Dry skin is a common problem that can be caused by many different factors, including age, climate, medications, and lifestyle. It can be especially difficult in winter when the cold air and heated homes wreak havoc on our skin barriers, adding to the loss of moisture in our bodies. Not only does hydrated skin look better, it feels better too! Keeping our bodies and our skin hydrated can seem almost impossible. Let’s explore the causes of dry skin, how to prevent it, and what products you can use to rehydrate and refresh your skin!
Causes of Dry Skin
Dry skin can be uncomfortable and cause tight, itchy, and flaky skin. But, what causes this lack of hydration? The causes of dry skin can be divided into three main categories: environmental, extrinsic (external factors), and intrinsic (internal factors).
Environmental causes of dry skin include being exposed to low humidity, wind, and cold weather. Low humidity levels in the air cause water to evaporate more quickly from our skin leading to dehydration. Wind also removes moisture from our skin and can damage the skin barrier. Cold weather can cause our skin to become dry and cracked due to the low temperatures and wind.
Extrinsic causes of dry skin are related to our lifestyle and the different types of products we use. Some extrinsic causes of dry skin are using harsh soaps and bathing in hot water. Using harsh soaps that contain strong surfactants can strip our skin of its natural oils which help keep our skin hydrated. The use of hot water on your skin can disrupt your skin barrier causing increased TEWL resulting in dry and irritated skin.
Our skin is made up of three layers: the outermost layer called the stratum corneum, just beneath that is the epidermis, followed by the dermis which is the deepest layer. Intrinsic causes of dry skin are related to the barrier function of our outermost layer of skin. The stratum corneum is made up of dead skin cells that lay flat to provide a protective barrier. If the layer is healthy it will prevent germs and irritants from entering and prevent moisture from escaping. If this layer is damaged, then the other two layers can become dry through a process called trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL).
An unhealthy skin barrier is not the only intrinsic factor that contributes to a lack of moisture. Our skin contains something called natural moisturizing factor (NMF). NMF is a group of moisture binding molecules, including well known skin care ingredients; lactic acid, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. This group of molecules help to maintain a proper hydration level by absorbing water from the atmosphere and holding it within our skin.
How to Prevent Dry Skin
We can’t always prevent the environmental causes of dry skin. But, we can take some steps to help protect our skin from the wind and cold weather. Make sure to wear long sleeves and pants outside on cold and windy days to provide your skin protection (which is kind of a no brainer if it’s cold out).
If your heat dries out your home, humidifiers are a great way to help your skin retain its moisture in the winter. A study on skin hydration related to the humidity in the air has shown that at 60% humidity our skin functions at its best. That humidity can be hard to achieve sometimes, so aiming for 40% – 50% will work for your skin as well.
“Squeaky clean” used to be the standard for cleansing. We have now realized that cleansing products that leave a squeaky clean feeling are actually stripping away too much of our skin’s natural oil. Our bodies produce an oily substance called sebum. Among other things, sebum protects our skin barrier and helps retain moisture. When we use products that strip away all of our skin’s natural oils, our skin barrier can be damaged and is no longer able to retain moisture. Viriskin’s Aloe & Agave Gentle Foaming Cleanser was specifically formulated to cleanse the skin without drying it out. The surfactant in this face wash, sodium myristoyl glutamate, is made from amino acids and has a pH similar to our skin making it extremely gentle.
How to Hydrate Dry Skin
At times prevention is just not enough and we end up with dry skin anyway. This is where skin care products come in. In order to help with hydration, the products you use need to contain specific ingredients. Humectants take moisture from the air and retain it in your skin. For example, hyaluronic acid is a well known humectant and it has the ability to absorb up to 1000 times it’s weight in water! Another type of ingredient needed to help correct dry skin is an occlusive (sometimes known as film formers). Occlusives lay on top of the skin creating a barrier which reduces water loss from the skin. Waxes and butters are great examples of occlusive ingredients.
Goji & Glycine Revitalizing Cream has both types of these moisturizing ingredients to help rehydrate dry skin and protect it from any additional water loss. We use a sugar complex that is not only a humectant itself but also boosts our skin cells production of hyaluronic acid creating more molecules to bring moisture to the skin! In order to keep all that hydration in our skin, we used a film former made of jojoba, mimosa flower, and sunflower waxes. This blend of waxes provides a flexible film over our skin to prevent moisture loss.
Dry skin can have many causes, but the two main ones are environmental factors and a damaged skin barrier. You can help to prevent dry skin by taking steps to protect your skin from the environment and using products that won’t strip away your natural oils. If you already have dry skin, look for products that contain humectants and occlusives to help rehydrate and protect your skin.
Viriskin’s products can help you to achieve and maintain healthy skin! Our Aloe & Agave Gentle Foaming Cleanser is perfect for cleansing without stripping away natural oils and our Goji & Glycine Revitalizing Cream contains both humectants and an occlusive to help rehydrate and protect dry skin.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the most common causes of dry skin?
Common causes of dry skin are being in a low humidity environment and having a damaged skin barrier which allows moisture to escape from your skin.
- How do I fix my dry skin?
If you can, use humidifiers in your home to keep the humidity above 40%. Use skin care products that contain humectants and occlusive ingredients, like Goji & Glycine Revitalizing Cream, to replenish your skin’s moisture and help protect your skin barrier.
- Are there any skincare products I should avoid if I have dry skin?
Yes! If you have dry skin, avoid using harsh cleansers that will strip your skin of all it’s natural protective oil. If you are looking for a cleanser that won’t dry out your skin, try Aloe & Agave Gentle Foaming Cleanser. You should also avoid products that contain a large amount of alcohol (ethanol or isopropyl alcohol).
- I’m not sure if my skin is dry or if I just have sensitive skin. How can I tell the difference?
Sensitive skin can often feel dry, but it can also be blotchy, red, or irritated. If you’re not sure if your skin is just dry or sensitive, consult with a dermatologist. They will be able to help you determine the cause of your symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment.
Herrero-Fernandez, Manuel et al. “Impact of Water Exposure and Temperature Changes on Skin Barrier Function.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 11,2 298. 7 Jan. 2022, doi:10.3390/jcm11020298. Available online.
Harding, Clive R, Rawlings, Anthony V. “Effects of Natural Moisturizing Factor and Lactic Acid Isomers on Skin Function.” Dry Skin and Moisturizers: Chemistry and Function, CRC Press 2006, ISBN: 9780429123085 Available Online.
Vyumvuhore, Raoul et al. “Effects of atmospheric relative humidity on Stratum Corneum structure at the molecular level: ex vivoRaman spectroscopy analysis”. Analyst vol. 138, pg 4103 – 4111, 9 May 2013, doi:10.1039/C3AN00716B. Available online.