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Why is My Skin Dry and Can I Fix it?

December 01, 2021


Dry skin (xerosis) is rarely serious, but it doesn't distinguish between age and ethnicity and it can be quite difficult to treat. In some instances, scaling skin can be a symptom of a chronic disease or condition like hypothyroidism, malnutrition, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes.

The condition is characterized by patched, rough, and itchy skin. In most instances, skin feels scaly and looks peeled. In extreme situations, skin will crack and bleed.

A study published in 2011 by the The International Society of Dermatology, and titled “Sensitive skin in the American population: prevalence, clinical data, and role of the dermatologist,” revealed that 44.6% of the population have either “sensitive” or “very sensitive” skin. More than half of them were women. Of that total, 34.5% of them complained of having dry skin.

Impact on Mental Health

There are already many studies that affirm the impact of one's physical appearance and depression or anxiety.  Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in The Netherlands released a study in 2005 which found out that 3 in 10 individuals suffering from psoriasis (scaly and patchy skin) and atopic dermatitis (red and itchy skin) have also reported suffering from depression and anxiety.

Interestingly, the study participants' lifestyle changes actually contributed to aggravating their conditions.

Fast Facts On Psoriasis

  • Apart from acne, psoriasis is one of the most common skin diseases in the world.
  • According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, the disease afflicts 7.5 million Americans.
  • It's more prevalent among Caucasians (3.6%) than in African-Americans (1.9%).
  • Symptoms typically develop between ages 15 and 35.
  • It's not contagious.
  • As many as 3 in 10 people who have psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis (joint problems.)
  • It's caused by genetics and/or environmental factors (stress, medication, and skin injury).

Factors that Can lead to Dry Skin

There are many factors that will lead to changes in your skin. We are going to break them up into different sections to better explain each one.


Steer clear of these types of food to avoid drying up your skin:

  1. Salty and processed foods. When we have too much salt in our system, our body will naturally take in more fluid from our cells to compensate. The scarcity of fluid in the skin is what makes it take on a dry appearance.
  2. Alcohol and coffee. Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics. They not only will make your skin dry but also drain your body of fluids, resulting in dehydration.
  3. Sugar. Too many sweets will have a negative impact on the collagen in the skin, which then loses its elasticity.
  4. Processed carbs. These work like sugar in terms of the effects on our skin. A few examples of highly processed carbs are pasta, white bread, and rice.

What Can You Do?

Consume foods that are rich in nutrients to nourish your skin:

  1. Fish. Salmon, tuna, and herring are very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help with your dry skin while also reducing red inflammation. Omega-3 is also found in walnutsand flaxseed, which is good news for those who classify themselves as vegetarians.
  2. Avocados. This tropical fruit/berry is rich in antioxidants which are good for your skin. Vitamin E and monounsaturated fats also keep our skin young.
  3. Nuts. They are filled with vitamin E, which has been proven to be good for the skin.
  4. Cucumbers. They contain silica, which is a mineral that boosts the amount of moisture in the skin.

Other foods that you should also include in your diet if you suffer from dry skin are olive oil, sweet potato, mango, papaya, berries, flaxseed, as well as yellow and orange vegetables.

Also, drink plenty of water to counterbalance any fluid you may have lost during the day!

Why is My Skin Dry and Can I Fix it?


Sudden changes in climate and temperature will also cause dry skin. For instance, people notice that the skin gets more dehydrated during the winter season. And surprisingly, extreme humidity and heat will also result in dry skin.

Stress has also been known to trigger skin diseases like acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

One of the more common and ignored cases is when you take long hot baths and showers. Dry skin can also be the result of swimming in pools treated with harsh chemicals.

Here's a list of helpful tips for decreasing skin dryness: 

  • Avoid using harsh soaps when you take a bath.
  • During the winter time, it’s very tempting to soak in a hot bath for an hour or so but limit your time in the water to fewer than 10 minutes.
  • If you are want to soak for longer than 10 minutes, use lukewarm water instead.
  • Apply moisturizer after taking a bath.
  • Pat dry, rather than scrub yourself with the towel which could exacerbate dryness.
  • Don’t use deodorizing/deodorant soaps.
  • Use anti-itch cream to avoid itching and aggravating your condition.
  • Protect your hands with winter gloves when you go out in low temperatures.
  • Use a humidifier to prevent your skin dryness from getting worse.

How a Humidifier Can Save Dry Skin

A humidifier works by adding moisture to the air. When you heat up a room, the level of moisture also depletes. And when the level of humidity in the room drops, the air in the contained space also becomes dry.

When it gets to a certain level, the moisture in your skin also dissolves. Worse, it will also affect your sinus passages, which is often why our nose gets clogged and stuffy during the winter months!

The standard humidity in the room should be between 30-50% for optimal skin health. Using a humidifier will help achieve this balance.

Ingredients in Products:

There are chemical ingredients in products that we often ignore even if we use them every day. These harsh ingredients can cause or aggravate dry skin.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide. While this has been used to treat acne, the downside is that it can dry out and damage your skin. The worst cases include peeling, bleeding, and inflammation.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol in your drink can dehydrate your cells. Alcohol in skin products will dry the skin. Make sure to always read the ingredients before buying.
  • Retinoids. These are one of the more effective chemicals to treat acne and wrinkles. They are also ideal if you have warts or psoriasis. With that said, they are not forgiving on dry skin. Dermatologists are careful about prescribing retinoids because they might be opening a Pandora’s Box in the process.
  • Salicylic Acid. Salicylic acid has many external uses. It can be good for acne, psoriasis, warts, calluses, and dandruff. But the exfoliating aspect can be too harsh for dry skin.
  • Powdered makeup. When your skin is on the dry side, you should stick with liquid and cream bases when applying your makeup. Powdered makeup can cause flaking and caking, and it can irritate your skin.

When Seeing a Doctor May be Necessary

Although not usually serious, there can be cases that are extremely serious and you'll need to see a doctor immediately. For instance, if you think that dry skin is a symptom of an underlying condition.

Diabetes, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, or malnutrition may be responsible for your condition. If you can treat the main cause of the problem, then your dry skin will go away. In these cases, you don’t need a dermatologist, but a general practitioner to help you diagnose the issue and then a specialist appropriate to the disease. 

Or in another case, medicines you are currently taking are causing your skin to be dehydrated. Among the prescription drugs that may trigger dry skin are those for blood pressure such as Atorvastatin, Fluvastatin, or Lovastatin.

Also, contributing factors are medication for blood pressure such as Thiazide diuretics, or those for skin conditions such as Retin-A, retinoids, and isotretinoin.

Genes also play a role in some skin diseases like Ichthyosis vulgaris or atopic dermatitis.

Other factors that should not be discounted are a hormonal imbalance and aging. The important thing is that the cause of the dry skin is identified to ensure the success of treatment.