External Causes and Risks of Dry Skin

There are numerous causes of dry skin. The major causes of dry skin are external and sometimes internal disorders of the body may also be responsible for dry skin.

External Causes:

Weather: Dry skin is worse during the winter months compared to summer. As the temperature drops, the humidity decreases and the skin starts to dry up. Winter conditions, including the wind and lack of humidity are the major causes of dry skin and this is most common in the home environment. However, dry skin is not only limited to the cold weather; the same can occur in the hot arid desert. Any place where the area is hot and lacks humidity will result in dry skin.

Central heating and air conditioning: Excessive use of AC and central heating are also common causes of dry skin. It is important to have a certain amount of humidity set up in these devices to prevent the drying of the skin.

Hot baths and showers. Frequent showering with hot water washes away the skin oils and breaks down the skin layer. This often leads to dry skin. Most swimmers do complain of dry skin

Harsh soaps: Use of very harsh soap with fragrances is not good for the skin. There are many soaps which contain antibacterial and deodorants and these are the ones which cause the most damage to the skin. There are many shampoos which wash away the oils from the scalp are responsible for the dryness and formation of dandruff.

There are many harsh detergents which are used in the medical industry. These hard detergents kill the bugs but also harm the skin. One should use soft detergents at home to wash the clothes.

Moisturizers: There are millions of individuals, esp. men, who never use moisturizers on their skin. The skin in these individuals is very dry and rough. This is also common in the elderly population.

Internal causes

There are many disorders of the body which can lead to dry skin. Some of the more common causes include:

Thyroid: When the thyroid gland is under active, hypothyroidism, the skin fails to secret the oil. The skin is typically dry in these individuals. Hair is also known to fall off, esp. around the eye brows. Dry skin is a common feature with hypothyroidism and is reversible when the condition is corrected with thyroid supplements.

Psoriasis: Psoriasis forms thick scaly patches on the skin due to a rapid turn over of the skin. The skin is extremely dry in these individuals and itching is common.

Alcohol: Alcohol drinking causes a loss of fluid from the body and leads to severe dryness of the skin

Caffeine: Caffeine like alcohol also acts like a diuretic and causes loss of fluids from the body.

Diuretics: These drugs are administered to individuals to decrease the amount of fluids in the body. Eventually, dehydration occurs and the skin becomes dry.

Accutane: Isotretinoin is commonly known to cause severe dryness of the skin; it acts like a peeling agent and causes a red dry patch of skin which is very dry.

Dehydration: Individuals who do not drink enough water or those who develop severe diarrhea can become dehydrated. Other causes of dehydration include high fevers, profuse sweating, and heavy exercises. One must drink lots of water to maintain the tone of the skin. Not drinking enough water is a common cause of skin dryness in the elderly

Internal causes of skin dryness are diagnosed with physical examination and testing of the blood

Risk factors

No one is immune from skin dryness and millions of individuals are affected by the condition.

Most of the time, one can prevent dryness. Dryness of the skin is most likely with:

Age: All individuals who age will develop skin dryness. As we age the oil secreting glands decrease their function and the skin become dry. The skin starts to sag and droop. The color of the skin also starts to fad and become dull. Scaling, flaking and itching are common features of dry skin in the elderly

Gender: In general, even though women look after their skin well, women do develop earlier drying of the skin. Most women start to develop dryness after menopause. Men in general do not look after their skin and very few use moisturizers. These individuals usually have severe dryness of the skin.

Sun exposure. Exposure to sun always dries up the skin. The longer the duration to sun, the drier the skin. The sun's rays penetrate deep into the skin and also break down the elasticity and tone of the skin. All sun damaged skin appears rough, scaly and wrinkles.

Damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation penetrates far beyond the top layer of skin Sun-damaged skin may have the appearance of dry skin. Thus, the importance of using sun screens.

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