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Dry skin is not only uncomfortable and unsightly, it’s also very frustrating to deal with. Even with the perfect skincare routine, you can still have dry skin. There are many different causes of dry skin and many of them don’t have anything to do with what skincare products you use.
Even if your skin is typically oily, you can still experience dry skin. You can also experience dry skin anywhere on your body, but it most commonly affects your face, hands and legs.
Maybe you’ve tried every product under the sun for dry skin and nothing seems to help.
Although using the right skincare products is essential for dry skin, but that’s not the only thing that can cause it. It’s important to look at your lifestyle and other factors as well.
So, let’s jump right in and learn what causes dry skin!
Signs Of Dry Skin
First, let’s talk about how to tell if you have dry skin. This may seem pretty obvious, but sometimes dry skin is a symptom of other skin conditions like eczema.
Most people will have more than one symptom of dry skin, and often times dry skin might get better or worse depending on the season or your lifestyle.
Signs and symptoms of dry skin can include:
- Skin feels tight
- Rough and uneven texture
- Flaking or peeling
- Lines or cracks in the skin
- Skin may look ashy
Causes of Dry Skin
Dry skin can be caused by many different factors. Oftentimes there are multiple reasons why skin is dry. So, it’s important to look at your lifestyle and skincare in detail to make sure you’re not missing anything that may be causing your skin to be dry.
Fragrance can be very irritating, especially for already dry skin. Additionally, fragrance can also make dry skin worse.
Read ingredient labels carefully! Just because it says “fragrance free” doesn’t mean it’s free from harsh and irritating essential oils. Look out for the words fragrance, parfum (or perfume) and essential oils like lavender oil, lemon oil, orange oil etc.
This is one of the biggest causes of dry skin. Sulfates are designed to remove grease and oil. When you use them on your skin, you are removing your skins protective barrier. The oils produced by your skin are supposed to naturally keep your skin moisturized.
The oils are also designed to lock in moisture.
So, when you use sulfates, you are washing off those oils, and also leaving your skin susceptible to dehydration. Without those protective oils, all the water that is naturally in your skin evaporates!
Look for sulfate free products. The worst sulfates are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).
Although drinking alcohol can also dehydrate your skin, I’m talking about alcohols in skincare. Particularly, cleaning alcohol. Yes, really!
They are used as a preservative and also make products feel lighter and less heavy, especially for oily skin. But, they are also extremely drying and irritating and they should be avoided at ALL costs, even if you don’t have dry skin.
Look out for Alcohols like ethanol, isopropyl alcohol, alcohol denat, and methanol.
Sun exposure is so damaging to this skin and this damage can cause skin to be dry. The sun essentially dehydrates your skin and disrupts its protective oil barrier.
Remember to wear lots of sunscreen if you’re going to be outdoors, reapply OFTEN and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
If your family has dry skin too, chances are it’s just genetic. Certain mutations in your genes can affect your skin, causing dry skin and leaving you more susceptible to skin conditions like eczema or dermatitis.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to to change your genetics, but you can still combat dry skin with the right skincare routine and lifestyle.
If your water has high concentrations of minerals, it’s known as hard water. When you use hard water, those minerals tend to stay on your skin and form a film of minerals, which causes your skin to be dry and your skincare products cannot sink into your skin as well.
This film can lead to clogged pores and acne, as well as prevent your moisturizers and products from absorbing into the skin.
How to tell if you have hard water:
- white deposits on your faucets
- soap scum in your shower or sinks
- chalky residue on dishes
- metallic or funny smelling or tasting water
There are also certain tests you can do to tell if you have hard water, but with the above signs you should be able to determine if you have hard water.
If you do, typically the best thing to do is install a water softener or water filter.
Your skincare products are often a big cause of dry skin. Especially if you use products for fighting acne or anti-aging. These types of products tend to have ingredients that can cause skin to be dry.
Ingredients that cause dry skin:
- Retinoids (retinol, tretinoin)
- AHA, BHA
- Benzoyl Peroxide
Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your beloved products! If you think they are causing your skin to be dry, simple reduce how often you use them. Or make sure you are using a gentle (sulfate free!) cleanser and a good moisturizer.
If you live in a low-humidity climate, chances are your skin will be on the drier side. When humidity is low, there is not a lot of water in the air for your skin to absorb, causing dry skin.
To combat low humidity environments, get a humidifier. Keep it on around 40% humidity and be sure to change the water often and clean it thoroughly.
Washing Too Often
If you are washing your skin multiple times a day, that is definitely going to cause dry skin. Try to wash your skin as less as possible. Except for your hands, please keep washing your hands.
But there’s no reason why you need to wash your face or body multiple times a day!
Again, each time you wash your skin you are removing your natural protective oils and leaving skin susceptible to dehydration.
Stick to washing once a day, twice if absolutely necessary. Also be sure you’re using a good, gentle, sulfate free body wash or cleanser. For hands, you can also find sulfate free hand soaps and be sure to use a good hand cream often.
Yes, your beloved hot showers can be contributing to your dry skin. The hot water can strip your skin and lead to dehydration.
If you’re anything like me, and you just refuse to give up your hot showers, then don’t worry, there are still things you can do to combat this. Try to limit how long you are in the shower and be sure to use a good moisturizer immediately after.
Aging is another big cause of dry skin. As we age, our skin produces less oil. Meaning, your skin is less protected from the harsh environment like low humidity and hot showers. Additionally, less oil means that your skin is less able to hold onto water, leading to dehydration and dryness.
There’s not much you can do about this, except make sure you are using well formulated skincare products for dry skin.
Certain medications can cause dry skin as a side effect. Even medications unrelated to skin conditions can cause it. Look up your medications to see if dry skin may be a side effect or as your doctor or pharmacist if you’re unsure.
Who knew that unrelated medications could be a cause of dry skin.
Swimming in chlorinated pools can lead to dry skin, especially if you’re swimming in them often. If you swim a lot, be sure to shower well afterwards to rinse the chlorine off your skin and use a good moisturizer.
How To Care For Dry Skin
Hopefully these tips were able to help you pinpoint causes of dry skin and you can make some lifestyle changes. However, it’s still important to use the proper skincare for dry skin and make sure you’re using well-formulated products with good ingredients.
Skin care is a huge cause of dry skin and many people are using the wrong products! Just because it says “for dry skin” doesn’t mean it’s a good option.
Ingredients To Look Out For
The right ingredients can make or break your skin care routine for dry skin. Be sure to look for products with at least a few of the following ingredients:
- hyaluronic acid
- lactic acid
- amino acids
- butters like shea butter
- oils like jojoba, sunflower seed oil, squalene oil
- Centella asiatica
A Gentle Cleanser
Make sure the body wash or face wash you are using is sulfate free, fragrance free and has moisturizing ingredients like mentioned above.
Check out my post on the best moisturizing body washes for dry skin.
Pat Dry After Washing
Be very gentle with your skin after you wash it and don’t rub it with a towel to dry off. Instead, gently pat your skin dry and continue with your skincare routine.
Apply Moisturizer On Wet Skin
Moisturizer works best when it’s applied on damp or wet skin. This way, your skin will lock in that hydration and keep it from evaporating and your skin will be plump and full of moisture!
As you can see, there are many different causes of dry skin. Pinpointing what’s causing your dry skin can be hard. Hopefully, this was helpful and you have some ideas on what’s causing your dry skin now and you’ll be able to take the right steps to fix dry skin.
Do you have dry skin? What are your favorite products that help your dry skin?
Check out my winter beauty tips to help you combat dry skin during the winter.