How to care for dry skin – some tips for maintaining healthy, hydrated skin
Dry skin is extremely common and, for whatever reason - whether it's the ubiquity of central heating or growing numbers of people affected by allergies - it seems to be a hot issue at the moment. Whether mild or severe, most people are affected by dry skin at some point in their lives; you only need to look at the number of creams on the market specifically aimed at caring for dry and sensitive skin to be convinced of that!
When considering how to look after dry skin, it is important to remember that the skin varies considerably on different parts of the body. For example, did you know that the skin on the soles of your feet is 6mm thick, whilst the skin on your eyelids is only 0.5mm? Both of these areas can be affected by dryness; issues around dry skin on eyelids, sensitive patches under the eyes and dry, itchy skin around the eyes are a regular topic of the emails and phone calls we receive here at Purepotions HQ, with enquiries about cracked heels and sore feet coming in at a similar rate. But should we treat these two very different areas of dry skin in the same way?
It's a common story we hear from customers who tell us they have used one product for years on the dry skin on their legs, but when they put the same product on the dry skin around their eyes, it caused a terrible sore, itchy reaction.
This is why we always recommend patch testing all products close to the affected area so that the relevant area of skin is being tested for sensitivities.
Given the varied nature of skin, this is a really important rule to stick to; if you need to use a product on the face try a tiny patch on that area first before applying all over! Don't assume that a cream that doesn't flare-up your hands won't cause itchiness on your neck.
It's also a good rule of thumb that choosing products with a simple list of ingredients is likely to reduce the risk of reacting against any one of them particularly if you're going to be applying cream to delicate areas such as the face and particularly around the eyes. The simpler, the better, especially if you know you're susceptible to irritation!
Although natural doesn't always mean better, as far as skincare goes it's certainly true that sensitivities can be triggered by artificial preservatives and fragraces, so it's advisable that you avoid such additives on dry or sensitive skin. Choose lotions and potions that are unfragranced and that don't contain chemical preservatives if you're going to use them on dry or even eczematous skin. Look for products that don't contain known allergens such as parabens, paraffin, perfumes, etc.
Understanding how skin works can really help us to understand what is needed when the skin dries out. The top layer of our skin, aka the epidermis, is made up of skin cells that are held together with lipids, or fatty acids. Think of it as a brick wall; the cells are the bricks and the fatty acids are the cement. Just like the cement in a brick wall, the fatty acids play a vital role in keeping the skin barrier functioning effectively.
For those who suffer with dry skin or conditions like eczema, the fatty acids between the cells contain lower levels of ceramides, which can lead to impaired barrier function. This means that moisture escapes from the skin more easily and external irritants get in, making the skin dry and itchy. Having this piece of information and acting on it could make an enormous difference to supporting the health of your dry skin because it means you can take steps to keep that wall well maintained and strong!
Absolute top tip for looking after dry skin is to get your essential fatty acids (EFAs) whether through diet or in the products you feed your skin. These are substances that cannot be made by the human body and must be provided in the diet and are absolutely vital to healthy skin barrier function. By boosting the amount of EFAs in our diet we can help to increase the level of fatty acids available in to our skin, so our bodies can build a healthier skin barrier that can retain moisture efficiently and resist external irritants.
Add some of these to your daily diet or consider taking a fish oil vitamin supplement if your skin is really dry:
Oily fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel)
Fish oil supplement
Hemp seeds or hemp oil
For more information, please visit the Help Your Skin section of our website.
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.