Dry Skin Causes

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There are many dry skin causes, but what exactly happened to your skin for it to be in this dry, chapped, and unhealthy condition?

Skin contains oil glands (sebaceous glands) that release oil (sebum). There are also other oils or fats (lipids) at work in the skin to help prevent dry skin. The role of the sebum and these other oils is to keep skin moisture at its proper level (about 30%), so that the skin is supple, resilient, and not dry. Basically, the oils form an excellent barrier and prevent water from inside the skin cells from escaping. Water is not soluble in oil and therefore it has difficulty penetrating the fatty layer. An added benefit of these oils is that they create a barrier to external contaminants from entering the body.

Dry skin means that these essential oils and fats have been stripped away from the skin matrix, which means among other things moisture or water loss in the skin.

There are a number of reasons why skin becomes dry or dry skin causes. Sources of the problem can vary widely.

Inherited or Genetic Factors as Dry Skin Causes

  • some individuals are genetically predisposed to dry skin
  • specifically they may not be able to produce enough oils as is necessary or their skin may simply be more sensitive to damage


  • as a person gets older (especially over 40 years old) there is a natural decrease in the body’s ability to maintain the proper production of oils and fats and this is one of the main causes of dry skin
  • there is a loss of sweat and oil glands
  • the skin thins, making it more vulnerable to drying and damage
  • babies don’t have properly developed oil glands and therefore they are also more vulnerable to dry skin

Work or Other Activities

  • any occupation that requires frequent hand washing will dry out skin
  • activities such as gardening are problematic because the soil is abrasive and can dry out the hands
  • construction or agricultural work, and some types of office work promote dry skin
  • constant frictional irritation will lead to the skin becoming dry
  • excessive air-travel because the air in airplanes is very dry is a dry skin cause

Frequent Washing or Swimming

  • excessive bathing especially in hot water with harsh soaps strips away natural skin oils and is one of the main causes for dry skin
  • frequent swimming in chlorinated water also removes essential skin oils and results in dry skin

Repeated Contact with Chemicals

  • harsh soaps or antibacterial soaps, detergents, household cleaning products, rubbing alcohol, and solvents are all good oil strippers from the skin and can promote skin dryness
  • dry skin can also be due to the use of products containing fragrances (and certain cosmetics) and lauryl sulfates
  • overuse of perfumes or antiperspirants

Poor Diet

  • vitamin A and the B vitamins promote healthy skin; a deficiency in these vitamins will lead to skin dryness and other skin problems
  • a zinc deficiency will reduce the metabolic breakdown of fatty acids and vitamin A which are essential for good skin health
  • a fat deficiency (such as not enough omega-3 fatty acids) is a problem because this means that there is not enough fat content in the skin matrix to prevent water loss


  • dehydration caused by diarrhea, vomiting, high fever, excessive sweating, or not enough daily water drinking can dehydrate the body and skin

Caffeine, Alcohol, and Drugs

  • drugs such as diuretics, antispasmodics, and antihistamines can dry out the skin and be dry skin causes


  • causes changes in the elasticity of the skin
  • some studies have shown that the skin of smokers contains less water content


  • cool windy weather with low humidity, too much sun exposure, or hot and dry climates all are dry skin causes that act quickly

Central Heating and Air Conditioning

  • forced air furnaces, wood-burning stoves, and electric heaters all dry out the air and the skin
  • poor household ventilation can also lead to dry skin

Thyroid Disorder as a Cause for Dry Skin

  • can lead to reduce activity of sweat and oil glands

Skin Diseases

  • allergic reactions of the skin, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, seborrhoea, and diabetes are conditions that manifest themselves partly as dry skin

More dry skin information:

dry skin care | symptoms | dry skin causes | prevention |  treatments | moisturizers | lotions | eczema | psoriasis | dermatitis

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