Dry Skin and Its Causes

Dry Skin and Its Causes


Dry skin can be a very annoying and frustrating skin condition to deal with. Some people just have general dryness that can be solved with some extra moisturizer, but others have pretty severe dry skin patches that can result in peeling, red, itchy skin.

Dry skin is annoying and uncomfortable, but sometimes it could be a sign of more serious skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, or contact dermatitis. This is especially when you have scaly patches or the skin is perpetually red or always feeling raw, or peeling is occurring a bit more abnormally.

What is dry skin?

Dry skin is a skin type, and people with dry skin often lack natural oils and lipids all over their bodies. You may not experience dry skin all over your body as it usually manifests in dry patches either on your body or face. Dry, irritated skin is genetic and very much depends on the oil glands in your skin. It can be especially irritating if it occurs on the face, as putting on makeup can be greatly affected by flaking, dry skin. 

There are three layers to the skin: the subcutaneous fat, dermis, and the abovementioned epidermis. The subcutaneous layer is the innermost layer consisting of fats which keep us well-insulated from the cold and also provide storage for energy and absorbs shock.

The dermis is the middle layer above the subcutaneous layer. It is made of blood vessels, sebaceous glands, and hair follicles. Finally, the epidermis is the thinnest, topmost layer of the skin consists mostly of dead skin cells. This is the layer that gets dry and is made of cells that are stacked and continuously replenish, and old layers will fall off as the new skin cells rise to the surface. 

A moisturizer is usually the first product we will reach to combat dry skin. Moisturiser rehydrates the epidermis and locks the moisture into the skin. There are numerous types of moisturizing ingredients that can do this, which are mostly sensitive skin products as well.

1. Humectants

Humectants can attract and draw in moisture. Some known and common humectants include substances like ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and lecithin.

2. Occlusives

Occlusives are the ones that keep the moisture in the skin by creating a barrier on the epidermis to seal it in. Common occlusives are petroleum jelly, silicone, lanolin, and mineral oil.

3. Emollients

The last group of moisturizers is emollients, which create smoother skin by filling in the gaps between the skin cells. Some common emollients are lauric acid, linolenic acid, and linoleic acid. Most eye creams that promote under eye skin care fall under this category.

When is Dry Skin More Serious?

The skin all over the body has a dry and flaky look, and some other common issues you might see is a scaly appearance, white flakes of dry skin, some form of redness and irritation, and even other skin conditions like eczema.

If you are observing prolonged redness and irritation, or bumpiness, it might be a sign that there is another underlying skin condition involving the skin barrier. Many of the symptoms of more serious skin condition often have similarities to normal overly dry skin, but if you notice prolonged symptoms that do not improve, it could be due to these reasons: 


If your peeling skin is red, peeling, and itchy, it might be eczema. Eczema is commonly mistaken for dry and sensitive skin when it occurs on the chin and cheeks. Eczema is a chronic skin condition that occurs because the skin barrier is weak and cannot protect itself from irritants. You can also get it on the hands and other parts of the body.

Although it mostly affects children, adults can also get eczema from allergic reactions to things in the surroundings such as soaps, fragrances, makeup products, chlorine in swimming pools, and many other things. If your skin is red and irritated and starts to crust, and you itch a lot, you probably have eczema. Head to a doctor to get medicine and antihistamines to calm the redness down. They can tell you how to get rid of redness on face as well.


Psoriasis is a skin condition in which the body begins to attack its own skin cells, causing the skin renewal process to accelerate. Instead of taking the normal 28 days for the shedding of skin cells, the cells shed within 4 days. As this is happening, the old skin cells might not be shedding fast enough as the new ones emerge.

This results in silvery, white scales over thick red, raised patches of skin due to the clumping of the new and old skin cells, and results in thick, itchy patches, red sores, and scaly skin. There are many different types of psoriasis, but the most common type is plaque psoriasis.

The patches of redness and scaliness show up on the knees, elbows, palms, and lower back. It can be genetic and inherited or can also be exacerbated by smoking. You will probably need medical attention to deal with psoriasis, so check with your dermatologist who can prescribe the right topical medication for you.

Lifestyle Causes for Dry Skin

You might also want to consider what other parts of your lifestyle could be exacerbating your dry skin! There are actually a lot of things that we do everyday that could be damaging the epidermis layer of the skin. The epidermis can be affected by lots of things like humidity levels.

The epidermal cells are arranged akin to the tiles on a roof and are held together by a “glue” made of lipids (fats), which is what keeps the skin cells nice and flat, making them smooth and neat. When this glue that holds them together gets loosened, this causes the water in the skin cells to escape, hence causing a drop in moisture levels and hence the aforementioned dryness of the skin.

1. Hidden fragrances in skincare or body products that might cause itchy skin

Fragrance tends to bring irritation to dry skin and can also exacerbate the dryness. Fragrances smell but they also impart scent on the skin through a very volatile reaction and can act as a sensitizer on the skin, causing itchiness, redness, and dryness. Check your products, especially deodorants, body lotions, and even moisturizers for fragrance.

Do some extra research and make sure the ingredients do not contain floral oils that have preservatives and fragrance like lavender, as they might be labeled as “fragrance-free”, but these are also fragrance products even if they are natural so it’s best to stay away.

2. You are overdoing the retinoids

Retinoids are really effective for anti-aging and preventing wrinkles as they boost the speed of skin cell turnover. It also helps with large pores, making sure it stays clear. However, retinoids can also cause a lot of irritation and this can be a problem if your skin is naturally quite dry. By speeding up the rate of cell turnover, retinoids loosen the glue that holds the epidermal cells together resulting in more water escaping and drying the skin out.

While how to reduce wrinkles is a concern, the moisture should also be taken into consideration. But you definitely do not have to totally cut retinoids out of your skincare routine, you just have to cut down the number of times you use it. Reduce the number of times you use it from maybe every day to one or two times a week and you might be able to see an improvement.


There are many causes of dry skin. It is important to check in on your dry skin, and if your skin doesn’t seem to be getting better with moisturizer, you might want to see a dermatologist and get a medical diagnosis as it could be more severe than you think! Furthermore, always remember that hydration for skin health shouldn’t be underestimated.

To prevent your dry skin from getting worse, stay away from harsh soaps or harsh chemicals as well as showers with hot water as these things may worsen your skin irritation. Instead, to get soft and hydrated skin, use moisturizing skin care products that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid or protective oils that help to trap moisture and prevent dry skin. Other lifestyle changes you should consider is limiting your sun exposure or wearing sunscreen daily.

Stay tuned for more topics, such as “why do i have dark circles under my eyes,” “how to get a tan without risking sun damage,” and more!

Share this post