What Causes Ashen Skin and How Do You Get Rid of It?
Whether it's because of the colder winter weather, your obsession with steamy, hot showers or a lack of overall hydration, dry, ashy skin is never comfortable. Luckily, getting your skin back to a state of hydrated bliss is possible. We turned to the experts to get some info on ashen skin, who can get it, what causes it and how exactly you should care for it.
What Is Ashen Skin?
Xerosis, asteatosis, dehydration — call it what you will, but ashy skin as an overarching term refers to skin that is very dry. Dead skin cells accumulate on the surface and may cause skin to flake and take on a pale and grayish hue. SkinCeuticals ambassador and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Peter Schmid says, “ashen skin is basically very dry skin with an accumulation of dead skin cells,” he says. “Dry skin is generally not a serious condition, but it can be uncomfortable, embarrassing and look unhealthy if flaky skin is visible.”
Who Can Experience Ashen Skin?
In short, anyone can get ashen skin, regardless of skin type or tone. Depending on your skin tone, the shade of ash may vary. Some may display a dull, pale look, while others can develop a gray or slightly green appearance.
What Causes Ashen Skin?
There is a wide range of causes for dry skin, which include everything from environmental factors to poor lifestyle habits. Below, we tackle five factors that could be contributing to your ashen skin.
Ashen Skin Cause #1: Harsh Weather Conditions
Dry or low-humidity climates can provoke dryness. If you live in an area that’s prone to blistering winds and sub-zero temps, your skin will need extra TLC to fend off flakes. Make sure to use a moisturizer daily and exfoliate as needed to avoid a build up of dead skin cells.
Ashen Skin Cause #2: Heat
While the cold air is an obvious trigger for dryness, don’t forget about the effects of heat. Amenities like space heaters, central heating and fireplaces can reduce the humidity in the air and zap the moisture from your skin in return. Unfortunately, both cold weather and artificial heating are mainstays of the winter. We recommend investing in a humidifier to help add moisture back into the air in your home.
Ashen Skin Cause #3: Harsh Soaps and Detergents
According to board-certified dermatologist, SkinCeuticals ambassador and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Jeanne Eyde, soaps, detergents and shampoos can cause ashy skin if they strip the skin of natural oils. Opt for gentle and fragrance-free skin and hair-care products.
Ashen Skin Cause #4: Hot Baths and Showers
Steamy showers may be comforting in the winter, but they aren’t doing any favors for your skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), hot water strips the natural oils from your skin. When showering, keep the temperature lukewarm and the duration of your shower short. The AAD says showers that last between 5 and 10 minutes actually add moisture to your skin. Staying in for too long can do the opposite, though, leaving your skin less hydrated than before. Pro tip: After exiting the shower, apply moisturizer while your skin is still slightly damp to better lock in moisture.
Ashen Skin Cause #5: Swimming in Chlorinated Pools
Have you ever noticed a chalky-white appearance on your skin after a lap in the pool? This could be due to chlorine stripping your skin of its natural oils. “While chlorine is great to kill harmful bacteria, it’s not so great for your skin and hair as it also kills good bacteria, in addition to stripping natural oils,” warns board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com expert Dr. Dendy Engelman.
So, How Can You Address Ashen Skin?
Ashen skin can be uncomfortable, but the good news is that it’s fairly easy to address. “For facial dryness, my patients have had great success with a series of mild-to-medium depth in-office chemical peels combined with a well-rounded at-home skin-care regimen,” says Dr. Schmid. “A routine of SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleansing Cream, SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic and SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 is an excellent regimen for restoring the skin’s appearance. This, followed by a sunscreen such as SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion SPF 50 helps to protect the repaired complexion.” Dr. Eyde also recommends a product that can exfoliate the skin while simultaneously hydrating it, such as SkinCeuticals Body Retexturizing Treatment.
An important note from Dr. Schmid: Ashy skin can also indicate certain medical conditions. “If you are concerned that your ashy skin is more than a dry skin condition, please seek medical assistance to diagnose the underlying problem and take the appropriate course of action as advised by your physician.”
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn