You moisturize after every shower, use a humidifier in your bedroom at night, and eat healthfully – yet your skin still feels dry, tight, and itchy. Before you make an appointment with your dermatologist, check to see whether you’re guilty of one or more of the following habits that aggravate dry skin.
Dry skin saboteur #1: Taking long, hot showers
Hot water strips your skin of the natural lipids – cholesterol, fatty acids, and ceramides – that provide a watertight seal around cells. This disturbs the skin’s barrier and causes water to evaporate, says Leslie Baumann, MD, director of the University of Miami’s Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute. A reduction in lipids causes skin to feel dry and itchy. Limit showers to no more than 10 to 15 minutes, and use warm – not hot – water, suggests Doris Day, MD, a New York City–based dermatologist. The same rules apply for taking a bath: Keep bathing time short, and use warm water. When washing your face and hands, use warm or lukewarm water.
Dry skin saboteur #2: Using deodorant soaps
Cleansers such as deodorant soaps and foaming face washes contain detergents that, like hot water, remove lipids from the skin and damage its barrier. Not only does this allow water to evaporate from the skin, but it lets irritants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (a common detergent) enter skin cells and cause inflammation. Because shampoo may also contain this irritating ingredient, it’s best to shampoo first, then wash your face and body to remove any traces of it. Also potentially harmful to skin are alcohol- and water-based cleansers, bubble baths, and heavily fragnanced soaps. More soothing options are oil-based, unscented mild soaps and body washes.
Dry skin saboteur #3: Rigorously toweling off after your shower
Aggressively rubbing a towel on your skin causes friction that can irritate it. Instead, pat skin dry. Immediately apply a moisturizer while your skin is still damp to lock in moisture.
Dry skin saboteur #4: Using an overly aggressive facial peel
A peel – whether it’s an at-home glycolic acid peel or a spa treatment – is beneficial because it removes the top layer of skin, which allows moisturizers to penetrate more readily. What isn’t good is using a peel that is too potent on skin already irritated by wind or cold. Opt for a more soothing oxygen facial, or try a moisturizing mask in colder months, suggests Marina I.
Dry skin saboteur #5: Forgoing sunscreen in the winter
Nothing is as damaging and drying to skin as sunburn, and UVA rays are the same year-round, says Dr. Day. It’s especially important to wear sunscreen when skiing because the sun’s rays are more intense at higher altitudes. An SPF 15 lotion is typically fine in the winter, but check the label to make sure it contains UVA/UVB protection or is a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
In addition to these common saboteurs, certain medications and medical conditions, such as diabetes, can cause dry skin.