Help! Why do I *Still* Have Dry Scaly Skin?
Winter is the season for holidays, snowstorms, and family time…but it can also be a season of school finals, chapped lips, and severely dry and flaky skin. And even though you keep up with your typical skincare ritual, sometimes it’s not enough to combat that winter dry scaly skin.
- Your environment, lifestyle, and your genetics all play a major role in how dry your skin gets.
- Sometimes, eczema and psoriasis can be mistaken for severely dry skin. If you notice red, itchy patches, talk to your dermatologist about treating and managing those skin conditions
- Hydrating serums that contain glycerin, hyaluronic acid, ceramides, and squalane are all great ingredients to look out for. Stay away from scrubs and gels
- Lifestyle changes can have a big effect on dry skin: wearing SPF, showering after sweating, drinking water, and getting a humidifier can all help to decrease dry and flakiness
What causes dry scaly skin?
Dry skin can be attributed to a number of factors, some that you can control and some that you can’t control.
1. The environment
Your environment has a great deal to do with your body, and, more specifically your skin. If you live in a warmer climate with higher levels of humidity, your skin will be more naturally hydrated and plump. If you live in a colder and drier climate, your skin will lose more hydration quicker and will appear tighter. Pollution also can have an effect on your skin, but the consequences are more long-term and not something that is easily noticeable. If you live in a busy city, the smog and excess exhaust can speed up the aging process.
Your lifestyle also has a huge effect on your skin. One of the biggest lifestyle choices to make to protect yourself is wearing sunscreen daily. For some, this may not come as a surprise, but others assume that SPF isn’t necessary unless they’re headed to the beach. The truth is, sunscreen is a necessity even on the days you stay in or the days that it's gray skies and clouds. It may not seem like wearing SPF has an effect on dryness, but not protecting yourself from the sun can further suck the moisture out of your skin.
Getting enough sleep is extremely important for overall health, but lack of sleep can show in your face as well. Not only will you have dark and puffy under-eyes, but when you don’t get enough sleep, your body is not able to replenish itself from the day before. The nighttime is when the body heals and rejuvenates from all of the stressors it endures during the day. If you don’t allow your body at least 8 hours of rest, it won’t be able to fully rehydrate itself and you’ll wake up with tired, dry, and dull skin.
Lastly, alcohol and cigarette consumption have major effects on your skin. Alcohol literally removes the moisture from your skin, leaving it feeling tight, dry, and flaky. Smoking also dries out the skin by narrowing blood vessels. As the blood vessels constrict, it’s harder for the nutrients that naturally moisturize your skin to pass through, leaving it drier in the end. Narrowed blood vessels also increase your skin’s risk of scarring. If all of the other health risks associated with alcohol and smoking don’t scare you enough, let this be your sign to stop if you want healthy skin!
The factor that cannot be controlled and is arguably the most influential: genetics. Genetics plays such a huge role in your overall health and especially your skin. Your skin type, skin tone, and face shape are all attributed to your genetics. Although your environment, lifestyle, and skincare routine do affect how dry your skin is, at the end of the day your genetic skin type is the most important aspect. Those with dry skin will always have dry skin; it’s just a matter of maintaining that dryness and finding what products and routines work best for them. Those with more oily skin, will never technically have dry skin, but rather dehydrated skin, which can be combatted with the right ingredients.
Oftentimes, the two can have similar symptoms and are confused with one another, but there is a major difference. Dehydrated skin is your skin’s lack of water, whereas dry skin is a lack of oil or sebum. Your body produces sebum, so having dry skin is a genetic skin type that cannot be altered. Dehydrated skin is a temporary skin condition and can oftentimes be treated by introducing hydrating ingredients that bring water content back into the skin.
How to identify if your dry scaly skin is eczema or psoriasis
Dry skin is a skin type, whereas eczema and psoriasis are skin conditions. While eczema and psoriasis definitely can cause dry skin or dry patches, they typically have more identifiable symptoms such as:
- Red or silvery patches
- Raised areas of skin
- Thickened skin
- Bumps that may leak fluid or crust over
Typically, a case of eczema or psoriasis will include more severe symptoms rather than just dryness and flakiness. If you notice any of these more severe symptoms, talk to your doctor. Unfortunately, eczema and psoriasis cannot be cured, but they are very manageable skin conditions. It’s best to see your dermatologist to discuss prescriptions and lifestyle changes to keep the symptoms at bay.
How to prevent and treat dry, scaly skin
Fortunately, dry skin is treatable and can be very preventable with the right products and techniques! As far as products go, stick to things that are designed to hydrate the skin. Most things labeled gel, acne-prone, or scrub, are NOT dry-skin friendly and should be avoided. Stick to hydrating ingredients such as:
These ingredients have water attraction properties and will help to draw moisture into the skin. They come in a variety of products, but typically in the form of a serum. These serums can and should be applied both day and night, and are best paired with an occlusive such as Vaseline, Aquaphor, or some sort of ointment in order to lock in that moisture and prevent any transepidermal water loss. Because these occlusives can be thick, they are typically used only at nighttime; but it can be beneficial to use a thinner, more lightweight moisturizer on top of the serum during the day too.
As far as lifestyle changes, wearing sunscreen daily is crucial for several different reasons, but will definitely help to keep your skin from getting sunburnt and therefore peeling or flaking. It’s also important to take a shower or at least wash your face off immediately after working out. Sweat is made up of 1% salt, which will dehydrate the skin if left for too long. Working out and then waiting hours to shower or wash your face will severely dry out the skin all over your body.
Eating a balanced diet will also help to prevent any dehydration. Making sure you get your daily intake of fruits, vegetables, vitamins, and water will help supply your body with moisture from the inside out. And lastly, a humidifier can help tremendously with dry or dehydrated skin. Our climate is something we cannot control, so during those winter months if you live in a dry place, buy a humidifier and keep it in your bedroom. It’ll help to keep your skin hydrated and will also help to prevent any sicknesses and bloody noses.
Overall, dry skin is something that cannot necessarily be altered, but preventing dehydration is very doable with the right ingredients and lifestyle changes. The wintertime can be tough, especially on our skin, but keeping a consistent routine will give you the best results!
Written by Jordan Hammaren