Before we take a look at what dry cracked skin is, let’s take a brief look at what the skin is. Skin is the largest organ of the body. It has several vital functions such as protecting the body from external physical, chemical and biological hazards, preventing excess loss of water from the body, transmitting sensory information and maintaining homeostasis or regulates the body’s temperature. The skin is composed of three layers;
- Epidermis: this is the outermost protective layer of the skin. It is a keratinized layer which plays the role in removing harmful chemicals and pathogens from the body while keeping water in the body.
- Dermis: this layer of the skin is under the epidermis. It contains nerve endings that transmit sensory information. It contains stress-resistant material called collagen and together with elastic filaments of dermis they provide the underlying tensile strength of the skin.
- Subcutaneous fat; this is not the part of the skin. Its function is storing energy for the body.
Now you have known about the skin and its function so let’s come to our topic, “what is dry cracked skin” and what causes it.
When we say dry cracked skin, it is obvious that it doesn’t occur suddenly. Before the skin becomes cracked, it is too dry due to different causes that strip the skin of its moisture. When the skin is severely dry, it can lead to scratches as a result of itching and finally the skin will become cracked as a typical manifestation of very dry skin. Sometimes the cracks can go deep into the dermis layer of the skin and in this case, infection is likely and if it is neglected, it can lead to serious infection. So speak to your doctor if you notice any sign of infection.
Causes of dry cracked skin
- The time you spend when taking a shower; the longer you stay the drier your skin will become, especially if it is steamy shower, the natural oils in the skin will be depleted and it accelerates further dryness of the skin.
- The products you use to wash your body and the type of moisturizer,such as harsh soap and alcohol containing moisturizers.
- The way you scrub your skin when washing; aggressive scrubbing may cause irritation.
- If your diet lacks essential fatty acids and vitamins, your skin is prone to dryness.
- Drinking too much alcohol leaves your skin dehydrated and affects your appearance and so does smoking.
- If you engage in activities that cause excessive sweating and neglect to hydrate or replace the lost fluid.
Environmental factors: During winter, exposure to outdoor cold weather and indoor hot air that has low humidity, strip away moisture from the skin; excess heat and high humidity during summer time also remove complexion of moisture from your skin.
- Diabetes, when uncontrolled , can cause dry skin because high blood sugar makes the body lose fluid so fast.
- Hypothyroidism: this is a condition in which the function of thyroid gland is affected and less production of thyroid hormone. As a result, metabolic function becomes slow which leads to dryness of the skin.
- Eczema also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition caused by certain irritants, allergens, foods and microbes. When the skin is damaged from irritation and scratching, it most likely becomes dry.
- Psoriasis is chronic inflammatory skin disease which affects the skin and causes it to become dry and cracked.
- During menopause the production of estrogen is decreased and low level of estrogen reduces the ability of the body to retain moisture and slows body’s natural oil production; leaving your skin dry.
- When the skin ages, oil produced by sebaceous gland is reduced and then the skin loses its elasticity that leads to thin and saggy skin. This condition leads to itching which results in dry skin.
- Ichthyosis vulgaris also known as fish scale disease, is an inherited or genetic form skin disease in which the natural shading process of the
skin is affected resulting in dry, scaly and painfully cracked skin.
Parts of the body that are prone to dryness
How to prevent dry cracked skin
when you take a shower:
- stay away from hot water; switch to lukewarm water in order not to strip your skin of its important natural oils.
- Omit the habit of excessive scrubbing as it causes irritation and inflammation to your skin. Scrub gently to remove dead skin from the area.
- Do not use body wash products that are non-moisturizing and high alkaline containing or harsh chemicals. Go for the products that are oil-based and moisturizing.
- Focus on short and non-steamy shower. Staying longer in shower can dry out your skin.
- Apply a moisturizer right after a bath as it helps catch the water into the skin’s surface.
- Pat dry your skin. Do not rub aggressively.
Maintain the moisture with the right products
- Choose the body wash products that contain jojoba oil, coconut oil or almond oil. These essential oils protect your skin by retaining the moisture into your skin.
- Use the moisturizers that are non-greasy and loaded with wonderful ingredients.
- Apply a moisturizer several times a day.
- Carry suitable hand and body cream or lotion with you.
What is in your diet?
Balanced diet is the key to your skin not to become dry and helps stay healthy. Make sure your diet contains essential nutrients such as: –
Omega-3 fatty acids
Vitamins like E, A, B complex
Antioxidants rich fruits such as blueberry, strawberry, plums and blackberry
Avoid excessive intake of alcoholic beverages, sugary drinks and foods.
Quit smoking as it has bad effect on your skin and on your general health.
Make water your major source of hydration; drink plenty of water so that your skin is moist all the time.
protect your skin during winter
keep humidifier in your house. Humidifier diffuses steam to add a moisture to the air inside the house.
Gently exfoliate and moisturize your skin with the right products. It is good to look for natural exfoliators.
Pay special attention to parts of your skin that are exposed to this harsh weather
- Face: moisturize it with the right cream that is ideal for your skin type and don’t forget to use sunscreen. It is not only summer time to protect your face from being exposed to sunlight.
- Lips: apply lip balm several times a day.
- Hands: whenever going outdoor, wear protective gloves always and moisturize them.
Protect your skin during summer
- Apply sunscreen several times a day even if it is cloudy day
- Drink enough water; ideally 8 glasses per day in order to stay well hydrated.
- Wear hat and sunglasses
- Exfoliate once a week to remove dead skin. This also good for lightening up the sunspots and allow the products that you apply to be absorbed by the skin.
If you have diabetes
- Keep your blood sugar under control.
- Don’t neglect small wounds and cuts; speak to your doctor and get proper treatment.
- Follow above- mentioned preventive methods.