Dry skin is a condition where the amount of moisture in the skin is reduced causing scaling, cracking, itching and lack of shine/lustre of skin.
The skin has natural mechanisms to lock moisture inside cells in the upper layer of the skin as well as to prevent loss of water from in between these cells. This mechanism is linked to presence of special proteins inside the cells called ‘Natural Moisturizing Factor’ which trap water, and also the presence of certain fatty substances in between cells ‘Intercellular lipids’ which prevent water loss by evaporation.
Due to environmental conditions or in some skin diseases, this mechanism may not function optimally and not trap enough skin moisture leading to dry skin. When the skin becomes dry, the superficial dead layer of the skin (which is naturally shed periodically), is not shed and results in the scaling appearance of skin. In addition skin becomes irritated and itchy, and develops cracks. Repeated itching leads to more skin irritation, redness and more itching thus generating a viscous cycle. This also makes skin prone to various bacterial and fungal infections.
Multiple factors play a role in dry skin therefore dry skin is not limited to dry weather only and can occur in any season.
Dry skin maybe physiological or pathological. Physiological dry skin occurs in the absence of any skin or systemic disease and is related to age and lifestyle factors like those given below:
Children and Elderly have less Natural Moisturizing Factor synthesizing abilities while post menopausal levels show reduced intercellular lipids.
Decreased humidity can lead to more evaporation of moisture from the skin. This is seen in dry climate of both summers and winters.
Outdoor pollutants from industrial processes and automobile exhaust and indoor use of Air conditioners also decrease the moisture in the environment and increase loss of skin moisture.
Frequent washing and use of chemical soaps and cosmetics can contribute to dry skin.
Pathological dry skin occurs due to the presence of a skin disease or also sometimes in certain generalized body diseases like given below:
This can be done by lifestyle modifications and the use of moisturisers
Do’s and Dont’s for dry skin:
Moisturisers are substances which increase the moisture in the skin. An ideal moisturizer should work as follows:
Selection of a good complete moisturizer is essential as most moisturisers mainly form protective coatings only. Also the moisturiser should provide prolonged protection and moisturisation requiring minimal re-application in the day.