Southern California may not be facing the extreme deep freeze of our friends in the Midwest, but even our cooler weather can leave skin dry, itchy, red, and raw. We wanted to share this handy guide to understanding your skin, how it can get dry and uncomfortable, and some solutions for keeping your skin healthy and moisturized during cold and dry days.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Did you know that it’s not just the weather that dries out your skin? Taking too many hot showers, using harsh soaps, or getting too much sun can cause your skin to dry out, flake, or become rough. There are also some medical conditions that can affect your skin in the same way.
A Little Bit About Skin
Our skin is made up of three layers, and each plays a part in our health. The first and deepest layer is made mostly of fat that keeps us warm, stores energy, and protects our organs from shocks. The second layer is the dermis, where blood vessels, oils, nerves, and hair follicles are located. The outer layer—what we really think of when we say “skin”—is called the epidermis. This layer is made up of stacked cells held together by a moist barrier made up of water and our own natural fats or oils. Every month these cells are shed and replaced by younger cells from lower in the epidermis.
How Moisturizers Work
The first step in fighting skin dryness is to apply a moisturizer that you can easily find in a drugstore or supermarket. These are designed to attract moisture to the skin and lock it in, smoothing rough cells and protecting them. Many moisturizers also contain emollients that fill in the spaces between skin cells, helping them lay flat and level.
Thick, greasy moisturizers are often the most effective at keeping you from losing moisture when facing dry air and wind. Be sure to apply these options right after you get out of the shower or bath, when your skin is still damp, to seal the moisture into your cells. Water-based moisturizers may not be as thick, but may be more comfortable for wearing throughout the day.
How Age Affects Skin
We are more likely to suffer from dry skin as we age. Part of that is due to sun damage. Our skin also becomes thinner with age, making it harder to keep the moisture in the cells. Older skin alsodoesn’t produce the same amount of natural oils to protect the cells. Women, in particular, may see more dryness in their postmenopausal years as their bodies produce less of the hormones that once led to the creation of sweat and oil in the arms, legs, hands, and upper back.
Skin dryness can lead to complications including eczema, bleeding (from scratching dry, itchy skin), and even infections (from open sores), so it’s a good idea to continue to moisturize your skin, especially if you are over 64. If dryness persists, your doctor may need to prescribe stronger creams and check for medical conditions where dry skin is a symptom such as diabetes, lymphoma, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, and dermatitis.
Follow a Healthy Skin Care Routine
Here are some more ways you can take care of your skin and prevent dryness year-round:
• Use a humidifier during the winter to keep the air in your home moist
• Keep your showers or baths short and use lukewarm (instead of hot) water
• Choose soap-free cleansers
• Apply moisturizer regularly, especially after washing your hands or bathing
• Don’t scratch your dry skin! This can lead to bleeding, skin tears, and infections. Try a cold compress to help relieve any itchiness.
• Use a good sunscreen (SPF 30+) year-round
While most Southern Californians are likely to be preoccupied with keeping cool in our blazing springs and summers, during the dry and windy months make sure you are keeping your skin healthy and moisturized to prevent scratchy, red dryness. Try different creams and lotions (fragrance and alcohol free) to find what works best for you. Ask your doctor for suggestions if your dry skin doesn’t get better when you follow these suggestions regularly.
Are you interested in finding out other ways to keep your skin healthy all year long? Here are some suggestions for summertime healthy skin habits.