Maintaining healthy, well-nourished skin begins with understanding and addressing the issue of dryness. Dry skin is a very common concern for many South Africans and symptoms can manifest on both your face and body, causing discomfort and impacting overall skin health. Discover more about this condition as Bloom Financial Services explores practical and effective ways to treat dry skin, including lifestyle adjustments, hydration, skincare routines, and home remedies. Say goodbye to dryness as you find out how to treat dry skin on face and body.
Understanding dry skin
The skin is the largest organ of the human body. It’s comprised of layers of epithelial tissues including the epidermis, the hypodermis and the dermis. It has important functions like regulating body temperature, immune defence, assisting with vitamin production and facilitating sensation. The skin’s susceptibility to dryness is due to its exposure to external environmental factors, lifestyle choices genetics and internal imbalances. Let’s unpack this further.
Causes of dry skin
- Ageing: As the skin undergoes structural changes over time, the production of natural moisturising agents, like hyaluronic acid, decreases, leading the skin to lose hydration, which contributes to dryness. In addition, collagen production declines, which means the skin loses its elasticity, causing dryness, fine lines and wrinkles.
- Environmental factors: Prolonged exposure to harsh weather conditions, like cold winds, intense heat and low humidity, will strip the skin of its natural oils and contribute to dryness. Other factors like air-conditioning, pollution, and UV radiation can create a dry atmosphere and contribute to oxidative stress. This has an impact on the skin’s ability to retain moisture, leading to dehydration and dry skin.
- Lifestyle choices: Inadequate care of your skin can aggravate dryness. Factors like a poor diet that lacks essential fatty acids, neglected skincare practices, excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption and smoking all contribute to a depletion in skin moisture and contribute to dryness. Smoking is particularly harmful as it reduces blood flow and accelerates ageing.
- Skin conditions: Several types of skin conditions can contribute to dryness. Conditions like eczema (atopic dermatitis) and psoriasis cause inflammation, compromising the skin barrier. Inflammation reduces the skin’s ability to retain moisture, causing dryness and itching. Seborrheic dermatitis affects the skin’s sebaceous glands, resulting in either excessive oil production or dryness. Likewise, some chronic medical conditions, like diabetes can affect blood circulation, which impairs nutrient delivery to the skin and contributes to dryness.
- Thyroid or endocrine disorders can contribute to dry skin by disrupting the hormonal balance that’s integral for good skin health. Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, often leads to decreased production of hormones that play a role in the skin’s moisture levels. Insufficient thyroid hormones will impair the sebaceous gland’s ability to produce adequate natural oils and cause the skin to lose moisture and become dry and flaky.
- Medication: Prescribed or over-the-counter drugs used for high blood pressure, diuretics and allergies can contribute to dry skin as a side effect. Medication can disrupt the skin’s moisture balance by reducing natural oil production, which affects hydration levels.
- Vitamin or mineral deficiencies, like inadequate levels of vitamins A, B and E, and insufficient levels of omega-3 fatty acids can impair the skin’s ability to retain moisture and protect against harsh environmental stressors.
Symptoms of dry skin
- Flakiness: Dry skin is often characterised by small, white flakes on the skin’s surface that result from skin shedding dead skin cells that have not been properly moisturised.
- Redness: Dry skin becomes irritated, which is often characterised by a distinct redness on the face or affected areas of the body.
- Tightness: Dry skin loses its natural elasticity and feels tight. This sensation is caused by a lack of moisture and impaired flexibility.
- Itching: Dry skin often causes discomfort, leading to an unpleasant itching feeling.
- Cracks and fissures can often appear on the hands and feet in severe cases. These lesions can become quite painful and, in some cases, lead to infections.
- Fine lines and wrinkles: Dry, dehydrated skin can accelerate ageing by causing premature fine lines and wrinkles. This is because the skin loses moisture and elasticity.
- Scaling: Dry skin often exhibits scaling, where patches of skin appear to have a rough texture. This is due to an accumulation of dead skin cells, leading to an uneven texture.
How to treat dry skin on face and body
Managing dry skin is a multifaceted approach, including specialised skincare routines, medications, and addressing the underlying causes to alleviate symptoms. Some of the best ways to treat dry skin include:
1. Nourishing your skin from the inside
By prioritising hydration and maintaining a nutrient-rich diet, you can address dry skin issues. A balanced diet that is rich in essential vitamins and minerals is key to maintaining skin health. Choose foods that are high in vitamins A, B, C and E, as well as minerals like zinc and selenium that contribute to skin elasticity, and collagen production and provide protection against oxidative stress. Incorporating essential fatty acids, like omega-3 and omega-6 into your diet will support the skin’s lipid barrier and prevent moisture loss.
Drinking enough water and staying well-hydrated will help combat dry skin.
Hydration is key to skin health as water is vital for maintaining the skin’s moisture balance. It also supports the process of flushing out toxins and nutrient delivery.
2. Establishing a skincare routine
Identifying your skin type is one of the first steps to effective skincare. This will help you create a skincare routine and will identify the best products and practices for your needs. Skincare needs to be consistent to be effective. Commit to cleansing in the morning and evening, removing impurities without stripping the skin’s natural oils. Avoid washing your face or hands multiple times per day as this will strip your skin of natural oils and dry it out. After cleaning, use a moisturiser to lock in hydration.
When it comes to dry skin, choose a hydrating cleanser that helps maintain the skin’s natural oils, preventing further dryness. Opt for moisturisers with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides for hydration. Fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products are recommended for sensitive skin.
Including a weekly exfoliation or mask can assist in skin hydration. Gentle exfoliation methods, like using a scrub or chemical exfoliant will gently remove the dead skin cells. Avoid harsh exfoliants as this could cause skin irritation. Hydrating masks that include ingredients like aloe vera will offer extra moisture.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good SPF. Sun protection is essential in dry skin care. The UV rays can lead to premature ageing and can exacerbate dryness. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect the skin against environmental damage.
3. Home remedies for dry skin
There are several easy ways to combat dry skin at home, which include:
- Natural oils. Applying coconut, jojoba or olive oil to the dry areas may help lock in the moisture and provide relief for dryness.
- DIY masks. You can create your own hydrating masks. Mix honey and yoghurt, and apply this to your face. Or, you mash avocado and apply this to your face.
- Bath soaks. Add a cup of oatmeal to a warm bath. Oats have anti-inflammatory properties and can help relieve dry, itchy skin. This is also a good remedy for sunburn. Or, you can soak a cloth in cold milk and apply this to the affected areas for 15 minutes.
- Moisturisers. Apply fresh aloe vera gel or shea butter to the skin. These products have a soothing and moisturising property that will alleviate dryness and irritation.
- Cool compresses. Apply cucumber slices or cooled green teabags to dry patches. Cucumbers have a high water content and a cooling effect, providing hydration, while green tea contains antioxidants which will rejuvenate dry skin.
Some over-the-counter medications can assist with dry skin symptoms. Make sure you read the labels and speak with your pharmacist before using these products. Some of these include:
- Topical steroids. Hydrocortisone cream can help reduce inflammation and itching.
- Antihistamine creams. These can provide relief from the itching caused by dry skin irritations.
- Salicylic acid. This will assist with scaling and flaking, as well as provide exfoliation for dead skin cells.
- Barrier creams, like vaseline or petroleum jelly, can be applied directly to sensitive areas as a means to lock in moisture.
When to see a dermatologist
A dermatologist is a medical doctor who specialises in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of skin, hair and nail conditions. They can address a broad range of issues, including dry skin. It’s advisable to consult a dermatologist for dry skin symptoms that resist over-the-counter or home remedies and persist despite making lifestyle adjustments. A dermatologist can assist with a tailored treatment plan based on your specific symptoms and circumstances, and instruct you with regards to a personalised plan on how to treat dry skin on face and body.
The Momentum’s Health4Me Gold Plan includes a Specialist Benefit with dermatology. Members are limited to two visits per year at a limit of R1,220 per consult, per member. To visit a dermatologist, you must first make an appointment with your local GP who will obtain authorisation from Momentum. They will then provide you with a referral letter. Thereafter, you make an appointment with a dermatologist who is part of the Momentum CareCross medical network.
Get Momentum Health4Me Gold with specialist benefits
Follow the tips provided so you know how to treat dry skin on face and body. It’s a common skin condition that can be attributed to many factors, but leading a healthy lifestyle and committing to a consistent skincare routine, will help combat the symptoms of dry skin. With a Health4Me Gold health insurance plan, you receive Specialist Benefits, including dermatology. Contact our team of trained brokers and get a free quote for affordable medical insurance for you and your family.