Dry skin is irritating. It flakes, itches, cracks and laughs in the face of many lotions and creams. It ages faster than any other skin type. But you have some secret weapons you may not know about. Here are five ways to combat dry skin:
1. Drink lots of water
You’ve probably heard we need to drink 8 – 8-ounce glasses of water a day. It seems like a lot if you’re not used to it, but once you get in the habit, you should sense an improvement in your overall health and your skin’s moisture level. Just be sure to drink the water through the course of the day — too much at a time and your electrolyte levels can become unstable (known as water intoxication).
2. Eat Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) are beneficial fats that can’t be produced in the body, so we must include them in our diets. EFA’s help maintain skin tone, give skin firmness, and improve the skin’s ability to maintain water. EFA’s can be found in high concentrations in fish like salmon and cod, and in certain plants like flaxseed. You can also take supplements to increase your intake of EFA’s.
3. Use a humidifier
If you live in colder climates and use forced heat, then a humidifier is an essential purchase for maintaining your skin’s moisture balance. Forced heat removes moisture from the air, but humidifiers replenish it. Dryness can be drastically reduced if the air your skin comes in contact with has enough moisture. You can buy a humidifier that will automatically maintain the correct humidity percentage.
4. Use a non-foaming, milk-based cleanser
Most of us have been taught the more suds we create the better. Not necessarily. Suds are meant to draw out the dirt and oil from our pores, but some oils are beneficial and must be maintained to keep the skin from drying out. Avoid cleaners with sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate, since these foaming agents are common skin irritants. Use a natural milk-based cleanser with calming ingredients like lavender and chammomile. Rinse with warm (not hot) water.
5. Moisturize with natural oil-based lotions after you shower
Since showering can dry the skin out, it’s important to moisturize all over afterwards. But all moisturizers are not equal. Look for ingredients that include vegetal oils such as sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, jojoba oil and sunflower oil. These oils are similar in composition to the natural oils found in our skin, and are readily absorbed by it. Beware of synthetic ingredients like mineral oil and petrolatum. They might make the skin feel soft at first, but because they are not readily absorbed, they “sit” on the skin and do not let it breathe. If you want to use an intensive moisturizer for very dry skin, try 100% shea butter (you can find it at health food stores). It’s known to increase epidermal thickness because of its moisture-retaining properties.