Dry Skin: 11 Common Causes (& What to Do)

Dry skin is usually caused by prolonged exposure to very cold or very hot environments, or by very hot and long showers or baths. These habits can dehydrate the skin, giving it a dey appearance.

However, dry skin can also be a sign of other conditions, like changes in estrogen production or a side effect of a diuretic medication. In these cases, other symptoms may also appear, such as a headache, dizziness, dry mouth, dry eyes or confusion.

To identify what is causing dry skin, it is important to consult a dermatologist to assess your symptoms and begin the most appropriate treatment. Treatment may involve the use of moisturizing creams, maintaining a healthy and balanced diet or starting hormonal replacement therapy.

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Common symptoms

The most symptoms of dry skin include:

  • Rough skin
  • Skin peeling
  • Excessive itching
  • Fine white lines, especially on the legs
  • Red spots on the skin
  • Cracked skin

In some cases, skin that is dry may also be more sore or have a stinging or burning sensation. Wounds may also appear as a result of scratching.

Why is my skin so dry?

The main causes of dry skin are:

1. Temperature changes

Prolonged exposure to cold environments, which can happen in the winter, can dry out the skin, as the skin tends to lose its hydration in low temperatures 

However, the same can also happen in summer. With high temperatures, the sebaceous and sweat glands can produce less oil and sweat, leaving the skin drier.

What to do: To treat dry skin, it is important to use moisturizing creams. You should also protect the skin in the areas that are most exposed, such as the hands and face, by wearing gloves and keeping the body warm.

2. Showering with very hot water

Bathing with very hot water is another very common cause of dry skin, as high water temperature strip the natural oil from the skin, leaving it dry.

Soaps and shampoos that have not been dermatologically tested or have an inappropriate pH can also eliminate the oily layer of the skin, making it drier.

What to do: It is important to avoid long showers,no more than 5 minutes. Bathe using warm water and avoiding the use of sponges as they reduce the skin's protection and make it more sensitive. Soaps should be slightly acidic, with a pH between 5-6, and be sure to hydrate the skin with moisturizing creams right after showering while the pores are still open.

3. Not eating fruits and vegetables

Eating a diet that is low in fruits and vegetables can lead to dry skin, as these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals that help protect the layers of your skin and keep it healthy.

What to do: It is important to maintain a healthy and varied diet, that includes fruits, vegetables and healthy fats, which are naturally found in fish, meat and nuts seeds.

4. Low water intake

Low water intake can be a reason for dry skin, as a lack of hydration can make the skin rougher and less elastic. This can lead to peeling and flaking skin.

Also recommended: Skin Peeling: 9 Causes (with Pictures) & What to Do tuasaude.com/en/skin-peeling

What to do: it is important to drink at least 2 liters of water per day to ensure that the body is well hydrated and the skin remains healthy.

5. Swimming or water aerobics

Sports that require frequent skin contact with chlorine, such as swimming or water aerobics, can lead to dry skin. tThe chemicals present in the water are safe, but can irritate the skin and dry it out over time. 

What to do: After being in the pool water, take a bath with warm water and use a soap with a slightly acidic pH, between 5-6, to remove excess chlorine.

6. Synthetic fabric clothes

Frequent use of synthetic fabric clothing, such as polyester or elastane, prevents the skin from sweating properly, leaving it rougher and drier.

What to do: You should ideally opt for clothing made from natural fabrics, such as cotton, wool or linen, as these are associated with less skin irritation and allows the skin to breathe.

7. Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition that makes it difficult for the skin to retain water. It prevents the skin from producing the fat necessary to maintain its hydration, leading to drier skin.

Other symptoms associated with this condition include itching and red lesions on the skin. These mainly appear on the knees, elbows, back of the hands, feet and genital area.

Atopic dermatitis usually appears in childhood and symptoms tend to reduce in adolescence, and then appear again in adulthood.

What to do: It is important to keep the skin hydrated by using moisturizing creams. However, severely dry skin may require a dermatology consult to determine the most appropriate treatment. Your doctor may also recommend a dermatitis diet to help manage symptoms and reduce flare-ups.

8. Normal aging

Aging is one of the natural causes of dry skin, because the skin becomes less elastic and loses its natural oil and hydration over time. This is most common to happen on the face, hands, elbows and knees, although it can also affect rest of the body's skin.

What to do: it is important to maintain your skin health by moisturizing regularly, drinking around 2 liters of water a day and eating healthy, nutrient-dense foods.

9. Decreased estrogen production

Decreased estrogen levels, which can happen during menopause, can lead to dry skin due to reduced hydration and oil production. Read about other menopause symptoms that can happen during this time.

Estrogen is a hormone that plays an important role in hydrating the skin, as it stimulates fat production through sebaceous glands. Estrogen also stimulates collagen production, making the skin more elastic and firm.

What to do: it is important to consult a dermatologist to recommend the best treatment, which may involve medications that increase estrogen levels. Furthermore, it is necessary to hydrate the skin with moisturizing creams as they can help replace any lost oil and prevent it from drying out.

Learn about the menopause diet that can also help to manage symptoms.

10. Diabetes

Dry skin can also be a sign of diabetes, as diabetes can cause damage to the nerves that control oil and sweat production, leaving the skin drier.

Furthermore, diabetes can cause increased hunger, excessive thirst, dry mouth, easy tiredness and the urge to urinate more often a day, causing the body to have less water and the skin to become drier. Check out ARTICLE NOT FOUND IN EN: other complications of diabetes.

What to do: it is important to maintain the skin hydrated by using moisturizing creams to prevent it from peeling or developing wounds. Wounds can be very difficult to heal with diabetes, and should therefore be prevented as much as possible. Diabetics should maintain a healthy diet as directed by a registered dietitian to keep blood sugar levels stable.

Also recommended: Diabetic Diet: What to Eat & Avoid (with Meal Plan) tuasaude.com/en/diabetic-diet

11. Use of medications

Diuretic medications, such as furosemide and hydrochlorothiazide, can lead to excessive water excretion, which can leave the skin dry.

Other medications that can also lead to dehydration and dry skin are allergy medications, high blood pressure medications and statins used to treat high cholesterol.

What to do: Although some medications can cause dry skin, they should not be stopped without direction from your doctor. If your notice dry skin from medications, inform your doctor, so that an alternative medication or dose change can be considered.