"When you have dry skin, it means that there’s not enough water, period," she explains in an episode of Dear Derm, Well+Good's YouTube series that gives expert intel on skin care. "It can mean that there’s not enough water being trapped in or that there’s too much water leaving the skin, so when you start seeing dry skin, know that it’s your mission to start replacing that H2O." As for the culprits behind your skin's water loss, though? It can be either because of the environment, your routine, or an underlying physiological factor.
- Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist and associate clinical professor at Yale University
In terms of the environment, dry skin and dry air go hand-in-hand, which is why the condition becomes increasingly common as temperatures drop this time of year. "Hot showers, heat, and cold air are all super disruptive to the skin barrier and allow for moisture to seep out," says Dr. Gohara, adding that it's important to ensure your skin is well moisturized as a way to lock in hydration. Look for emollients or occlusives in your moisturizer, like rich oils or lanolin.
As far as your routine goes, the general rule is that using anything too harsh can mess with your skin barrier (which is responsible for keeping moisture from evaporating) and ultimately leave your complexion dry. "A [harsh cleanser] disrupts your epidermal barrier, aka the top layer of your skin... and the second that baby’s disrupted, it’s game over," says Dr. Gohara. Her tip is to use a cleanser that advertises itself as "hydrating," "gentle," or "pH-neutral," and is totally devoid of sulfates. Over-exfoliating and too much retinol can cause problems, too, so she suggests limiting the application of each product to once or twice a week, and never use exfoliating acids and retinoids on the same night.
If these external factors seem to be in check and your face still feels thirsty, something internal may be to blame. "The third reason you could be having dry skin could be physiological, like a rash, eczema, rosacea, or psoriasis, or it could be from something more internal like your thyroid," says Dr. Gohara. "You know your body best, so if you feel like there’s something else going on, be sure to see a dermatologist or your primary care doctor."
Now that you know why your skin might be dry, press play on the video below to find out how to fix it with Dr. Gohara's favorite products and routine tweaks.
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