News in Dermatology #4

From the Desk of Dr. Heskel:

This entry focuses on alternative and popular methods for dealing with dry skin on the face.

Over my 40+ years practicing medicine I have seen it all, and whenever I can help people treat/avoid dry skin I try to. Dry skin doesn’t look the same for everyone, and so hopefully these methods (and the variety of explanations given) will help people deal with this in their own way.

Give it a read, and see if this is applicable to you. Hopefully this article, and additional resources, help you and your family prepare for the next beach day.


What causes Dry Skin?

The skin naturally produces an oil called sebum. When the skin produces too much oil, this can lead to pimples. However, having some sebum on the skin is important for keeping it hydrated and protecting the cells from infection.

Skin that is not creating or replenishing enough sebum can become dry.

Dry skin can be itchy, and it may look flaky and bumpy or have red patches. Dehydrated skin lacks water and appears dull or rough.

Some potential causes of dry or dehydrated skin on the face include:

  • cold weather

  • dry air

  • exposure to harsh chemicals in soaps or other products

  • washing the skin excessively

  • unbalanced skin pH

  • skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, and psoriasis

  • diabetes

  • smoking

  • spending too much time in direct sunlight

People can treat dry skin using several different methods. The best treatment option will depend on the cause of someone's dry skin and its severity. Treatments also vary among different skin types, which can be normal, dry, oily, or combination.


Top 6 remedies for dry skin on the face


1. Moisturize daily

Moisturizers, ointments, and creams improve the skin's natural barrier function, which promotes water retention

Moisturizing overnight can provide extra benefits. A person can apply moisturizer to their face before bed and wash it off with a gentle cleanser in the morning.

Many different moisturizers are available to purchase. It can take some trial and error for a person to find the best one for their skin type.

Gentle, face-friendly moisturizers often contain the following beneficial ingredients:

  • hyaluronic acid

  • ceramides

  • colloidal oatmeal

Some moisturizers and other skin care products contain drying agents that can make dry skin worse. In general, people should avoid products that contain:

  • alcohols

  • artificial fragrances or colors

  • dioxane

  • petrolatum or petroleum

Some people may prefer to use natural moisturizers to help relieve dry skin on the face. These include:

  • pure Aloe Vera gel

  • Coconut oil

  • Ahea butter

Coconut oil and shea butter contain natural oils. Some people with normal, oily, or combination skin types may experience breakouts after using these products.


2. Use a gentle cleanser

Soaps that contain fragrances, colors, and other chemicals can irritate and dry out the skin. It is generally better to opt for mild, fragrance-free cleansers or facial soaps and to avoid products that contain alcohols, artificial colors, and plastics.

Ingredients to avoid include:

  • sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

  • those that derive from mineral oil, including petroleum and paraffin

  • parabens

  • diethanolamine (DEA)

  • monoethanolamine (MEA)

  • triethanolamine (TEA)


3. Exfoliate to remove excess dry skin

A person can remove excess dry skin by exfoliating.

The skin naturally makes new cells and sheds old cells, typically replacing itself within about a month.

When dead skin cells become stuck on the surface, people may notice dry patches and clogged pores.

Exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells, which can reduce dry patches and improve the skin's overall texture.

Exfoliators can be either mechanical or chemical.

Mechanical exfoliators

Mechanical exfoliators include:

  • cleansing brushes

  • exfoliating washcloths

  • facial scrubs

This form of exfoliation works by physically removing dead cells from the surface of the skin.

Chemical exfoliators

Although they sound harsh, many people consider chemical exfoliators to be gentle alternatives to mechanical exfoliators.

Chemical exfoliators include alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs).

AHAs dissolve dead cells on the surface of the skin while BHAs penetrate the deeper layers of the skin to remove dead cells from pores. Both AHAs and BHAs increase cellular turnover, which helps keep the skin soft and supple.

How to use exfoliators

People can use mechanical and chemical exfoliators alone or in combination.

A recent small-scale study examined the effects of combining an AHA-containing chemical peel with mechanical exfoliation. The authors observed that the combination treatment led to more significant improvements in hydration and skin elasticity than the chemical peel alone.

However, it is important to note that overusing these products can make dry skin worse. People using an exfoliator for the first time should test it on a small area of their face and wait a few days to see how their skin reacts before using it more extensively.

A person should avoid exfoliating every day as this can irritate and dry out the skin. Applying a good moisturizer immediately after exfoliating will help lock in moisture.


4. Practice better bathing habits

It is best to use warm, not hot, water when bathing or washing the face because hot water can strip the skin of its natural oils.

Spending too much time in water can remove sebum from the skin. The American Academy of Dermatology recommend limiting showers and baths to 5 minutes to help heal dry skin. (Some studies allow up to 10 minutes or so)

After bathing or washing the face, people should immediately apply a moisturizer to help lock in moisture.


5. Use a humidifier

Constantly running air conditioning (AC) and central heating units indoors removes moisture from the air and the skin.

A person with dry facial skin may wish to try limiting their use of AC and heating or start using a humidifier to add some moisture to the air indoors.


6. Medication

A skincare specialist, known as a dermatologist, or another healthcare professional may prescribe a topical ointment or cream for people who have skin conditions or those who have dehydrated skin that does not respond to conventional treatments.

The type of medication will vary depending on the cause of the dry skin. Medications commonly contain hydro-cortisone, a steroid that helps keep the skin hydrated.


Prevention Tips

Wearing sunscreen every day can prevent dry skin on the face.

People can use the following tips to prevent dry skin on their face:

  • washing the face daily with a gentle cleanser

  • wearing sunscreen every day

  • applying moisturizer after bathing or washing the face

  • using warm, not hot, water when washing the face and bathing

  • staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water

  • limiting caffeine intake

  • limiting time in direct sunlight

  • avoiding artificial tanning

  • using a humidifier

  • Stop smoking (if necessary or applicable)