After facing demanding bosses, traffic, and other aggravations, most people can’t wait to get home and relax. However, the place you go to put your feet up and relax may harbor its own kind of annoyances: things that can cause dry, itchy skin.
When it comes to household skin irritants, the list is practically endless. It includes cleaning products, floor polishes, air fresheners, and laundry detergent, just to name a few. These products strip skin of essential water and oils, leading to dryness and irritation. In some people, dry skin can progress to more severe skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis.
There is no single cause of dry skin. Dry skin causes can be classified as external and internal. External factors are the most common underlying cause and are the easiest to address. External factors include cold temperatures and low humidity, especially during the winter when central heaters are used. Internal factors include overall health, age, genetics, family history, and a personal history of other medical conditions like atopic dermatitis. In particular those with certain thyroid diseases are more prone to developing dry skin.
External factors that cause dry skin include
- over-washing with harsh soaps,
- overuse of sanitizers and cleaning agents (alcohol),
- cold temperature,
- low humidity.
Although bathing and showering adds water to skin, it is the evaporation of this water after the completion of the immersion that results in dry skin. Skin that feels overly tight after bathing may indicate excess removal of natural skin oils.
One of the most common factors causing dry skin is frequent application of harsh soaps. The type of soap may have a large impact on dry skin. Soap is an emulsifier that removes oils on the skin. The more often skin is scrubbed with soap, the more oil is removed, ultimately resulting in dryer skin. Excessive use of soaps can worsen dry skin.
Moreover, dry skin may persist or worsen if using moisturizers improperly or choosing an inadequate moisturizer. Sometimes, the material of different clothing can also affect dry skin. Some materials such as wool or synthetic fibers tend to irritate the skin and worsen dry skin.
Things People with Dry Skin Should Never Do
Take those of us with dry skin. If your face ever feels tight and flaky, you know that there are a few very important skincare rules to keep in mind—and some things that you should always skip. Here are 7 of the things you should never, ever do if you have dry skin.
Forget to moisturize
If you have normal or oily skin, it’s probably fine to skip a day of moisturizing here and there. Not so if you’re dry. If you have dry skin, you need to break out the big guns.
Dry skin often leads to flakiness, and the first impulse is often to scrub the flakes away. When you have dry skin, this is the worst thing that you can do, especially if you’re using an exfoliant every day. Over-exfoliating is only going to irritate (and therefore dry out) your skin more. Limit your exfoliation to one to three times a week, and avoid any products that have beads or grains that tear at your skin.
Take long, hot showers
Long, hot showers might save your sanity in the winter, but they’re definitely not helping your dry skin. If you’re taking a hot shower every day then it’s time to make a change (but we’re not saying you have to switch to cold showers; we aren’t monsters).
Use products with high amounts of alcohol
A small amount of alcohol in your products isn’t always a bad thing, contrary to popular opinion. Used properly, alcohol can help increase a product’s efficacy. However, if a product—like a toner—has high amounts of alcohol, it is very likely that it will dry out your skin. The takeaway here is to make sure to always research the ingredients before buying a new product, and do a patch test first whenever possible to be sure it doesn’t dry you out.
Use powerful facial cleansers
It is imperative for people with dry skin to avoid stripping their skin with overly harsh cleansers. Yes, you absolutely need to do a good job of removing your makeup at night, but that doesn’t mean your skin needs to feel tight and itchy afterwards.
Use a million face masks
Face masks can be a lot of fun, and sometimes you just want to post a scream-inducing mask selfie on Instagram. If you have dry skin, however, you need to be very choosy about which masks you put on your face. Many masks that promise to purify, shrink pores and remove blackheads are extremely drying. Instead, look for masks that offer hydration, soothing, or added moisture.
Use powder or matte makeup
First, a disclaimer: we’re not saying that if you have dry skin, there is no powder or matte makeup out there that will work for you. It’s definitely possible, but as a general rule, however, you should try to stick to cream or liquid makeup that promises a dewy finish. Most matte and powder makeup will only emphasize dry skin and can easily look caked-on.
Natural remedies can typically resolve the problem. However, consult your doctor if dryness and itching interfere with your sleep–or if home treatment does not improve your condition.
Applying moisturizer to dry skin creates a seal that prevents moisture from escaping. Try an oil-based moisturizer, such as baby oil, for extremely dry skin because it lasts longer than other types of moisturizers.
Milk it down
If your itchy winter dry skin is driving you nuts, “go to the refrigerator and get a quart of milk. Pour it into a bowl or basin. Dip a washcloth or a piece of gauze in the cold milk, and apply it to your skin for 5 minutes,” says Dr. Taylor. “Milk has anti-inflammatory properties that often take the itch away. It stops the itch-scratch cycle.”
Sea salt can hydrate even the driest skin when used in a bath or as a salt scrub. In the book “1,801 Home Remedies: Trustworthy Treatments for Everyday Health Problems,” the Reader’s Digest Association suggests adding a cup of sea salt to a tub of warm water and soaking for at least 20 minutes to nourish extremely dry skin.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel has soothing, healing and moisturizing properties when used topically on extremely dry skin, according to Phyllis A. Balch in “Prescription for Nutritional Healing.” It works especially well on flaky skin, as it gently sloughs away the top layer of dead skin cells.
Honey tightens, softens and moisturizes dry skin. Brigitte Mars, author of “Beauty By Nature,” suggests applying pure honey directly to extremely dry skin, and tapping the area lightly with your fingertips for about 2 minutes.
Grease and seal super-dry spots
Often, the very driest of dry skin occurs on your heels, hands, and elbows. But you can seal them with grease too, says Dr. Glaser. Wear gloves to bed over greased-up raw, sore hands. Wear socks over your cracked heels. And wear a long-sleeved pajama top or T-shirt with snugly fitting sleeves over chapped elbows.