Dry Skin – causes, symptoms, remedies

How to recognise dry skin

Dry skin can affect any area of the body but is obviously most upsetting when it affects your face. Your skin may be mildly dry and feel slightly tight with occasional patches of flaky white skin. More severe dry skin conditions can become itchy, display red and white patches and look ‘splotchy’ in appearance. Dry skin can be very irritating unless properly treated.

What are the causes of dry skin?

Temperature sensitivity/weather
Throughout the year both air conditioning and central heating can dry out the skin by lowering the rate of humidity in the air. Try placing a bowl of water (with maybe a drop or two of your invigorating essential oil) on your desk or on top of radiators to combat this.
Outdoor exposure to cold or windy weather can dry out the skin causing red chapped skin. Unfortunately dry skin often fairs badly in the warmer months too, as the sun takes away essential skin moisture whilst also exposing the skin to sun damage.

Poor diet
A poor diet affects all areas of the body but often has the most immediate and highly visible effect on the skin. Not all dry skin complaints are due to a poor diet but improving your diet is almost guaranteed to improve the condition of your skin. See Top tips for Dry Skin below for ways of improving your diet.

Skin conditions

If your skin is very flaky or itchy it is possible that you could be suffering from a skin condition such as contact dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis. It is important that this is diagnosed by your GP as there are a wide range of treatments that can quickly and effectively improve your skin condition. Leaving conditions like these untreated is almost certain to make them worse and can leave skin open to infection. See Potential Problems for Dry Skin.

Oil glands
The productivity of oil glands causes big problems when they over produce, causing spots and visibly shiny skin. The reverse is true for the sufferers of dry skin as the skin does not produce enough oil for the skin to maintain stable levels of hydration.

Potential problems for dry skin

For mild cases of dry skin the application of cosmetics can be difficult as the skin surface is not smooth leading to an uneven, patchy appearance. Dry skin has little natural protection from external irritants or allergens and is more likely to become sensitive.

Dry skin is often itchy. The more you scratch it the more damage is done to the skin and the more it is likely to itch. This is known as the ‘Itch Scratch cycle’. It is important to break this cycle as the damaged skin is very vulnerable to infection and the more you touch that area the more likely it is to become infected.

Dry skin does not age so well as oily skin as the skin is dehydrated and more prone to fine lines and wrinkles. There are steps you can take to help to redress this balance (see below).

Top tips for treating dry skin

  • Try placing a bowl of water (with maybe a drop or two of your invigorating essential oil) on your desk or on top of radiators to combat dryness in the atmosphere.
  • Try treating your skin three times a day with a gentle cleanser formulated for dry skin followed by a rich moisturiser. Undertake this first thing in the morning, when you arrive home from work/college/school and before bedtime. This is often recommended for combating the fine lines and wrinkles caused by dry skin.
  • Keep hydrated by drinking two litres of water a day. You could try adding slices of lemon, orange or cucumber to the water to make it taste a little more exciting.
  • Always select the appropriate cosmetics for your skin type. Choose products marketed for ‘glowing’ or ‘older’ skin. If unsure ask a sales lady to assist you.
  • Use a once or twice weekly face mask after gently exfoliating your skin with an oat based scrub. (See our pages for suitable recipes for homemade face masks and scrubs)
  • Improve circulation to the face with exercise and facial massage. (See our section on facial massage)
  • Omit or limit the intake of caffeine and alcohol in your diet.
  • Make sure you eat plenty of seeds, nuts and oily fish.
  • You could try taking a supplement that specifically targets the skin. Always consult your doctor to ensure this would be suitable for you.