Winter Skin Survival Guide
Many different factors cause dry skin. Here are the most common.
Age: As estrogen production decreases in women, particularly as menopause nears, the skin produces fewer lipids. As you get older, cell turnover also slows down, resulting in more flakiness.
Genes: Some people are more genetically predisposed to skin dryness than others. It could be as simple as having fewer oil glands. Or you could be one of the millions of Americans who suffer from eczema, a skin disorder that is often hereditary.
Weather changes: "Chilly temperatures, cold winds, low humidity, and dry indoor heat (particularly the forced-air type) cause water to evaporate from the skin because there is more water in your skin than in the air," says Cherie Ditre, an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
Long, hot baths and showers: Too much washing strips the skin of its protective layer of oil, causing it to become dry. Then, as the water evaporates from the skin, it pulls more valuable moisture from the epidermis with it. Cleansing with harsh soaps can also strip lipids from the skin and increase water loss.
Smoking: Extremely toxic for the skin, smoking deprives the outer layers of oxygen and nutrients, as well as promoting premature wrinkling. In addition, “the smoke itself dries the skin’s surface,” says Jerome Z. Litt, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland.
Bundling up in woolen clothing: Scratchy materials can rub your skin the wrong way, disrupting the barrier that keeps moisture in and causing chapping.
Chronic health conditions: Diabetes, thyroid disorders, kidney disease, and some other conditions can affect the skin’s ability to retain moisture. Some medications―including antihistamines, tamoxifen (for breast cancer), and certain antidepressants―also cause dryness.