Monday, August 6, 2012

What are the Main Factors Causing Skin Dryness?

In the following paragraphs, the factors which decrease the oil layer from our skin thus predisposing us to problems related to dry skin shall be described along with the measures for prevention and care of dry skin.

Familial/Genetically Determined Dry Skin

The dry skin may run in families/genes. Such people may have problems related to dryness round the year but get worse when exposed to the adverse environmental conditions. If you or a close relative suffer from asthma or nasal allergy, your skin is likely to be more sensitive & dry.

Newborn babies

In a significant proportion of newborn babies, the oil producing glands are immature and don’t produce enough oil to meet the requirements of the body. The result is thick scales/crusts on the scalp and red patches on face/body. The solution is regular & frequent (many times a day) oiling of the scalp and skin till the endogenous oil production improves with age reaching to optimum level at puberty.

Use of bubble baths

In babies bubble bath is harmful and results in dry patches on back at a site with maximum contact with chemicals absorbed in the foam layer of bath tub.

Old Age

Oil production in the skin decreases in old age. In women the skin gets dry sooner, around menopause but in most men with normal skin, significant dryness is apparent around 60 years of age.


Cold, dry, windy weather conditions as during winters and high altitudes aggravate dryness of the skin. Direct air from the air conditioners/heaters has the same effect. Heating in the homes, absorbs moisture from the room air and causes loss of water from the skin. A general rule is to keep the room temperature between 68F to 75 F and maintain humidity levels between 40-50% by using artificial humidifier. Most people show up the effects of dry skin in winters. In summers, when the sweat dries out, it leaves behind sweat chemicals on the skin. This has an irritating and drying effect on the skin. Sitting in the sun for prolonged hours dries out the skin as well.

Exposed Body Parts

The hands, feet, legs and arms are the most vulnerable parts of the body to suffer from dry skin problems because normally, the skin on these areas has least amount of oil & is subjected to repeated washing and adverse environmental conditions. These parts need more frequent use of moisturizers.

Too much cleanliness is counterproductive

Frequent washing/showering or bathing, especially if you like your showers hot and your baths long, breaks down the oil barriers in your skin. So does frequent swimming, particularly in heavily chlorinated pools.

Skin Rubbing and Scratching

Repeatedly scratching or rubbing of a body part brings more itching and scratching leading to never ending itch scratch cycle most of the times at subconscious level. The area being repeatedly scratched becomes rough, thick, fissured and may bleed. Such problems happen on easily accessible body parts like legs, hands, arms and neck.

Use of anti Septic / anti Bacterial Soaps

The much advertised antiseptic soaps/antibacterial soaps/anti germ soaps are most damaging to the skin & should not be used unless prescribed by a skin specialist. In fact, normal skin does not require any antiseptic soap. Perfumed soaps and the ones containing lauryl sulphate are also harmful to the skin. Adding antiseptic lotions to the bathing water or directly applying such stuff on skin should be avoided.

Use of Harsh Detergents

Harsh detergents like washing powders, surf, hard soaps for washing clothes should not be applied on the skin. Contact of such agents with the hands especially in housewives results in dryness, itching, chapping and cracking of the skin of the hands. The cuticle of the nails gets damaged and the strong chemicals of the detergents get trapped under the nail fold resulting in pain and swelling of the nail folds. Once the cuticle is damaged, it will take many months for repair that too if further damage from detergents is completely avoided. In addition to above it is necessary to take safetyprecautions against skin dryness