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|Most of us
experience dry skin at some point in our life. Although some of us are born
with a tendency to dryness, it's possible to experience a temporary bout due
to a change in the weather, pregnancy, stress or ill-health. Simply sitting
in an overheated environment can leave skin sapped of moisture. The best way
to cope is with gentle, nourishing products that will leave skin feeling
hydrated and comfortable again.
What is dry skin?
Technically, dry skin is a condition caused by a lack of moisture in the top layer of skin, the stratum corneum, combined with a breakdown of the protective barrier of oils and keratin in the deeper epidermis. When the moisture-content level falls below five per cent, the skin becomes dehydrated and tight. Dry skin is normally fair and sensitive with no open pores and a dullish appearance. It may develop wrinkles and lines at an early age if not kept supple, especially around the mouth and eyes.
How you know if you have dry skin
The most telling signs of dry skin are a feeling of tightness 10 to 15 minutes after washing, having dull or rough, red, flaky or scaly skin, having fine lines, and there being no visible shine, even by the end of the day. The skin can look thin and papery and is also prone to broken veins.
What causes dry skin?
Dry skin is caused by a low level of sebum production. It is exacerbated by wind, extremes of temperature and air-conditioning. As we age, the condition often worsens because sebum production naturally slows down and the skin becomes thinner (which allows moisture to escape more easily). Look at your diet, too. A lack of essential fatty acids (EFAs) can cause skin to become papery and dry. If you have a hot bath and the skin on your body still feels dry after an application of body lotion, you might not have enough EFAs in your diet.
Balance skin from within
Eating a balanced diet and, if necessary, taking appropriate supplements, is a vital part of creating a healthy complexion. Bear in mind that it takes a good three weeks for newly formed cells to reach the skin's surface, so it takes time for lasting results to show. Vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc are essential antioxidants that help to enhance collagen repair and generally promote skin healing. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) can also have a positive effect on skin as they form a barrier that prevents moisture loss that helps combat dryness, fine lines and wrinkles.
What to avoid if you have dry skin
Dry skin needs ultra-gentle care. Treat it well and it won't give you cause for concern. Avoid:
Harsh cleansing Washcloths, hot water, dry saunas and skincare products containing soap can dry and irritate the skin.
Extreme weather The wind and sun can both lead to dryness and even chapping. Indoors, be wary of air-conditioning and overheating.
Granular exfoliants Irregularly shaped grains (made from peach stones or sand) are too rough and can cause broken blood vessels.
Astringent toners Alcohol tends to overstrip the skin.
Clay masks Clay and mud products soak up oil and leave skin drier.
The best skincare routine for dry skin
Although dry skin can become temporarily oilier in hot weather (just switch your moisturiser to a slightly lighter one), it will usually benefit from the following care:
Use a gentle lotion or cream cleanser that can be rinsed or tissued off. Foaming gel cleansers are too drying.
If you want to use a toner, choose an extremely gentle one (such as rosewater).
Look for a moisturising lotion or cream containing hyaluronic acid (which helps your regular moisturiser attract more moisture into your skin), jojoba oil or shea butter. Apply it to damp skin for better absorption, then gently rub it in for increased penetration.
If you have dry skin, only use scrubs made with smooth, synthetic grains to buff away dead skin cells. If you prefer chemical exfoliators, look for beta hydroxy acid (BHA) products, as they are gentler than alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) products. Exfoliate no more than twice a week.
Rich, nourishing night creams can work overnight to quench parched skin.
As an occasional treat, try a moisturising mask that doesn't set on the skin. Look for nourishing ingredients such as vitamin E or collagen.
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