Some people find they battle dry skin regardless of where they are and other people only experience it in certain locations or climates. What causes dry skin and how can you help it? 

Your skin contains a certain amount of moisture, which is constantly evaporating from the surface as more moisture moves up to replace it. Natural oils on the surface of the skin help prevent moisture from evaporating too fast. But sometimes, the moisture evaporates faster than it can be replaced. What causes that? 

  • Climate: People who live in regions of low relative humidity find that moisture in the skin tends to evaporate faster than in more humid places.
  • Season: Warm or cool dry air causes skin moisture to evaporate faster than usual. 
  • Age: The older you are the dryer skin becomes. The oil glands that were active when you were younger produce less oil as your body ages.
  • Sun and wind: The source of light also happens to be the source of a lot of dry skin, and even ordinary sun exposure has a drying effect.
  • Air-conditioning and heating: Modern climate control makes us feel more comfortable but overheating and overcooling can contribute to dry skin. 
  • Over-bathing: Most of us take too many baths and showers. Once a day is usually fine but more than that you run the risk of washing away natural skin oils. Using strong soaps, swimming, doing dishes, or other water exposure also has a drying effect.
  • Cosmetics: Some cosmetics and moisturizers contain ingredients and additives that may dry the skin.
  • Illness: A number of illnesses that tend to dehydrate can make the skin drier than normal.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as antihistamines, have a drying effect on the skin.
  • Sensitivities: The skin may be sensitive to a wide variety of substances, including fragrances and moisturizers, clothing (wool and synthetics), detergents and chemicals in the air, at home or at work. Sensitivity may cause dryness as well as irritation.

Family heritage also has a lot to do with skin characteristics. People whose ancestry traces back to countries in northern latitudes tend to have drier skin than those with genetic roots closer to the equator. In general, someone with fair skin and blond or red hair is more likely to have dry skin than a person with olive or dark skin.

You can’t do anything about the climate, the season, the sun or most of the other reasons for skin becoming dry. However, you can use moisturizing products to help the skin keep some of its natural moisture. They work in the same natural way your skin does to moisturize itself — by using a thin layer of oil to keep moisture from evaporating. Avoid harsh soaps, using a gentler product or one with cold cream instead. After bathing, do not rub your skin but rather pat dry. Find a moisturizing product that works with your skin to retain its moisture.