Skin dryness is now a leading cause of facial skin complaints, with more than 40 per cent of all visits to family doctors relating to dry skin. It can happen virtually anywhere on the human body but is particularly common on regions like the hands, elbows, knees and feet, often exposed to outdoor elements that can exacerbate the problem, e.g. cold weather. Younger people are particularly vulnerable as they are more prone to the condition, but it can affect people of any age.
Why is skin dryness caused? A low level of skin moisture normally occurs as we get older. However, this can be exacerbated by the environmental factors we encounter, which decrease the natural moisture in our skin. For example, cold weather can leave your body feeling sweaty and damp, whereas warm weather tends to make you feel more comfortable because the temperature makes your body sweat more. Also, the products we use daily can contribute to our dry winter months by not providing the necessary moisture that our bodies need. As well as these external factors, there may also be internal causes, such as excessive stress, toxins in the body or a deficiency in vitamins. These can lead to the condition known as meiosis.
Xeroderma is the medical term for skin dryness, where the skin becomes highly sensitive to the presence of moisture and loses the ability to retain it. The usual causes of xerosis include prolonged exposure to dry air, exposure to harsh deodorants and moisturizers, prolonged use of perfumed cosmetics, severe dehydration, and some medications including anti-inflammatory drugs, oral contraceptives and diabetes. You can treat skin dryness in a variety of ways. Topical ointments containing moisturizers and antioxidants effectively moisturise the skin and replenish the essential substances needed for healthy, radiant skin.
However, for the most part, topical solutions and creams cannot perform the long-term job of preventing skin dryness due to other factors. The best way to address this issue is to take preventative measures and increase the amount of moisture present in the skin. You can do this through proper skin care and combining diet and exercise with an appropriate amount of hydration. There are many over-the-counter moisturisers available for those who do not have the time or the means to commit to these lifestyle changes. Some of the more popular brands include Revitol Body Lotion and Olay Regenerist 5.
The primary benefit of hydrating your skin through the application of moisturizers is to counter the effects of ageing. By reducing dry skin and replenishing moisture, hydrating products work by slowing down the rate at which your body loses moisture through the process of dehydration. This can slow down the progression of wrinkles, age spots, and fine lines and prevent further damage from occurring through the free radical oxidation that occurs as you age. The problem with many of the commercially available moisturizers on the market today is that they typically contain petroleum-based ingredients, such as paraffin wax, mineral oil and petrolatum, which can actually increase your risk of developing necrosis. These ingredients strip away the beneficial moisture they also interact with and cause the symptoms of neurosis, including inflammation, redness, flaking and thickening of the skin.
On the other hand, antioxidants work to fight against the damage caused by free radicals and provide a line of defence between them and the skin. Oxidation, the natural process that breaks down our cells, occurs when free radicals within the body combine with oxygen in the environment and cause damage. Free radicals do not just destroy cell structure; they also attack cellular membranes and the cells surrounding them, damaging cellular membranes as they go. Antioxidants are a natural response to this process that leaves your skin looking smoother and more radiant.
As you get older, the body’s ability to maintain its internal lipid barrier decreases, allowing toxins and environmental factors to penetrate the bloodstream. This allows the free radical oxidation process to continue faster, encouraging the formation of excessive fine lines and wrinkles and increasing the likelihood of acne breakouts and other visible signs of ageing. The combination of these external factors plus the natural decrease of the skin’s ability to maintain its lipid barrier contributes to skin dryness. An antioxidant cream can help reverse these external factors, allowing the skin to protect itself from the ravages of time properly.
As you get older, the presence of AGEs on your skin begins to affect the collagen and elastin fibres in your skin, as well as your hyaluronic acid. Collagen and elastin fibres are the main building blocks of the collagen fibre structure in your skin, holding it together tightly. Hyaluronic acid is responsible for giving skin its soft, smooth texture and lubricating abilities. When it cannot do its job properly because of decreased levels of these two foundational tissues, your skin becomes dry and lifeless. A good antioxidant supplement can help to thicken the skin’s cellular matrix and increase the levels of these two structural tissues.