What is the Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin?
Winter is approaching, which means frosty weather, wooly jumpers and cosy nights by the fire.
Unfortunately it also means spending more time around sources of heat, a lack of humidity in the air as temperatures drop and wearing fabrics that can irritate the skin.
All of these factors can result in dry skin or a worsening of dry skin conditions, such as eczema and pruritus.
Dry skin can cause discomfort by becoming itchy, tight and irritated.
Your skin becoming dry can also cause it to crack, which can leave it vulnerable to infection from harmful germs, such as bacteria.
Developing a skincare routine can help you to manage your dry skin or symptoms of your dry skin condition.
We want you to make the most out of the winter months, so if you are prone to dry skin or have a dry skin condition, here is everything you need to know about developing a skincare routine to protect your skin when the temperatures plummet.
Why is it important to take care of our skin?
You may think of your body as a temple, but for this purpose, let's imagine that it is a castle.
Your skin is the fortress that protects the castle (your body) from enemies, such as bacteria, viruses and other harmful substances that can cause infections and disease.
In order for our skin to protect us efficiently, it needs to be cared for properly to ensure that it stays hydrated and strong enough to defend against germs.
If our skin becomes dry, this can cause it to crack which weakens the protective barrier that it provides.
This allows harmful substances to invade our bodies, which can cause skin infections and worsen skin conditions, such as eczema to become worse and more uncomfortable.
What causes dry skin?
When your skin is dry you may experience scaly or flaky skin or skin that has fine lines or cracks.
If you touch your skin, it may feel rough and sensitive or even a little painful.
There are many factors that can cause dry skin from the weather to spending too long in the shower
Whenever we leave the house, our skin is exposed to the elements, from UV rays to freezing temperatures.
Our skin is at particular risk during the winter months, as temperatures plummet and humidity is reduced, which dries out our skin.
Again, in winter, we are more likely to turn up the thermostat or light the fire, which may feel lovely after a day out in the cold, but sources of heat in our homes reduce the moisture in the air, which can cause our skin to lose hydration.
Taking hot showers and baths with harsh soaps or detergents, can damage our skin through dehydration and stripping the skin of its natural oils.
Spending lots of time in chlorinated water, such as swimming pools and hot tubs can also strip our skin, leaving it dry.
What are dry skin conditions?
As well as factors in our environment, there are several skin conditions that can cause our skin to become dry and uncomfortable.
Some of the most common dry skin conditions include:
What is eczema?
Eczema is a dry skin condition that causes red, itchy, flaky skin.
In some cases, it can cause the skin to become dry, that it cracks and can be vulnerable to infection.
Eczema can affect any part of your body, but it is most likely to form patches on:
- Back and front of knees
- Outside or inside of the elbows
- Around the neck, hands, cheeks or scalp
It is possible for those who have eczema to experience a period where their symptoms are mild, followed by periods where symptoms are severe, which is known as a flare-up.
What is ichthyosis?
Ichthyosis comes from the Greek word for fish, as it can cause scaly skin that looks similar to fish scales.
Unlike most skin conditions, ichthyosis is a term for around 20 types of conditions that affect the skin.
It is normal for our skin to continue to shed and regrow to form a strong protective barrier, however, if you have ichthyosis, your skin doesn't shed properly, so builds up as thick, rough areas.
What is pruritus?
Pruritus is the medical name for the urge to itch your skin.
It can be both generalised (itchiness experienced all over the body) or localised (itchiness in a particular area).
Most people will experience short-lived itching at some point, but some people may experience it frequently and can be very frustrating to live with.
Itching can break our skin, which can break its natural protective properties.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis causes flaky red patches of skin that are covered in silver scales.
It is typical to experience these patches, usually appear on the elbows, knees and the lower back and can be itchy or sore.
Similar to eczema, it is possible to have periods where your psoriasis symptoms are less severe, followed by periods where symptoms are more severe and uncomfortable.
What should a skincare routine include?
A skincare routine should include a number of factors to include that ensure that your skin is cleansed and hydrated.
If you suffer from dry skin, using harsh soaps that contain fragrances and other irritants can dry out the skin, so it would be more beneficial to use a soap-free cleanser or a soap alternative.
Moisturising is important for all skin types, as it prevents the skin from becoming dehydrated and helps to support and strengthen our skin's natural protective barrier.
What is an emollient?
Emollients intensely hydrate ingredients that can soothe, hydrate and moisturise the skin.
They are typically used to help treat dry, itchy or scaly skin conditions.
Emollients can help to reduce dryness, itching and scaling, as well as soften cracks in the skin to help them heal and strengthen the skin.
Emollients are applied topically (directly to the skin) through being part of a moisturising formula.
Moisturisers that contain emollients can come in different forms including:
- Soap substitutes
Emollients work by locking in moisture within the skin, to prevent the skin from drying out.
They are effective when used throughout the day to keep hydration levels in your skin topped up, but are especially useful when applied after bathing.
How to choose the best cleanser for dry skin
It is important to use a cleanser that is soap-free or use a soap alternative.
There are many products on the market that have been developed to be suitable for those who have dry, sensitive skin.
A good example of a soap-free cleanser, is one that is:
- Suitable for treating dry, scaly skin and can provide relief from symptoms of dry skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis
Choosing a product that is soap-free, can help to avoid your skin from drying out.
A product that is multi-purpose (e.g. can cleanse face, body and hair) can be beneficial as you won't have to worry about checking the ingredients in multiple products.
The best way to choose the best cleanser for your skin is by understanding the needs of your skin and/or the symptoms of your dry skin condition and trialling products that have been developed to meet those needs.
It may be a game of trial and error for a little while until you find the perfect product for you, but it's worth it to ensure that your skin is properly cared for.
How can I look after my skin when bathing?
Although baths can, sometimes, make dry skin conditions worse, there are steps you can take to protect your skin whilst enjoying your bath.
Firstly ensure that that temperature of the bath is warm rather than hot and limit the time you spend in the bath to less than 10 minutes.
Using a bath oil, can prevent your skin from drying out during and after bathing.
It works by dispersing into the water to cover your skin to lock in moisture.
After you have finished bathing, avoid towels made from rough fabrics and do not rub the skin vigorously.
Instead, pat the skin gently with a soft towel so that some moisture remains on the skin.
Follow your bathing routine with a suitable moisturising product to replenish moisture in your skin.
Which is the best moisturiser for dry skin?
Similar to cleansers, in order for you to choose the best moisturiser for your skin, it is important to understand your skin's needs.
Moisturiser products come in many different forms, but the most common ointments, lotions and creams and sprays.
The type you choose can depend on how severe your dry skin is and where you suffer from dry skin on your body.
If dry skin or a dry skin condition only affects certain parts fo your body, it may be useful to pick products that are developed for that specific part of the body.
For example, if you are prone to dry, cracked hands due to frequent hand washing or exposure to the elements, it may be useful to use a cream developed specifically for your hands.
What is the difference between ointments, lotions, sprays and creams?
It can be tricky to choose which type of moisturising product is suitable for you, so here is a quick breakdown of the benefits and drawbacks of each type of moisturiser.
- Are very thick with a high oil content, therefore are very moisturising
- Good for thickened or very dry skin
- Very greasy texture, so are not really practical for application during the day - more suitable for applying before bedtime
- Useful for areas of skin that is covered in hair or damaged areas of skin, as they have a thin formula that can be spread easily
- The moisturising effect is not as long-lasting, as other emollient products
- Good for hard-to-reach areas
- Ideal for applying to skin that shouldn't be touched, e.g. due to being sore/infected
- Moisturising properties may not be long-lasting, so frequent reapplication may be necessary
- In between an ointment and a lotion
- Hydration that lasts longer than a lotion, absorbed quickly and suitable for daytime use
- Reapplication still may be necessary throughout the day