Unlike what many of us believe, not all dry skin is unhealthy. Dry skin is a skin type, which needs extra care and moisturization, but is still healthy skin. However, if your skin is excessively dry, you may have an underlying condition. So the question is, what exactly is causing your dry skin? 

1. Age

As we get older, our skin becomes thinner and drier because of hormonal changes(1). Since you can’t just hop in a time machine, ensuring that you moisturize morning and night is the best way to help. You may want to try a moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid, a substance that the body naturally produces and which binds water to the skin. As we age, our natural levels of hyaluronic acid decrease, so it’s a good idea to add a moisturizing hyaluronic acid cream to your skin care routine(2).

And when you moisturize your face, don’t forget your neck. While you don’t need a separate product for this area (your facial moisturizer should do the job), it is important to keep your neck moisturized to help prevent lines and wrinkles that are more visible on dry, aging skin. 

2. The weather and climate

If you live in a dry climate, this could be adversely affecting your skin’s moisture levels. To help, wear loose, natural fabrics, and consider using a humidifier in your bedroom or other areas in your home where you spend a lot of time. This will add moisture to the air and help soothe thirsty skin. Likewise, if you’re often exposed to cold and windy weather, your skin could be taking a battering. Be sure to use a moisturizing cream for dry skin every day, making sure not to just focus on your face, but on body moisturization as well. 

3. Swimming

Hitting 20 lengths before breakfast might be doing wonders for your cardiovascular system, but all that water could, ironically, also be drying out your skin. This is because pool water is treated with chlorine, which can cause the skin to dry out. Always rinse off and apply moisturizer after getting out of the pool. Ointments and creams with ingredients such as avocado oil are great for softening skin(3). 

4. Your job

Certain professions require exposure to substances or involve physical tasks that can cause severely dry skin. If you work in a job such as nursing, hairdressing or other work that exposes your skin (most likely your hands) to potentially irritating chemicals, you may be at risk of Occupational Irritant Contact Dermatitis (OICD), a common type of hand eczema. Symptoms include severely dry and cracked skin. Prevention is better than cure, and the specific precautions will differ per job. But, in general, gloves and protective clothing are a good idea(4), as well as using a specially formulated gentle cleanser when washing your hands, and applying a hydrating hand cream several times per day. 

5. A skin condition

Excessively dry skin could also be a sign of an underlying skin condition such as psoriasis (where your body grows skin cells too quickly(5)) or eczema (aside from OICD, eczema can take many forms and has various causes, including allergic reactions or contact with irritants). If you think you are suffering from a skin condition, it’s worth getting it checked by a dermatologist and using the prescribed treatment.