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Dry skin basics

Whereas very little rigorous research has been conducted on the relationship between skin dryness and premature skin aging, most experts agree that chronically dry skin is not a good thing. Dry skin can be caused by such varied factors as dry climate, menopausal decrease in estrogen levels, acne treatments (such as benzoyl peroxide or retinoids) and others. Sometimes the cause can be found and easily eliminated. At other times, it cannot.

Dry skin routines usually include the following recommendations:

  • Cleanse your skin once or twice a day with a moisturizing, soap-free cleanser. Never use cleansers or toners with alcohol, soaps or harsh detergents.
  • After cleansing apply moisturizer while skin is still damp to help seal moisture.
  • It is best to use non-greasy moisturizers. However, as opposed to oily and normal skin types, dry skin moisturizers may contain some oil or similar hydrophobic emollients.
  • Many experts argue that it is best to use moisturizers whose ingredients are identical or similar to the skin's natural moisturizing agents, such as sodium PCA and hyaluronic acid
  • If your skin becomes dry again soon after moisturizing, you may need a long-lasting moisturizer. Certain ingredients make moisturizers last longer. For example, colloidal oatmeal (used in some commercial moisturizers) is very effective in holding moisture for many hours. Also, the chemicals called siloxanes can create a watertight film on top of the skin and thus lock in moisture. The most widely used siloxanes in skin care are dimethicone and cyclomethicone. Dimethicone and cyclomethicone are chemically relatively inert and are believed to be generally safe and noncomedogenic.
  • Some people with dry skin may benefit from a moisturizing mask once a week.
  • Use sunscreen whenever sun exposure is expected.
  • Drink plenty of water. Eight glasses a day is generally recommended.
  • Avoid exposure to harsh detergents, whether directly or via clothing washed in harsh detergents. Sometimes one can improve dry skin by simply abandoning the use of shower gels and/or changing the brand of laundry detergent.

For more information, read our article on moisturizing.

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