10 Unusual Causes of Dry Skin

Itchy, dry skin is a sign of a lack of moisture. Where does this lack of moisture come from? Shari Marchbein, MD, a dermatologist at Downtown Dermatology in New York City, says that dry skin can be caused by an impaired skin barrier, dysfunction or deficiency of the necessary healthy fats in the top layer. The skin’s top layer normally consists of dead skin cells and natural oils. This help retains moisture.

“Fragrance Can Cause Skin Irritation” Fragrance can cause skin irritation. Amy Forman Taub MD is a clinical assistant professor at Northwestern Medicine in Lincolnshire. Because fragrance can cause allergic contact dermatitis, it may take multiple exposures.

Look at the ingredients for “fragrance” and remember to be “fragrance-free”. Pay attention to labels. Lavender oil, and other botanical oils, have natural preservative qualities and can be used in cosmetics that are still “fragrance-free.”

Soap may sap moisture from the skin and scalp. “Many soaps and detergents are formulated to remove oils,” Gretchen Frieling MD, a board-certified dermatopathologist in Newton, Massachusetts. You should choose carefully which face washes, laundry detergents, and body washes you use. Jeffrey Benabio MD, a dermatologist from Kaiser Permanente San Diego, said a moisturizing body was better than harsh soaps. Joel Schlessinger MD, a dermatologist from Omaha, Nebraska, warns against harsh detergents and fabric softeners if you have dry skin. Look for gentle laundry soaps such as Seventh Generation Free and Clear.

The genetics of dry skin could affect your risk. A study found that genetic mutations that affect the production of the protein fibragrin (which plays a part in forming and maintaining the skin’s barrier) can lead to several skin conditions. These mutations are found in approximately 10 percent of the population. They cause dry skin and a higher risk of developing eczema. Eczema is often caused by atopic dermatitis.

Hard water can prevent moisturizers from absorbing. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, tap water has a high level of minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. These minerals can cause skin dryness by leaving a film. Heavy metals can make the skin oily and cause dryness.

Retinol and acne medication speed skin cell turnover, causing dryness. According to MedlinePlus, salicylic acid is great for treating acne but can also dry out the skin. According to a study published in August 2017 in The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, dryness is also a side effect of retinol. It happens because retinol breaks down the connections between skin cells. These skin-care heroes don’t need to be abandoned, but reducing their use can result in less irritation. Dr. Forman Taub suggests that you reduce the frequency of using the cleanser from daily to weekly. Make sure to choose a gentle cleanser that doesn’t cause irritation, and consult your dermatologist if necessary.

Dry skin can occur indoors and out. Frieling states that forced air, particularly heat, can lower humidity levels, making the skin dry and itchy. You don’t have to live with dry and itchy skin all winter. A humidifier can restore humidity to your home. According to the Cleveland Clinic, keeping your humidifier at between 30 and 50% humidity is best. Keeping a mild, 1-percent hydrocortisone cream handy is also a good idea. Dr. Schlessinger recommends using it as soon as you notice signs of dry or chapped skin. According to MedlinePlus, Hydrocortisone can sometimes be prescribed. It reduces swelling, redness and itching and speeds up the healing process.

Forman Taub states that excessive handwashing can cause irritation and redness. Piedmont Healthcare says that too much washing can cause dry and cracked skin. This is a problem for those who work in industries that require handwashing frequently, such as healthcare. According to EveryNurse, lukewarm water is best as it will not dry your skin. Keep a small number of moisturizers on hand, as ointments tend to be thicker than moisturizers.

  1. Hot, Long Showers May Cause Skin Dehydration

Sitting under steaming hot water for a long time can be tempting, especially in the winter. However, this could cause skin problems. Frieling warns that long, steamy showers and baths can dry your skin. Marchbein recommends that showers do not last more than five minutes and that the water temperature be kept warm but not hot. Marchbein suggests you apply a moisturizing lotion within one minute after getting out of the bath. According to MedlinePlus, moisturizing creams work best for damp skin.

Dry skin can result from aging. According to the Mayo Clinic, dry skin is more common in adults 40 and older. This affects approximately half of those age groups. Frieling states that our skin becomes less oily and drier as we age. According to Penn Medicine, this could also be caused by hormone changes that come with menopause for women. How do you fix it? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends moisturizing every day or multiple times if necessary. Marchbein recommends that you look for moisturizers containing ceramides, oil-binding agents (such as hyaluronic or glycerin), and petrolatum. These ingredients replenish skin moisture and repair it quickly, Marchbein says.

  1. Some medical conditions can cause dry skin.

Frieling states that skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can lead to dry skin. According to Harvard Health and Penn Medicine, dry skin can indicate something unrelated, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism or malnutrition, kidney disease, or Sjogren’s syndrome. How can you tell if dry skin is due to the weather or something more serious? Frieling suggests looking out for redness, crusting, extreme itching, hyperpigmentation and rough, flaky or scaly skin patches. These are signs that you need to see a doctor. Your doctor will help you determine the best treatment once you have identified the cause of the dryness.

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