The Dry Skin Guide: Causes, Treatments, Symptoms, & More
Have questions about dry skin? Good—because we tapped our team of skin care experts to help answer all your burning questions. Read on for answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about dry skin, including why skin feels drier in the winter and how best to get rid of dry skin once and for all!
DRY SKIN FAQS IN THIS ARTICLE
- What is dry skin?
- What causes dry skin?
- How can I get rid of dry skin?
- Why is my skin drier in the winter?
- Am I moisturizing enough?
- Is it possible to prevent dry skin in the winter?
- Why does my skin still feel dry, even after moisturizing?
- What are the best moisturizing ingredients for dry skin?
- Can I apply makeup to dry skin?
Dry skin—also known as xerosis—is incredibly common, and can occur at any age. According to dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, dry skin is not very difficult to notice. “If you see lifted skin—white flecks, usually—you probably have dry skin,” she says. Other signs and dry skin symptoms can include skin that feels and looks rough and scaly, itching, and a feeling of skin tightness especially after showering, bathing, or swimming, according to the Mayo Clinic.
If your skin feels dry and rough, that’s an indication that it’s in need of more moisture. But what can cause skin to dry out in the first place? From environmental factors (think: harsh winds, brutal cold, UVA and UVB rays) to poor skin care habits, there are many culprits that can be behind your dry skin. We list the most common causes of dry skin below:
Age: As we age, our skin naturally gets thinner and drier. In fact, the risk of dry skin only increases with age. The Mayo Clinic notes that more than 50 percent of adults in their 40s and older have dry skin.
Weather: Think about your environment. If you’re living in a dry climate (desert), chances are your skin will feel the effects of that. This can also occur if you live in a cold climate and are exposed to whipping winds regularly. As a result, many people experience temporary dry skin in the winter when those harsh weather conditions are prevalent. Unfortunately, artificial heating and cooling sources—which reign supreme in both cool and warm climates—only add insult to injury.
Hot baths and showers: While we can’t really do much about the ticking hands of time or our environment (unless you want to uproot your home), we can make sure our lifestyle habits are not causing more harm than good. A common cause of dry skin is taking long, hot baths and showers. While it may feel relaxing, it’s in the best interest of your skin to cut down that time and opt for lukewarm water instead.
Harsh soaps: Cleansing your skin is a vital step in a routine, but formulas that are harsh can strip too much moisture from your skin and cause dryness.
The easiest way to address dry skin is to apply moisturizer. These formulas are available in many forms—creams, lotions, ointments, salves—and can typically offer immediate relief. If moisturizing regularly does not help you, talk to your dermatologist about other options.
If your dry skin is caused by exposure to hot water, artificial heating systems, cold climates, or harsh soaps, a few lifestyle changes can help reduce those effects. In addition to applying moisturizing creams, emollients, or ointments, avoid harsh soaps and skin care ingredients, drink plenty of water throughout the day, place a humidifier in your home to counteract the dry weather, and protect your skin with gloves, hats, and scarves in the winter.
Winter is notorious for brutally cold temperatures and harsh winds which can whip at the skin and cause dryness. Pair that with an uptick in artificial heat indoors to shield from the cold, it’s no wonder so many people experience dry skin in the winter. “When it is cold outside there is more moisture in your skin than the air,” explains dermatologist Dr. Michelle Henry. “The brutal winter air leaches moisture from your skin causing uncomfortable dryness. Furthermore, indoor radiators use dry heat to warm up our homes. That dry heat causes further drying to the skin.”
You can certainly try to prevent dry skin in the winter, but Dr. Henry explains that most people (including those with oily skin) are likely to experience some level of dryness during the winter months. That said, it’s still worth taking preventative measures to keep dryness at bay. This includes using a milder cleanser, taking shorter showers, reducing your exposure to hot water (even when washing your hands), using a humidifier, and paying attention to your moisturizing habits.
Great question! You should moisturize your skin immediately after showering or using a cleanser, at least twice per day (morning and night), or as needed. If your skin is incredibly dry, you can apply moisturizer more regularly than twice per day. The good news is that it’s nearly impossible to over-moisturize your skin.
If you’re noticing that your skin isn’t feeling hydrated after multiple applications of moisturizer, there are a few reasons that could be. For starters, it could be that you’re applying moisturizer at the wrong time. “Your skin has the most moisture when it’s wet and moisturizers work best when skin is already hydrated,” says dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Michael Kaminer. If that doesn’t apply to your situation, consider swapping your moisturizer for a new one. It could be that the formula you’re using is not strong enough, or it’s not meant for your specific skin type. Other reasons include using irritating products that are stripping the skin of its moisture, not drinking enough water, applying moisturizer incorrectly, or neglecting to rid the skin of dead skin cell buildup. To help you find the culprit, find out what common moisturizer mistakes to avoid here.
When picking a moisturizer for your skin, consider the ingredients list for one of these moisturizing ingredients:
1. Hyaluronic Acid: This hydration powerhouse can hold up to 1000x its weight in water, making it a popular ingredient in moisturizers meant to hydrate and plump the look of skin. Try: Vichy Mineral 89.
2. Glycerin: Similar to hyaluronic acid, glycerin acts as a humectant to help lock in moisture on the skin’s surface. Try Kiehl's Ultra Facial Deep Moisture Balm.
3. Ceramides: Ceramides are part of the skin’s outer layers, making them a vital component of maintaining and reinforcing the skin’s natural protective barrier. Try: SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2.
4. Essential Oils: Essential oils can offer an incredible amount of moisture to the skin, helping to smooth its look and feel. Look for oils like coconut, argan, jojoba, avocado, rosehip, calendula, and more. Try: Vichy Ideal Body Serum-Milk.
Of course you can! Applying makeup onto dry skin can cause your makeup to crack, crease, and flake. In order to get the best possible look, we recommend tweaking your skin care routine a bit to ensure a well-moisturized canvas prior to cosmetics use. For the best tips on how to apply makeup onto dry skin, read this!