Our skin loses water and oil constantly. But when too much water is lost and too little oil is present, we can get dry skin. Some have dry skin naturally. But acutely dry skin can be due to a number of internal and external causes. Severe dry skin can undermine protective barriers present in the skin.
Skin’s hydration and moisture are directly proportional to water content present in the stratum corneum. Factors affecting this amount of water content are
- Water transferred to stratum corneum.
- Rate of loss of water from surface.
- Water retaining capacity of stratum corneum.
When the water retention ability is reduced and surface water-loss rate gets increased, your skin becomes dry.
There are some triggers that make your skin dry like
- Old age
- Thinning of skin, less fat cells, less water retention.
- With decreased sebum production which causes dryness.
- Dry climate – the moisture loss from skin surface is more in a drier climate; year round in a hot, arid climate and in winters in colder climate.
- Heating and air conditioning centrally – these can make the atmosphere dry and reduce humidity and make your skin dry.
- Taking long showers/swims or bath often – chemicals used in water treatment like chlorine make the skin dry; if the water is too hot, then skin gets dehydrated faster.
- Soaps and shampoos – Harsh chemicals in some of the soaps can definately remove the skin and scalp moisture and oil content.Too much rubbing of soaps or scrubs also are very drying for the skin.
- Detergents/fabric softeners- sometimes the fabric or the bed sheet can cause a lot of itch to the skin or the detergent or softener used to wash cloths can be the trigger.
- Staying out in the sun – aggravate a dry skin.
- Job requirements – some jobs require use of hand sanitizers, washing repeatedly which may make the skin dry.
- Skin condition – atopic dermatitis or psoriasis or a symptoms of a medical condition like diabetes ,thyroid or any nutritional deficiencies.
- Drugs-dry skin can be a side effect of certain drugs.for eg diuretic ,cholesterol lowering drugs,blood pressure controlling drugs and certain drugs classified as retinoids can also cause dry skin. These drugs include isotretinoin (Accutane), which is prescribed for acne, and etretinate, which is prescribed for psoriasis.
Complications from dry skin
When skin becomes too dry and prevention measures are not undertaken to control the dryness, it can lead up to complications like
- Eczema – atopic dermatitis – too dry skin becomes red, cracked and inflamed resulting in eczema especially if you are susceptible to it.
- Folliculitis – the hair follicles become inflamed if skin gets too dry.
- Cellulitis – bacteria may enter the cracked and raw open skin, blood vessels and lymphatic systems to cause infection.
It is essential to rehydrate the skin and prevent water loss to keep the skin moist and supple and reduce the itching caused by dry skin. Proper skin care is the first line of defense with appropriate topical emollients and moisturizers.