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How do I deal with dry skin

In my clinic, I am often faced with this question on How do I deal with dry skin? It is a very common problem

Role of the skin

Whilst most us think of the skin as the covering of the body, in truth it plays a very active role in maintaining the health of the individual. The skin plays an important role in:

  1. Maintaining the thermal balance of the body
  2. Maintaining hydration of the skin
  3. Preventing loss of excessive salts from the body
  4. Immunity by preventing entry of microbes
  5. Sensory organs in the skin help in survival

The skin has a layer of fat coating its outer surface. This layer helps to retain fluids and salts within the skin and prevent excessive loss of either.

What causes dry skin

The skin may become dry and parched looking due to external or internal factors.

External factors: Extreme cold or heat exposure, low ambient humidity, Use of strong soaps, Use of hot water.

Internal factors: Fever results in loss of excess fluids from the body and dry skin, Medical conditions like diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, Liver and kidney issues can also cause dry skin. Increasing age is also associated with dry skin. Some people intrinsically have a tendency to dry skin.

Primary skin disorders: Some people have skin disorders which are genetic and cause dry skin. It may be dry in localised areas like palms and soles or generalised all over the body.

Managing dry skin

Any internal medical problem like diabetes or thyroid dysfunction should be managed by a physician. There are some lifestyle factors which need to be followed by everyone with dry skin. These include

  1. Avoiding hot water showers: One should stick to cold or lukewarm water for showers. Hot water further exacerbates the dry skin.
  2. Use a pH balanced soap: Most soaps are alkaline in nature and can cause more dryness. One should use a soap which has a pH of 5.5, which is the exact same pH as the skin.
  3. Use a moisturiser generously: A good moisturiser, preferably a moisturiser containing liquid paraffin or soft paraffin should be used. One needs to avoid moisturisers which have fragrances.
  4. Internal Hydration: One should ensure that one consumes generous quantities of fluids. It is also advisable to avoid fluids which are dehydrating like plenty of coffee or alcohol.
  5. A mild exfoliation of the skin sometimes helps to hydrate the skin. When we exfoliate, the dead layers of the skin are shed off. This allows better penetration of a moisturiser.

To conclude, there is no single answer to the question, how do I deal with dry skin? In most cases, it requires a good skincare routine. In some cases, internal medical conditions may need to be looked for and managed to improve the skin hydration.

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