisturizer once or twice a day.
- In winter months, apply moisturizer to your feet and hands, and then put on gloves before you go outside.
- For extremely dry feet, apply moisturizer at night and sleep in cotton socks.
- Use facial moisturizers marketed only for the face. Body moisturizers with oils can induce acne and folliculitis lesions, or infections of the hair follicles.
- Avoid irritants as much as possible. Those who work with irritating products can protect their skin by applying moisturizer and wearing protective clothing.
- After swimming, shower off to remove residual pool chemicals and then apply moisturizer.
- Wear gloves when washing dishes.