You are probably familiar with some of the causes of dry skin: excessive bathing, taking really hot showers, sun exposure, climate extremes, and inherited forms of dry skin. But how do these factors dry out your skin? And why does dry skin appear so rough and flaky?
The difference between normal and dry skin is the water content of our outermost layer of skin called the strateum corneum. This layer is composed of dead skin cells that are compressed together to form a protective covering over the living cells below it. Normally the strateum coreum has the same surface area and fullness as the skin layers beneath it, but this layer shrinks when its water content is low. As it tightens against the skin beneath, it eventually cracks, which then produces the rough or crepe paper appearance we know as dry skin.
The strateum corneum is always losing water through evaporation, but conditions such as extreme temperature changes can increase this evaporation. Your skin produces oils to help seal in water, but excessive bathing, harsh soaps and detergents can deplete these natural oils.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent and restore dry skin. Drink plenty of water to keep your cells hydrated, use lukewarm water versus hot water when bathing and apply moisturizers (especially right after bathing when your skin is still a little damp) to help seal in moisture.