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What is dry skin and how can I identify it?

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In this article

What does dry skin look like?
Why does skin crack when it’s dry?
What does dry, itchy skin mean?
Is my skin dehydrated or dry?
Is dandruff and dry skin the same thing?
Is dry skin bad for me?
How to prevent dry skin

If you think you may have dry skin, you’re probably searching the internet for ways of identifying dry skin and most importantly, what products you can use to help treat your dry skin.

At Sönd, we don’t just sell effective skincare products. We supply detailed and scientifically backed information on all skin conditions ranging from dry skin to acne and eczema.

Here’s our overview of what it is to have dry skin. We’ve also included some helpful links at the end of this page to more useful information on managing dry skin.

What does dry skin look like?

How to identify dry skin isn’t too tricky. As well as looking dry, dry skin can also feel irritating and parched, from the outside and from the inside.

Dry skin tends to look and/or feel:

Tight (especially after getting wet, for example after showering, bathing, swimming or washing your hands)

  • Rough
  • Parched
  • Flaky
  • Itchy
  • Red
  • Inflamed
  • Cracked
  • Scaly

You may have all of these symptoms all of the time, or some of them, some of the time. Dry skin can affect the skin anywhere on the body or face.

For example, you may have small patches of dry skin on your cheeks or forehead, Or, you may suffer with large patches of dry, itchy skin that spreads along the whole of your shins.

Why does skin crack when it’s dry?

If your skin gets extremely dry, it may begin to crack. Imagine a very dry, arid landscape such as a parched, dried up river bed. As the earth loses water, it begins to crack. The same can be said for our skin.

As it loses moisture, the skin cells become more and more dehydrated and begin to shrivel up. As the cells get smaller, they move further away from each other and therefore tiny cracks begin to form.

Over time, these tiny cracks become bigger and more noticeable. If left, they can become infected and you will need to take antibiotics or use an antibiotic cream.

The signs of infected skin include redness, heat, yellow crusting and oozing or bleeding wounds with or without a foul smell.

What does dry, itchy skin mean?

Often, having dry skin can cause the affected skin to itch. Itching is the body’s way of telling you that your skin is stressed and dehydrated. This is usually because the oils that should be present in the skin are not, due to one of the many causes of dry skin.

Scratching dry skin can make it feel worse, even though it gives immediate relief. Scratching irritates already irritated skin, so try to avoid it where possible. Use the tips of your fingers to gently squeeze the skin to get some relief and make sure you always moisturise well.

Also, scratching at your dry skin can cause you to accidentally open the skin and make it bleed. This can also lead to skin infections that will require treatment, as mentioned above.

Is my skin dehydrated or dry?

When it comes to skin, the terms dehydrated and dry are often used interchangeable. But technically, they are different, although they both result in the same symptoms of skin that needs to be moisturised.

As a general rule, dehydrated skin lacks water and dry skin is lacking in natural oils.

Skin may lack water and become dehydrated because you are – that is, you’re not drinking enough water and clear fluids each day. Or you may be eating too many salty foods or drinking a lot of alcohol and caffeine which all dehydrate the body.

Dry skin is skin that’s lost much of its natural oil, called sebum, which keeps the skin moisturised. This may be down to using harsh, oil stripping products on the skin, showering or bathing too frequently and in water that’s too hot, age or genetics.

Is dandruff and dry skin the same thing?

Dandruff is characterised by white flakes of skin that fall from your scalp and end up sitting on your shoulders. Although it comes from your head, it’s actually nothing to do with the health of your hair – people with bald scalps can still get dandruff.

Instead, it’s to do with the health of the skin on your scalp. Dandruff is essentially flakes of dry skin, coming away from your scalp, so really, it’s a dry skin problem.

The causes of dandruff can be the same as the cause of dry skin anywhere else – dry, harsh, cold winter weather. Or, they can be different. Dandruff can also be caused by a tiny fungus that lives naturally on the scalp, that some people form an immune reaction to. This leads to a drying of the scalp, and those familiar white flakes.

Is dry skin bad for me?

On the whole, dry skin isn’t technically bad for you. It’s more an annoying affliction that takes time and dedication to manage.

But extremely dry skin can be a sign of more serious health problems, ranging from dehydration to hypothyroidism. Some medications such as diuretics and topical products for acne can also cause dry skin. If you’re worried about your dry skin, or it appears suddenly, speak to your GP.

Dry skin, if left untreated, can also lead to cracking and peeling. These can lead to open wounds which can then be at risk of infection. So it’s a good idea to take steps to keep dry skin under control.

How to prevent dry skin

We have detailed pages on caring for dry skin, topical products for dry skin and supplements for dry skin.

Sometimes, dry skin can’t be prevented, and instead it needs to be managed. We completely understand the frustration of problem skin and have developed a range of alkalising skincare products designed to support and nourish dry skin.

Using our range of cleansers, serums and moisturisers may well be the answer to your dry facial skin so give them a try and join the army of Sönd skincare lovers who have turned their skin fortunes around!

Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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