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Dry Skin Guide - What is It, How to Prevent It and Treat It

What Causes Dry Skin?

In order to understand the best ways to treat dry skin, you'll need to know what causes this uncomfortable condition. While the root cause of dry skin is sometimes hard to determine, there are some common culprits for skin dryness that you should know about as you continue your quest for the ultimate complexion. Some of these causes are the result of your choices, but others are harder to tackle because they can't be removed by simply changing your habits.

Environmental Factors

As we consider the environmental factors that can cause dry skin, we should first note the fact that climate can cause your skin to become drier. If you live in a humid area like a coastal forest or if your home is near the beach, you are much less likely to suffer from dry skin than if you live in the desert or high up in the mountains.

Another potential cause of your skin dryness that may surprise you is the population density of the area in which you live. With higher population density comes a denser urban environment, and the more cars, cigarette smokers, and industrial pollution that you have around you, the more your skin has to fight to maintain its homeostasis. In some cases, environmental conditions like smog, car exhaust, and factory waste can cause your skin to become dry.

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Your vocation may also have an effect on the relative moisture level of your skin. If you work in a factory filled with fumes, your skin becomes much more susceptible to disease. Also, if you have a job that requires you to wash your hands frequently, the skin on your hands can become dry or cracked.

It should also be pointed out that swimming pools are sanitized with chlorine bleach, and this substance has a significantly detrimental effect on skin health. If you spend a lot of time swimming at a public pool, you're more at risk of having dry skin.

Genetic Factors

While changing your habits can combat some of the potential causes of your skin's dryness, your skin may also be genetically predisposed toward being dry. Dermatological researchers in Scotland have discovered that mutations in the genes that control the production of filaggrin, which is a type of protein that helps form and hydrate your skin's moisture barrier, can cause you to have drier skin.

In particular, filaggrin gene mutations can cause people to become much more likely to develop eczema, which is an uncomfortable skin disorder that causes intense itching. While science hasn't yet discovered a way in which you can alter your genetic code to fix this mutation, taking a genetic screen can help you understand if this rare condition is contributing to the dryness of your skin.

Diseases

Hypothyroidism is one of the most common culprits behind persistent skin dryness. This condition occurs when your thyroid gland is underactive, and this gland only produces the right amounts of the hormones that you need to stay healthy when it is active within its natural parameters. Hypothyroidism can sometimes be treated with drugs, surgery, dietary changes, or holistic medicine, and returning your thyroid activity to healthy levels can help your skin regain its moisture barrier.

Diabetes can also cause skin dryness. In the case of this disease, skin dryness is caused by neuropathy, which is a condition in which the nerves in the extremities of your body atrophy and die. If the nerves in your hand and feet die, they can't signal your body to produce the moisture that your skin needs to keep healthy, and you may develop significant dry spots. In some cases, this dryness can progress to the degree that diabetic ulcers form on your extremities, but this painful situation can often be avoided by properly treating your diabetes and moisturizing your skin. Other conditions that may cause dry skin include psoriasis and eczema.

Aging

Your skin naturally loses its moisture as you age. As you get older, your skin becomes thinner, and it loses its natural collagen levels. In addition, the capillaries in your skin tighten as you age, which means that they are less capable of funneling life-giving blood to your skin cells. Even if your skin moisture levels were normal when you were younger, aging prompts everyone to seek solutions to the issue of dry skin.

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Choices

In many ways, it is our choices that are most responsible for developing dry skin. While there's nothing that we can do about genetic conditions or aging, we can prevent many of the conditions that cause dry skin. For instance, reducing your stress levels or enjoying a better diet can reduce your chance of developing diabetes, and nutritional therapy can often protect you from other diseases like psoriasis.

It becomes especially clear that our choices can prevent dry skin when we consider the example of smoking. Buying a pack of cigarettes is an entirely voluntary action, but this choice can have disastrous effects on your skin health. It's been estimated that a single puff of cigarette smoke contains 40,000 free radicals, which means that you're exposing your skin cells to oxidation every time you smoke a cigarette. If you stop smoking now, you'll notice a significant increase in skin moistness even if you have other conditions that are making your skin dry.

Medications

The medications that you use may also be causing your skin to become dry. Many over-the-counter acne medications, such as those that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, may dry out your skin considerably. Ironically, your skin is more prone to develop acne when it is dry, which utterly defeats the purpose of applying these medications. Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can also cause hormonal disruptions and other issues, and they should generally be avoided. In addition, the internal acne drug isotretinoin, which is marketed as Accutane, not only causes dry skin, but it can also cause severe liver and kidney damage.

Some drugs for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and allergies can also cause your skin to become dry. If you're trying to determine the reason that your skin is dry, it can help to discontinue use of your medications and then introduce them back into your routine one by one while watching for the return of skin dryness.

How to Prevent Dry Skin

Now that you're well-versed on the major causes of dry skin, it's time for you to learn how to prevent it. Some of the reasons for dry skin aren't completely preventable since they are genetic or are associated with diseases that may be incurable. However, there are some things that you can do to prevent the symptoms of dry skin before they show themselves no matter what underlying cause is making your skin red, dry, or flaky.

Changes to Your Routine

One of the best things that you can do to prevent dry skin is to take shorter and cooler showers. Even if you don't have a medical condition that is causing dry skin, exposing your skin to hot water for too long can make it harder for your skin's moisture barrier to regenerate effectively. If your skin dryness is, in fact, caused by an underlying condition, you can mitigate this condition by taking showers that are short, warm, and don't involve as much soap.

Also, getting more sleep can help your skin health in general. If you don't sleep enough, your skin ages prematurely, and your skin naturally gets drier as you age. Your stress levels can make your skin age as well, so reducing stressful stimuli can keep your skin supple and moist for longer.

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Some of the most common vices can also cause dry skin. For instance, smoking cigarettes makes your skin dry, and this dryness can then lead to acne, rosacea, or other conditions. Even if you smoke cannabis, your skin can still be dried out by smoke, and drinking alcohol also contributes to skin dryness. While these drugs may not contribute all that much to your skin dryness, cutting them out of your life can help keep your skin moist, and quitting nicotine, THC, and alcohol can also impart a host of other health benefits.

Observe a Better Diet

Your diet may also be causing your skin to dry out. Simple carbs like sugars and processed grains can reduce your health in general, and they can also cause your skin to become dry. Trans fats should also be avoided, and you should make a concerted effort to eat foods that are rich in all of the essential vitamins and minerals.

One of the best ways to ensure that you're taking in an ideal concentration of vitamins and minerals is to eat plenty of fresh foods. Diverse types of fruits and vegetables should be in your diet in high concentrations, and it's also important to eat pasture-raised meats or acquire protein from other sources such as legumes or whole grains. Eating healthy, fresh foods can also serve as a potent treatment for some of the underlying medical conditions that cause skin dryness.

Whatever you do, avoid processed foods as much as possible. As a general rule of thumb, if it comes in a box and it's put in the microwave, or if you can buy it at a fast food restaurant, it's probably processed food that's full of all sorts of dangerous ingredients that could harm your skin health.

How to Treat Dry Skin

Even after you've eliminated all of the factors that could potentially be contributing to your skin dryness, your skin may still be dry. If this is the case, you might need to consider treatment options that can counteract underlying conditions or habits that you can't shake and hack your skin moisture from the outside in.

Cosmetic Treatments

There are a variety of cosmetic treatments that are used to help with dry skin. The types of cosmetics that are used most commonly to treat this condition are moisturizers, but it should be pointed out that not all moisturizers are made equal. Some moisturizing products may contain dangerous ingredients like parabens, and the may also have been tested on animals. As you search for the perfect moisturizer, it's important to choose options that are cruelty-free and that keep the artificial ingredients to a minimum.

It should also be pointed out that moisturizers can sometimes make dry skin worse. While they alleviate the symptoms of dry skin after they are applied, your skin may become dependent on these products and stop working to produce its natural moisture barrier. If you discontinue the use of moisturizing products, your skin may become drier before it starts to produce moisture at the levels that it did before you used moisturizers.

In general, it's best to avoid moisturizers and to use products that increase your skin's overall health. For instance, some anti-aging serums contain antioxidant ingredients like vitamin C, which improve the blood flow in your skin while also serving as powerful exfoliants, and they may also include other beneficial ingredients like hyaluronic acid. As you use cosmetics to treat your dry skin, remember that these products should only be tried after you've taken preventive action to stop skin dryness at its source.

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