What Causes Dry Skin? 8 Common Causes and Symptoms

Though every skin type brings its own challenges, dry skin can be particularly uncomfortable. Not only it doesn’t look good, but it often feels tight and sensitive. So, what causes dry skin?

Well, dry skin’s protective lipid barrier is damaged or insufficient and the skin is more exposed to the elements.

what causes dry skin

Why does skin feel dry?

To prevent dryness and keep the skin optimally moisturized, healthy skin produces sebum. This sebum creates a protective lipid barrier on the top layer of the skin.

The skin’s lipid barrier has two very important roles – to prevent the water from evaporating from the skin and to prevent irritants and harmful matters entering. But, many internal and external factors can weaken and damage the skin’s barrier, essentially causing your skin to be dry.

So, basically, dry skin is the skin whose lipid barrier is insufficient to properly protect the skin. That is why dry skin is often dehydrated, itchy and sensitive and it ages faster than other skin types.

What does dry skin look like? Symptoms and signs

Dry skin conditions: Dry skin easily gets irritated. The irritations cause redness, itching, and flaky skin. Dry itchy skin makes you scratch, and the scratching makes your skin even more irritated and inflamed.

In mild cases, you can notice your skin is dry only during the winter when there is not enough moisture in the air. In the cases of severely dry skin, the dryness can lead to painful cracked skin and bleeding such as cracked heels.

Dry skin often loses its youthful, healthy glow. Top layers of skin usually look dull and tired, grey or ashy. Since it doesn’t contain enough moisture, extremely dry skin is often rough, scaly, flaky and sunken. It feels tight and uncomfortable, especially right after a shower.


Here are some common reasons why your skin might be dry:

What causes dry skin? The 8 Common Causes of Dry Skin:

  1. Genetics

As with most things in our lives, the predisposition to dry skin may have a genetic component. Especially if you’ve always had dry skin and if your siblings have it as well, you can probably blame it on your mom and dad.

  1. Aging process

Even if you had normal or oily skin when you were younger, you can develop dry skin as you age. This is simply a part of a natural aging process – with years, sebaceous glands produce less and less oil. This happens to around 50 percent of people over the age of 40.

Also, as we age, the skin loses hyaluronic acid, which is a natural humectant that attracts water to the skin. The levels of collagen and elastin are also dropping and the skin loses its firmness. All of this can make the skin look and feel even drier.

  1. Dry weather, especially during the winter

Many people experience dry skin or worsening of the symptoms only during the winter months. This is because during the cold months the air outside can be extremely dry and cold, and the dry air makes water evaporate more quickly from your skin. Plus, the harsh conditions and cold winds damage the skin’s barrier even further, causing your skin to flake and crack.

Tips to soothe dry skin: The best way to prevent dry skin and winter itch is to apply a heavy, nourishing moisturizer, hand cream, and a lip balm every time before going outside as your primary skincare routine.

  1. Dry skin caused by heat

Wood-burning stoves, fireplaces or central heating can dry out the air in your room with low humidity, and this causes skin feel dry, itchy and uncomfortable. Another reason why winter can be harsh on the dry skin – your skin suffers both outside and inside.

That is why investing in a humidifier might be a really good idea. Humidifiers maintain the levels of humidity in the air, helping your skin to stay healthy and optimally hydrated all winter long.


  1. Exposure to the sun

Another reason to always wear sunscreen – other than causing cancer, sunburns, and photo-aging, the sun’s rays can also severely dry out the skin. UV rays strip the epidermis of moisture and essential oils, causing the skin to be dull, rough, dehydrated, wrinkled and extremely dry.

  1. Overexposure to chlorine and detergents

While necessary to some degree, extended exposure to chlorine, harsh soaps and detergents can dry out and damage your skin. The chemicals strip the skin of its necessary oils and damage the skin’s protective barrier.

Without a healthy barrier, the skin cannot retain moisture well and it is much more exposed to the harmful environmental factors. The skin soon becomes dry and sensitive, rough, flaky, irritated and prone to chapping.

  1. Long hot showers and baths

Though during the cold months we all crave a nice, long, hot shower, you should avoid it if you have a dry skin type. Hot water strips the necessary oils of your skin and damages the skin’s protective barrier.

Health tip: To avoid this, try to use only warm (not hot) water and limit your showers to no more than 5 minutes. As soon as you are done, apply a thick, nourishing moisturizer on damp skin (not wet skin), to prevent the water from evaporating from your skin.

  1. Certain health conditions

Most people know that Atopic dermatitis (a.k.a. eczema) or psoriasis are often connected with dry skin. But there are also some seemingly unrelated conditions that can contribute to skin dryness. Apparently, dry skin can be a symptom of diabetes, kidney failure problems, hypothyroidism, and even poor diet. Also, dry skin could be a symptom of a medical condition, such as dry skin patches and contact dermatitis. Consult a board-certified dermatologist or get medical advice to treat these conditions.

How to Treat Dry Skin?

If your skin is naturally dry, the best thing you can do is to keep skin moisturized by regularly applying nourishing natural oil and butter in your skin care routine. However, if some external factor is damaging your skin’s barrier, your primary focus should be on protecting your skin against it and cutting down the exposure as much as possible.

Try home remedies for dry skin, such as using coconut oil, avocado, and honey mask.

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