In this article:
Which vitamins are beneficial for dry skin?
I do not have any specific vitamin recommendations that are proven to help with dry skin.
However, I do counsel on considering the intake of antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E as well as zinc (plays a role in collagen synthesis), in your diet for general skin health.
Do high levels of anxiety and stress cause dry skin?
I always tell my patients with a worsening skin condition who are undergoing legal issues, depression, anxiety, divorce, death in the family, or stress from work/home or finances that the mind and skin are deeply connected.
I recommend breathing exercises, yoga, or regular cardiovascular exercise and having a well-balanced diet and good sleeping habits (average 7-8 hours of sleep per night).
Regarding the question of dry skin, there are physiologic reasons in the epidermis that worsen dry skin. Still, it is possible that high levels of stress and anxiety can cause a progression from dry skin to a full-blown eczema flare-up, especially if the patient is frequently scratching due to anxiety and stress.
The act of scratching dry skin can worsen itch (pruritus) by further breaking down the skin barrier and exposing the nerves in the skin.
I always say that scratching at xerotic skin is like “pouring gasoline on a fire” and thus promotes the “scratch-itch” cycle.
What medical conditions can cause dry skin?
A range of medical conditions can cause dry skin.
Atopic dermatitis, or eczema, is most closely associated with dry skin due to a genetic or acquired disturbance. This condition produces as a pruritic red rash of the extremities and trunk, but it can also affect the face, scalp, and genitals.
Medications used to treat breast and prostate cancer also play roles in the occurrence of dry skin. The next category to consider would be systemic diseases in general:
- Kidney and liver diseases
- Malignancy (leukemia, lymphoma, solid organ tumors)
- Vitamin deficiencies
Lastly, in addition to the hormonal treatments mentioned previously, diuretic antihypertensive medications can also promote dry skin.
What precautions should be taken to tackle dry skin?
The ideal time to apply a “moisturizer” is right after taking a shower when your skin is still damp.
The word “moisturizer” can be a misnomer a lot of times as the moisturizing cream/lotion/ointment does not add a lot of “moisture.”
I tell patients to “trap” the moisture gained from a lukewarm shower/bath by applying the emollient after pat drying the skin with a towel, leaving the skin still moist.
I also recommend avoiding hot, scalding showers or baths and the use of harsh scented soaps (stick to unscented bar soap). Moreover, avoid scrubbing and exfoliating aggressively as these habits will damage the epidermis.
Also, shorten your shower/bath time to less than 10 minutes. Finally, I want to stress the importance of living a well-balanced lifestyle that addresses diet, exercise, sleep, and mental well-being.
If your dry skin issues and itching do not improve with over-the-counter moisturizers, please see your dermatologist for additional help.
What dietary changes should be made if one has dry skin?
Staying hydrated is a must for maintaining a healthy skin barrier, as well as cutting down on dehydrating drinks such as alcohol. Without an adequate barrier, your skin will dry out easily.
For any skin condition, I always recommend a well-balanced diet with a combination of zinc sources (good for collagen cross-linking and zinc deficiency can cause dry skin), fruits, nuts, vegetables with vitamins C and E (antioxidants), and fish (fish oil’s omega-3 may be anti-inflammatory).
What skincare routine should be followed when one is suffering from dry skin?
With an impaired skin barrier, patients need to prevent further damaging the epidermis with harsh soaps/cleansers as well as avoiding certain allergens or irritants from causing inflammation.
After a lukewarm to warm (not hot) shower or after gently cleansing your face, apply an emollient (cream, ointment, or lotion) to “trap in” the moisture. Ideally, moisturizers should be applied twice a day.
Opt for a cream over an ointment for the face and hands as this is less greasy and less “heavy” (rubs in more readily), thus avoiding the tacky feeling over the eyelids and hands.
For the shins, elbows, knees, heels, and waistline, choose a “heavier” and more “viscous” moisturizer as these surfaces are involved with frictional rubbing.
Using an ointment or thicker cream is like creating another layer of skin over these sites to prevent cracking or fissuring with friction (i.e., waistline rubbing with pants, heels from running/walking).
For children, apply a generous amount of ointment over them after a bath (while the skin is still moist) and then immediately cover with their pajamas. While they sleep, turn on the humidifier during the night.
Can drinking large amounts of water reverse the effects of dry skin?
Staying hydrated is very important in skin health and maintaining an adequate skin barrier.
We know that being dehydrated or being on diuretics (promotes increased urination for blood pressure reduction) can lead to dry skin.
With that said, I would not recommend “excessive” drinking of water as this can cause issues with your electrolytes (especially sodium levels) and your water weight.
Also, depending on your other comorbidities, too much intake of water can put excess strain on your heart and kidneys.
Although there are different theories on appropriate water intake based on weight and health conditions, I typically tell my patients to drink the gold standard of eight 8-oz glasses of water per day.
Can skin cancers cause dry skin?
Skin cancers typically do not cause dry skin, although they can present in a way that mimics “dry skin.”
A worrisome sign would be a persistent, localized patch of rough, dry skin or a “bump” with dry skin that has a “sandpaper-like” texture. These can be signs of skin cancer or pre-skin cancer (such as actinic keratosis).
If the area of rough, dry skin grows with time, bleeds, or becomes thickened into a “cutaneous horn,” definitely have the patient see a dermatologist right away for an evaluation.
What are the major reasons leading to dry skin during the winters?
The cold winter air loses moisture to condensation and thus can readily pull water from the skin (especially of the lips and hands). The lipids of the skin’s stratum corneum are robbed of moisture, leading to skin dryness.
People also put on the heaters in their homes during the winter. The dry heat mixed with the cold air coming in from the outdoors will cause a warm, dehumidified environment. The frequent hot showers people take to defrost is also not helpful.
Frequent washing of the hands or showers/baths will wash away the natural oils and fats in the skin and compromise the skin barrier. Hot water will also damage the cells of the epidermis, which further impairs the skin barrier, thus leading to dryness.
Can people with dry skin also have pimple breakouts?
Although oily skin is notorious for excess sebum that clogs pores, dry skin can sometimes lead to acne development.
When the skin is thirsty for moisture, it sends feedback to the sebaceous glands to make more sebum. With more sebum, pores will clog more readily, causing inflammatory acne.
When I give patients handouts on their customized treatment plan for acne, I will mention what type of over-the-counter moisturizer to apply either before or after the medicated topical medication.
When you incorporate the right emollient into your acne regimen, you can find better results by controlling oil and dryness.
What moisturizers are best suited for dry skin?
Creams can sometimes cause stinging in dry skin more than bland ointments due to the alcohol content or preservatives. The best moisturizer is what the patient is okay with using on a once to twice a day routine.
I like to break down moisturizer types based on the location of the dry skin.
If it is the face, I prefer an emollient that is preferably cream or lotion that contains niacinamide.
Niacinamide is important as it lowers the chances that your moisturizer will trap sebum in pores. Thus, acne breakouts are prevented by keeping sebum production in check.
A facial cream that contains hyaluronic acid is advantageous for the face as it plumps up the skin and thus softens fine lines and wrinkles.
For the hands, a cream with lactic acid, salicylic acid, or urea will help keep the fissures and cracks from developing on the fingers and palms.
Ointments for the trunk are also recommended as this can prevent rubbing of clothes, especially at the waistline.
Which skin type is better, dry, or oily?
Each skin type presents its own advantages and disadvantages.
Dry skin yields fewer complaints of feeling “greasy” over the forehead and nose and perhaps fewer issues with enlarged oil glands or acne. One can argue that having dry skin makes fine wrinkles more visible.
The cheapest method of treating wrinkles is simply applying a moisturizer to “plump up” the skin and its wrinkles. Oily skin usually does not pose this problem as the adequate production of sebum softens wrinkles.
However, such an advantage comes at a price – the increased sebum production can lead to acne flare-ups.
Is Vaseline effective in treating dry skin?
I do like Vaseline a lot. It is bland, readily available, affordable, and non-irritating. It is great to apply after topical steroids for itch (due to dry skin or eczema) as it will “seal in” the topical steroid.
I have been recommending petrolatum-based ointments for my pediatric patients since my residency training, and I even did this for my children since birth.