Dry skin can be an irritating and sometimes painful condition. But there are a number of ways you can prevent your skin from drying out and rehydrate the affected areas. Read on to find out more about what causes dry skin and the measures you can take to prevent it.
Dry skin is a condition which can affect anybody at any age, though it is more common in the ageing population, but occurs in men and women equally.
Known medically as Xerosis cutis, it it predominantly diagnosed based on the signs and symptoms. In some cases, a sample of the skin may be tested in a laboratory to determine whether fungal culture or other infections could be a contributing factor.
Symptoms of dry skin can include:
Areas such as the hands, feet, knees and elbows are commonly affected, as these areas are often the most exposed to dry air. When dry skin is present on the face, it can cause wrinkling and the appearance of premature ageing.
Cells beneath the skin are terminated in a process called cornification. Keratin converts the internal compounds of the cells to provide a stronger structure, as they are pushed to the surface of the epidermis. During the conversion process, the nucleus of the cell is destroyed.
The layers of dead cells, also called corneocytes, are surrounded by proteins and lipids (natural oils and fats) which create a permeable seal around the cells to keep the skin hydrated.
This process continues in a cycle lasting 14 days. Over time, the cells of the stratum corneum are shed through homeostasis.
In some cases, especially in older people, the amount of oil in the skin is diminished, leading to dehydration within the epidermis (skin). As a result, affected skin is more prone to cracking and breaking, opening up the skin to infections.
There are a number of treatments specifically designed to treat skin, such as Aveeno or Hydromol. These treatments prevent the natural oils found on your skin from being washed away.
As a result, the oils stay on your skin for longer and provide a longer lasting barrier, locking in the moisture within the epidermis.
Treatments for dry skin are often used like a soap and are applied during your regular ablutions. While lotions and gels are applied directly onto the skin, there are some treatments which are formulated as a bathing solution.
Taking shorter, cooler showers can help your skin retain many of its natural oils and prevent it from drying out. Using a conservative amount of gentle shower gel or soap can also reduce the amount of natural oils being washed away.
After a shower, pat your skin dry and apply a moisturiser to keep your skin hydrated. Look for moisturisers which contain petrolatum, mineral oil, glycerin, Shea butter, olive oil or jojoba oil.
If you notice that the skin on your hands becomes more aggravated after getting them wet, such as when you wash up, or after using certain chemicals, you may want to consider wearing gloves to prevent your skin coming into contact with the irritant.
Wash your clothes in hypoallergenic detergent and wear soft fabrics under clothes which are itchy. Silk and cotton are usually more gentle on your skin than polyester.
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