Even if your fingers don’t exactly feel like parchment, your face doesn’t quite ‘crack’ into a smile and your scaly limbs are not yet the envy of a crocodile, your skin type could fall under the category ‘dry’. And when winter comes, can drier skin be far behind? Even other wise ‘normal’ complexions begin to grow taut and lined. What causes skin to look, and feel, dry? And what is the best way to combat dryness? Get some really smooth answers.
Is dry skin a part of one’s genetic legacy?
The texture of your skin depends about 80 percent on genetics and 20 percent on environmental factors. What is inherited is the moisture retaining capacity of the skin, the lack of which determines dryness. For example, ichthyoids, a disease where the skin is extremely dry, is a congenital disorder.
Environment factors that come into play include air pollution and a lack of humidity. Airborne pollen and dust, in fact all types of volatile agents, can affect the skin.
Despite the genetic factor, the texture of the skin is not consistent all over the body. Teenagers, especially, due to a temporary hormonal imbalance, which is a part of growing up, could have oily facial skin and normal to dry skin on the rest of the body.
What role does nutrition play?
A deficiency of proteins could definitely manifest itself as dry skin. Going on a crash, fat-free diet can also have the same result. As such, no particular food is especially recommended to help prevent or cure dryness. All that is required is a reasonably well balanced diet.
Does the quality of soaps and cosmetics make a difference?
Generally it is a perfume which is the most common cosmetic offender. Toilet soaps contain 0.2 percent tp 2 percent perfume. And the perfume may contain up to 100 ingredients which may include synthetic chemicals, and substances of plant or animal origin such as musk from the musk deer. In the case of dryness caused by perfumes, if you do a biopsy of the skin, you will often find an inflammation suggesting a mild allergic dermatitis. An excess of builder (the ingredient that increase the cleansing action of the soap) and alkalis like sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide could also cause dryness.
Then again face creams contain perfume, lanolin, emollients emulsifying agents and preservatives, any of which can aggravate a dry skin condition. Some vanishing creams are sufficiently alkaline to pose as an irritant to the skin.
If your lips are prone to chapping, the culprit could be dental hygiene products like toothpaste and mouth washes; it could even be your lipstick indelible lipsticks (those which do not blot easily) may initially impart a feeling of dryness to the lips due to the use of thinner oils. Allergy to lipsticks and dental products usually takes the form of dryness and fissuring of the lips which is called cheilitis.
Since the scalp is particularly resistant to chemicals, it is the ears, the forehead or the nape of the neck that show dryness due to the use of harsh hair sprays, dyes, some oils or (rarely) even shampoos.
Does hormones play a role in determine skin texture?
Yes, an imbalance of hormones could also bring about dryness the different hormones, such as the sex hormone, and the adrenal hormone, should all work like an orchestra, each playing its part. If any one or more of these hormones is over active or under active, leading to an imbalance, it could result in skin irritation and dryness. Particularly implicated in dryness is a decrease in the thyroid hormone.
Do seasonal changes or geographical factor affect the skin?
It’s the humidity and not the temperature which determine dryness. During winter, the humidity in the air is less whereas during the rain it is naturally more.
Excessive exposure to the UV rays of the Sun is also an important factor. The higher the altitude, the greater the exposure to the rays.
Sometimes, travel abroad can expose one to unusual contact with pollen and other volatile agents.
Can certain drugs cause dryness or worsen already dry skin?
By and large, drugs seldom cause just dryness of the skin. Rarely, propranolol, a drug taken to control blood pressure, cimetidine and ranitidine prescribed for stomach ulcers have been reported to cause dryness especially in large doses. Retinoid tablets (derivatives of Vitamin A acid) can also cause dryness.
Does chronic smoking or an excessive intake of tea, coffee or alcohol aggravate dryness?
No neither does an increase in the intake of water have any remarkable positive effect.
Does the type of fabric one wears have an influence on the skin?
In a few cases, synthetic clothing aggravates dry skin. But, more than the type of clothing, it’s the detergent in which clothes are washed out is to blame. Don’t soak your clothes in detergent for too long and avoid using too much thoroughly so there are no detergent residues left in them. Nappy rash in babies is often caused by such residues. Wearing damp clothes, especially under wear, could give rise to a fungal infection which could lead to dryness and flaking.
Does the skin get drier with age?
Yes, in direct proportion and those with dry skin could also have an earlier onset of wrinkles. The skins of the elderly may react even to a normal se of toilet soaps, predisposing them to skin allergies and scaling. Thickening and hyper pigmentation may take place later if the dry skin is not tended to.
Which areas of the body are more prone to dryness?
The eyelids, the lips, the neck the back of the hands and the feet are most likely to be affected. Of these, the eyelids are the most sensitive area because the skin here is very thin. Cheap eye make up can worsen the condition. Sometimes even cheap nail enamel (left behind when you scratch your eyelid) can do harm.
The lips are also a particularly sensitive area. Some sum allergies start of as dryness of the lips.
Are women more prone to dryness than men?
No, sex does not play a part. However, the extrinsic causes of dryness may be different in men and in women. In women its cosmetics and junk jewellery that are the culprits – the metal in them could irritate the skin and result in dryness. In Men, It’s the perfume in their shaving lotions and creams and the quinine in their hair tonics that are to blame.
Is dry skin more prone to allergies than normal skin?
Definitely, it is less tolerant to chemicals and would react to substances which normal skin could tolerate.
Can the onset of dryness in normal skin be forewarning or an illness or disorder?
Our skin is an important mirror of internal diseases and dryness is a very subtle manifestation of internal (systemic) problems. A mild bowel infection may not have obvious symptoms like colic or gripe, but it may lead to secondary malfunctions like malabsorption of proteins which may in turn cause dryness.
How can cosmetics help to control dryness?
A moisturizer penetrates into the upper layer of the skin and retards evaporation of moisture from the skin, i.e. it only acts as a barrier to prevent moisture loss. Use a moisturizer preferably after a warm bath when the skin is slightly moist and the pores are open.
Cold creams have an advantage over moisturizers because hey are more greasy. However, it is best to use cold cream at night, as using it outdoors could attract dust.
Does vitamin E oil help eliminate dryness?
Vitamin E oil does not have any special moisturizing properties, so the price is certainly not worth it. If it is perfumed, it becomes even more potentially harmful.
What are the guidelines one should adhere to when buying and using cosmetics?
- As a general guideline, us only cosmetics by reputed manufacturers.
- Let your nose guide you – buy products that have the least fragrance.
- Avoid using medicated cosmetics, especially those with antiseptics.
- You will get good results from massaging your face and body with cooking oil like sunflower seed oil, groundnut oil or olive oil – they are even better than cold creams. The first two may sound icky but are effective.
- Avoid the use of coconut oil on the skin as it contains some kinds of fatty acids which may not agree with your skin.
- Petroleum jelly is very good for the skin.
- The glycerin soaps available are also recommended.
- Avoid whitening creams as they have a high concentration of chemicals which can be damaging to the skin.
When does dry skin warrant a visit to the doctor?
If you thin your dryness is being caused by a particular cosmetic or soap, change the product. In the case of cosmetics, some doctors recommend a home test as the repeated use of he suspected product for a week or two or one part of the skin like the forearm. If the dryness persists even after this you should consider seeing a skin specialist.
Another warning signal is the persistence of dryness even after a change of season.