Your skin becomes dry when it loses both water and it’s natural skin oils.
In the lab we see big differences between dry skin and hydrated skin in both the composition of the chemistry of the skin layers and the way they look structurally when examine under a microscope. The structural and chemical characteristics of dry skin translates to skin that’s also more vulnerable.
We call this vulnerability of dry skin an impaired barrier function. For you, dry skin means that:
- your body’s water, which is normally present in your skin, is escaping more easily (called transepidermal water loss).
- soaps and solvents are better able to penetrate deeply into your skin and pull out your natural skin oils.
You can see why the problem compounds, getting worse and worse, and you’ve undoubtedly experienced it. The most common example is chapped hands. Once your hands are chapped they get worse and worse every time you take them outside into harsh weather or do the dishes without gloves again. Your skin becomes rougher, dryer, itchier, starts to crack, hurts, becomes rougher and dryer etc…
What’s happening is that your impaired barrier can’t stand up to the usual insults of weather and soaps. Harsh weather ‘pulls’ water out of your skin into the dehumidified wind. Soaps seep into chapped skin ‘cleaning-out’ more of your skin’s natural oils. Unless you intervene, your skin gets drier and drier and its barrier weaker and weaker.
The intervention is actually simple – stop exposing the skin to situations that decrease its water and oil content, and instead do something to increase these important components of healthy skin.
Dermatologist’s advice to heal dry skin:
1. For starters, wear gloves, clothing or facial mufflers to protect skin from harsh weather so that water isn’t ‘pulled’ out so rapidly.
2. Increase the relative humidity of the air that you expose your skin to by adding an indoor humidifier. (Or, hello Hawaii!).
3. Minimize the exposure of your skin to harsh solvents and soaps that ‘clean out’ the oils you need for a healthy skin barrier. This means wearing protective gloves when you must come into contact with these things, such as when doing the dishes.