The skin is the body's largest organ and provides a protective barrier from the outside world. Skin can also help regulate body temperature, send messages to the brain about sensations like pain, or tell us when we're doing something physically wrong example, scratching an itch. Dry skin is the most common skin problem. Symptoms include chapped skin, flaky skin, and tight, itchy or 'sandpaper-like' patches of skin.
Dehydration and dry skin can be signs of a severe condition requiring you to see a doctor. If you are unsure about what's causing your skin problems, it might be best to consult a dermatologist. While some of the causes of dry skin may seem surprising, despair is not needed. The best thing about it is that there are ways to treat the problem.
7 Signs of Dry or Dehydrated Skin
1. Skin Is Irritated or Swollen
If you have dry skin, you're more likely to experience areas of swelling around your eyes, mouth and nose. The skin cannot keep up with the natural exfoliation process and oil production. It also means your skin can't repair itself properly.
2. Skin Feels Tight or Uncomfortable
Tight skin can be one of the symptoms of dehydration. If your skin feels tight on the epidermis or when you pinch it, you should use moisturizer to help relieve your feeling of tightness.
3. Skin Feels Itchy or Scratchy
Another one of the symptom of dehydration is itching and scratching. Dry skin itches more than average because the skin is not producing enough oil to protect itself or repair itself.
4. Skin Can Take Longer to Dry After Washing
If you have dry skin, your skin may take longer to dry after washing than usual. It is because your skin doesn't have enough oil to protect itself from water, so it takes longer for its natural exfoliation process to take effect.
5. Skin Looks Dull or Duller Than Normal
Dry skin looks dull, but it's not because you wear less makeup. Instead, it looks flat because the skin surface cannot produce enough oils to even the skin's tone.
6. Skin Feels Cracked or Have Visible Cracks in Thin Areas of the Skin (like your elbows and knees)
It indicates that the outer layer of your skin is not flexible, so cracks will form as a result. It is due to dehydration or just not applying enough moisturizer.
7. Skin Feels Rough or Peeling
One of the most common symptoms of dry skin is that your skin feels rougher than usual, e.g. it's not as smooth when you touch it as it used to be. It is also possible for your skin to start peeling or flaking off, which is why you might notice an unusual amount of dry skin.
Causes of Dry Skin
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light or sunburn can cause skin cells to dry out, which causes dehydration and can lead to the skin becoming cracked. This dehydration is known as photodamage.
2. Skin Damage from Heat, Chemicals, Radiation or Infections
Skin damage caused by excessive heat is another cause of dehydration. It is because the heat dehydrates the cells in your epidermis. Heat damage also causes reactive oxygen species (ROS), which oxidize your skin cell DNA and proteins. Other causes of dehydration that can cause skin damage include chemicals, radiation and infections such as chickenpox.
As you age, your skin's natural ability to produce oil decreases, which means your skin can become dryer than usual, causing dehydration. Skin ages faster when exposed to sunlight.
Inflammation in your body can cause increased skin cell turnover, leading to dry skin. The reason for this is that inflammation increases the production of ROS, and your skin cells do not have an efficient way of dealing with these ROS.
Hormones in pregnancy cause hyper-hydration, which can lead to dehydration because there is a lot of fluid movement through the layers of the epidermis, which dehydrates the area.
6. Lack of Sleep
Not getting enough sleep can dehydrate your skin because it interferes with the epidermis's neurotransmitters that control hydration levels. The epidermis is not as effective at producing oils, so the skin becomes drier than usual.
How to Treat Dry Skin or Dehydration
1. Avoid Skin Damage Caused by Heat
Use an SPF of 30 or higher. The sun's ultraviolet rays can damage your skin and cause dehydration. Make sure to wear clothing that protects you from the sun when you go out, such as a UV-responsive sunblock (an SPF of 30 or above), clothes that cover your neck and arms, and hat bands that fit snugly.
2. Use Sunscreen
Apply sunscreen that contains ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to block the damaging rays if you are out in the sun. Just ensure the product is water-resistant because most of these products do not stay on when they get wet.
3. Use a Humidifier
Humidifiers can prevent your skin from getting as dehydrated as it usually would because they add moisture to the air, so your skin can take advantage of extra hydration and elasticity. Just make sure that the product you use doesn't contain chemical components that may be harmful.
4. Treat Your Skin with Moisturizers
Choose moisturizers with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, Squalane and Panthenol to help restore your skin's natural moisture balance. Dressings can also help to treat dehydration on your skin.