What is Ashen Skin? Everything You Need to Know
We turned to our team of experts to learn more about ashen skin, who can get it, what causes it, and how you can care for yours.
WHAT IS ASHEN SKIN?
Xerosis, asteatosis, dehydration—call it what you will, but ashy skin refers to skin that is very dry. Because of this accumulation of dry, dead skin cells on the surface, skin can flake and look “ashy,” or pale and greyish in hue. SkinCeuticals ambassador and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Peter Schmid agrees. “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 experience ashen skin, regardless of skin type or tone. Depending on your skin tone, “ashy” may appear differently. For instance, for some it may cause a dull, pale look while for others it may take on a grey, or slightly green appearance.
WHAT CAUSES ASHEN SKIN?
Since ashen skin simply refers to skin that’s dry, there are many dry skin causes we can list here. These can include environmental factors, as well as poor lifestyle habits. For example, if you’re neglecting to moisturize your skin daily, dryness is only inevitable. Same goes for exfoliation. If you never take the effort to slough that dead skin layer off your skin’s surface, it will eventually accumulate, cause a rough feel, and dull your skin’s natural radiance.
Ashen Skin Cause #1: Harsh Weather Conditions
Dry or low-humidity climates can provoke dryness to the skin. 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. This is why many people experience skin that feels drier than usual in the wintertime. For tips on how to combat skin dryness during the winter, follow a dermatologist’s guide to winter skin care, here.
Ashen Skin Cause #2: Heat
The bitter cold can cause dryness, but so too can extreme heat. Amenities like space heaters, central heating, and fireplaces can reduce the humidity in the air, zapping 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 products in your skin and haircare routines if you suspect this to be an issue.
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 water temperature at lukewarm. That, and keep showers short. The AAD says showers that last between 5 and 10 minutes actually adds moisture to your skin. Staying in for too long can do the opposite though, leaving your skin less hydrated than before.
Editor’s note: 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.
HOW CAN YOU ADDRESS ASHEN SKIN?
Ashen skin can be uncomfortable and unsightly, 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 Soothing Cleanser Foam, 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 quality 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 simulatenously 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.”