For people who have dry skin conditions, living in hot humid climates, may be a blessing after all. I say this because I am now convinced more than ever, even though it has been scientifically proven long since, that one of the triggers of severe dry skin is the onset of cold dry weather.
There are different types of dry skin conditions, but my focus today is on Xerosis Cutis. This is the medical term for abnormally dry skin. This name comes from the Greek word “xero,” which means dry.
Even though Xerosis cutis is more common in older people, people of all ages can have it if the structure of their stratum cornuem becomes weakened and porous enough to allow for increase in transepidermal water loss.
Causes of dry skin conditions
- Inability of the skin to retain moisture. Usually the structure of the skin is such that the upper layer forms a barrier that retains moisture within its layers, to keep it hydrated, however when that defence is jeopardised, theStrateum corneumSC will become deficient in this ability therefore making it possible for water to easily evaporate from the SC, this is called Trans Epidermal Water Loss, when this TEWL increases significantly, this leads to dry skin conditions.
- Another major cause of dry skin is excessive bathing with harsh or high PH soaps. Very alkaline skin care products is a sure way of damaging the integrity of the SC, as they strip the skin of its natural lipids which are there to protect the skin and form a natural barrier against TEWL. People who have dry, sensitive skin should avoid the use of most cold process soaps which are especially highly alkaline. Moisturising soaps, soapless soap, and even well formulated PH balanced mild body cleansers are generally better for the dry skin.
- Bathing with very hot water will also be detrimental to skin as it would weakens the structure of the SC, as well as strip it of its natural oils.
How to take care of dry skin conditions
In dealing with Xerosis cutis and other dry skin conditions the primary focus is to
Restore the damaged SC lipid barrier protection,
Reduce TEWL, and
Help the upper epidermal layers of the skin to retain moisture.
- Avoid the use of harsh soaps or detergents, look for PH balanced soaps, moisture soaps like dove, and in very severe cases either avoid soap completely or use only soapless soaps usually recommended by a dermatologist.
- Moisturise the skin adequately using the right skin care ingredients
- Avoid the use of perfumes, colorants and alcohol in skin care products
- Avoid wearing fabric made of wool as it can irritate the skin
Skincare ingredients to incorporate in treating dry skin conditions include:
I tend to prefer humectants such as AHAs (lactic acid etc.) Urea and other components of the NMF (Natural Moisturising Factor) to glycerine and sorbitol as these can actually aggravate the dry skin condition, especially in low humidity climates, by actually absorbing water from the lower layers of the skin rather than the atmosphere which can actually increase the TEWL.
Besides, AHAs also function as a modulator of the skin’s keratinisation process by promoting epidermal proliferation ( causing mild exfoliation), as well as acts as a PH adjuster, while Urea has been known to reduce TEWL, improve skin barrier function , has keratolytic properties as well as being a member of the NMF.
These are lipid based ingredients which make the skin soft and pliable.Most natural butter and oils will function effectively as emollients to manage dry skin conditions, however, they will not be adequate when used solely for the management of dry skin conditions , they have to be used together with the other ingredients to be effective.Lanolin is a highly effective emollient for dealing with dry skin conditions as it is a natural protection for skin against environmental influences and more superior than the oils and butters for dealing with dry skin conditions.
These form a physical barrier on top of the skin and help reduce the evaporation of water from the skin surface. They form a protective film on top of the skin so are best used after the skin has been cleaned and well moisturised.The common ones include beeswax, dimethicone, petrolatum, and zinc oxide.
My preferred occlusive to use for dry skin conditions however is zinc oxide because it not only protects the skin against TEWL, it also acts as an anti-inflammatory agent to help soothe dry irritated skin as well as help to heal the dry cracked skin. Also it might double as a natural sun protection when worn during the day protecting the skin from further environmental damage.
Other ingredients to help manage dry skin conditions
Proteins and amino acids
These help the skin to repair itself, however most protein and amino acid molecule are too big to permeate the skin so might only be sitting on top of the skin rather than getting into the lower layers where they might be more beneficial to heal the skin.
These are also helpful in healing dry skin conditions as they may be useful in simulating the production of NMF in the skin.
Especially Niacinamide also helps stimulate collagen synthesis and up- regulates epidermal sphingolipids partially.
This has been known to help improve the skins moisture content by stimulating the skins own moisture network and therefore helps to support the functions of the Aquaporins in the skin. Aquaporins are in the skins deeper epidermal layers and enhance the natural up flow of moisture to the upper layers of the skin ensuring long lasting skin moisture.