Dry skin is medically known as xerosis. It’s characterized by skin that’s cracked, rough, scaly, or itchy. It’s one of the most common skin conditions and affects almost everybody at some point in their lives.
Moisturizers are one of the most effective treatments for dry skin, but they’re not always effective. If you’ve ever asked yourself why your skin is so dry when you moisturize regularly, keep reading to learn some of the possible answers.
Here are some of the possible explanations of why your skin is dry despite moisturizing.
Over time, dead skin cells can build up on the surface of your skin and can give it a dry and flaky texture. Exfoliating can help remove these cells and potentially improve the texture of your skin.
The surface of your skin contains oil and a group of molecules called natural moisturizing factors that help protect your skin’s natural moisture barrier. Overwashing your skin can lead to dryness by removing these molecules.
If your skin feels tight or irritated after bathing, it may be a sign that you’re overwashing.
Dehydration or malnutrition
The outer layer of your skin is made up of about
Deficiency in the following can also contribute to skin dryness:
Using a harsh cleanser
Using harsh soaps and cleansing products can potentially irritate or dry out your skin. The following cleanser ingredients can all potentially lead to dry skin:
- isopropyl alcohols
- benzyl alcohol
Cream cleansers are often gentler for dry skin than gel or foam cleansers.
The active ingredients in the moisturizer have lost effectiveness
In theory, using a moisturizer past its expiration date may make it less effective. Most moisturizers last a long time. But to extend their life, it’s a good idea to keep them away from sources of heat and avoid buying lotions missing a lid seal.
Using the wrong moisturizer for your skin type
Different moisturizers work best on different skin types. If you’re prone to dry skin, you may need a thicker moisturizer than somebody with oilier skin.
Other ingredients that may help treat dry skin include:
Side effect of some medications and medical treatments
Some medications or medical treatments can cause dry skin as a side effect. These include:
- benzoyl peroxide
- birth control
- topical steroids
- cholesterol-lowering drugs
- radiation therapy
Some skin conditions
Some types of skin conditions cause patches of dry skin. These conditions include:
- atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- allergic contact dermatitis
- irritant contact dermatitis
- seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff)
Some infectious diseases like scabies, and bacterial or fungal infections can also lead to dry skin.
Living in a cold, dry climate
Cold air naturally holds less moisture than warmer air. The dry air can draw moisture away from your skin and cause it to dry out. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can also contribute to skin dryness.
Bathing with water that’s too hot or swimming in chlorinated water
Taking excessively hot showers or baths can damage the outer layer of your skin and strip it of its naturally protective oils. Chlorine found in swimming pools also has the potential to strip the natural oils from your skin.
Underlying medical condition
Some underlying medical condition can potentially lead to dry skin. Some of these conditions include:
Genetics and ethnicity
Some people are naturally more prone to developing dry skin than others.
The way you apply moisturizer can play a role in determining its effectiveness. Here are some tips to maximize its benefits.
Moisturize right after bathing
One of the ways moisturizers work is by trapping moisture on your skin. Ingredients that have a water-trapping effect are known as occlusives. The best time to apply occlusives is right after bathing, within a few minutes of towel drying.
Find the right moisturizer
Using the wrong type of skin products can contribute to skin dryness. Removing potentially drying products from your skin care routine may be enough to moisturize your skin or you can try switching to a product specifically designed to target dry skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends looking for products that contain:
Moisturize in the morning and before bedtime
You may want to try applying a light moisturizer in the morning and a heavier moisturizer before bed to maximize the amount of time the product is in contact with your skin. Many moisturizers designed for day use contain some level of SPF protection to prevent sun damage, which can contribute to dryness.
Use a hydrating toner
Toners help cleanse your skin and prepare it for a moisturizer. They’re best applied after your cleanser and before serums and moisturizers. Some toners target specific skin concerns like dryness, acne, or sun damage.
Use a serum
Use creams instead of lotions
Creams or ointments are often less irritating and more effective than lotions for people with dry skin.
Although the terms sound similar, dry skin and dehydrated skin refer to different issues.
Dry skin refers to skin that’s dry and flaky due to a lack of oil and natural moisturizing factors.
Dehydrated skin occurs when there’s inadequate water in your skin. Dehydration causes your skin to become less elastic and more prone to showing signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles. It also raises your chances of developing dry skin.
Dry skin usually isn’t serious and often responds to lifestyle changes or by moisturizing more often. If it’s causing you discomfort, you develop open wounds, or if you notice signs of an infection, it’s a good idea to see a dermatologist.
A dermatologist can also help you if your dry skin becomes a chronic problem that doesn’t respond to home remedies or moisturizing creams.
Dry skin can be caused by many factors.
If you’re moisturizing your skin regularly but still develop dryness, you may want to check the ingredients in your moisturizer to see if they contain potentially dehydrating ingredients, such as isopropyl alcohol or sulfates. You may find you have better results with products containing ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or ceramides.
Dry skin is rarely serious, but if it becomes a persistent problem or leads to discomfort, it may be time to see a dermatologist.