What is Dry Skin? Understanding This Skin Type
In a perfect world, we would all have perfect skin. Unfortunately, for most of us this isn’t the case. Each of us is different, and each of us has a unique skin type – one that usually comes with a few challenges of its own. It’s not uncommon to hear people express frustration over skin that’s unbalanced. Learning to understand your skin type can help you learn how to better care for it – especially if you’re one of the millions of people with dry skin.
What Is Dry Skin?
Just below the skin’s surface are these tiny little glands that produce oil. They’re called sebaceous glands, and they’re found everywhere on your body – except for the palms of your hands and the bottoms of your feet. The oil these glands produce is called sebum, and it’s what keeps our skin moisturized and supple.
Obviously, things can go haywire with the sebaceous glands and they either produce too much or too little sebum. In the case where the production isn’t enough to keep the skin properly balanced and moisturized, the result is dry skin.
Dry skin is prone to a host of issues. We often associate dry skin with premature aging, but the damaging effects can often start long before those first subtle signs of aging begin to appear. The lack of moisturization of dry skin makes it more prone to injury and infection – mostly because of the role sebum plays in maintaining the skin as a strong, flexible barrier against all the environmental unpleasantness we encounter every single day.
Signs of Dry Skin
Determining skin type can be a challenge – especially if you’re someone whose skin seems to have a split personality. Dry skin can occur anywhere on the body – something you’ve probably noticed if you live in a colder climate and suffer through dry hands and feet every winter. When dry skin appears on the face, it can be even more problematic because the skin of this area is thinner and more vulnerable to begin with.
If you have dry skin, whether it’s on your face, your knees, or seemingly every inch of your body, you’re probably experiencing a few telltale signs that your body isn’t producing the oils your skin needs to stay healthy on its own.
- Roughness, which may be present in smaller patches
- Premature aging
- Sensitivity to weather
- Skin that breaks or bleeds easily
Factors that Contribute to Dry Skin
So, you know that your sebum production is a little low, and your skin is showing all the classic signs of being dry. The question is, how does this happen in the first place?
For some, dry skin is the result of genetics, or simply the aging process. As we get a little older, there is a combination of factors that influence our skin type. The oil glands naturally begin to slow down over time, and this in combination with other factors (like a loss of collagen and elastin) leads to skin that looks and feels dry, maybe even a little lifeless and lacking tone.
There are also external factors that can contribute to dry skin. When your skin is exposed to certain environmental elements, it can cause the naturally protective lipid (sebum) layer that exists on the surface of the skin to deteriorate. As this happens, the skin beneath becomes even more vulnerable and can quickly lose even more moisture.
Some external or environmental factors that can lead to dry skin include:
- Harsh weather conditions, especially cold air
- A drastic change in weather, such as during the fall when it can be warm one day and snowy the next
- Sun exposure, especially if the skin has been severely damaged by tanning or sunburn
- UV rays from the tanning bed
- Washing your skin too frequently
- Using water that’s too hot or too cold on your skin
- Exposure to certain chemicals
Caring for Your Dry Skin
Because dry skin can be so vulnerable to damage and injury, it requires special care. If you have dry facial skin, you might also be concerned about premature aging and want to know how you can slow down the hands of time, despite the skin type that nature gave you.
Being proactive against drying the skin out, even more, is the first stepping to keeping your dry skin healthy. If you live in a climate that experiences drastic temperature changes, or you spend a lot of time in an indoor environment where the air is dry, an emollient moisturizer is essential. Look for one that contains vitamin C or hyaluronic acid for best results.
In fact, a good quality moisturizer or serum is essential for everyone with dry skin. Because dry skin can also be sensitive, it’s important to choose a moisturizer with gentle ingredients that have been formulated for your skin type. Of course, you’ll also want to apply sunscreen to further protect your skin if you’re going to be spending any amount of time outdoors.
Regular, gentle cleansing and skincare routine is important for soothing dry skin. Choose a gentle cleanser, again making sure that’s it’s formulated for your skin type. Always wash your skin with lukewarm water, as harsh water temperatures can strip away moisture from the skin. Yes, this means that you’ll have to give up those long, luxurious steaming hot showers if you want to keep your skin healthy.
Finally, don’t forget to exfoliate – just make sure you do so gently. You’ll want to skip the scrub type, harsh exfoliants that can scratch and damage the skin. Instead, look for enzymatic style exfoliants that rely on a natural chemical reaction to loosen the “glue” that holds those dead, dull skin cells to the skin surface. Regular exfoliation will help reveal the fresh, healthier skin that’s hiding underneath the layer of dry skin on top – helping you to look your most radiant self.
Start Pampering Your Dry Skin Today
Dry skin requires an extra gentle approach. Alleviating dry skin and keeping your symptoms from becoming more severe demands being proactive against the things that can steal moisture from your skin. Be gentle with it, and while you’re at it, be gentle with yourself also. Look for a skincare company that supports your healthy choices by offering products that are natural, and free of all the harsh ingredients that can dry your skin out even more. Treat your dry skin right, and it can look radiant for years to come.