Unexpected Causes of Chronically Dry and Irritated Skin

Chronically dry or irritated skin can be uncomfortable to live with, but it can also be something that impacts your confidence. The American Academy of Dermatology says dry skin impacts almost everyone. Typically, dry skin is a result of a loss of the skin’s natural oils. It can appear red, flaky, itchy, or rough. Most of all, dry skin can be discomforting or even painful. 

In severe cases, dry skin can be indicative of more serious health complications. This includes eczema, bacterial infections, or tearing. 

Fortunately, dry skin isn’t a serious health concern. Here’s what you should know about the unexpected causes of chronically dry skin and how to treat it. 

Environmental Causes of Dry Skin 

Dry and irritated skin can be caused by environmental factors. This includes cold weather. When the temperature drops, there’s a loss of moisture in the air, which can cause itching, flakiness, and redness of exposed skin like your hands and face. 

Other environmental causes of dry skin include allergens. This typically means dust, pollen, and pet dander, but allergens can range depending on the person. Plus, the actual allergic reaction can range from gastrointestinal issues to swelling and itchy skin. 

Lifestyle Causes of Dry Skin 

The environment isn’t the only thing that can wreak havoc on your skin. Certain lifestyle habits can also cause irritation. These factors might not be as obvious as exposure to cold weather or low humidity, which means they’re typically overlooked.

  • Diet: One of the less obvious causes of dry skin is a low-fat diet. A diet too low in fat can lead to dryness and irritation. By consuming enough healthy fats like those found in nuts, seeds, and oily fish, you can combat dry skin. 
  • Cleaning products: Another cause of dry skin is the use of harsh cleaning chemicals. This is especially a concern for people who clean without gloves or protective gear. 
  • Surgery: Sometimes, the recovery process from medical procedures can include dry or irritated skin. People who undergo a facelift, eyelid lift, breast augmentation, liposuction, and other types of procedures on the body can experience dry or flaky skin during the natural healing process. 
  • Medical treatments: Similarly, chemotherapy or radiation therapy can cause dry and irritated skin according to the National Cancer Institute. In these cases, work closely with your healthcare provider to manage the symptoms and provide appropriate care to the skin. In any case, it is important to follow the aftercare instructions provided by your healthcare to heal properly and prevent complications. 

In addition to these lifestyle factors, there are a few other things that could be causing your dry skin. 

Underlying Conditions that Can Cause Dry or Irritated Skin 

Even if you do your best in avoiding environmental factors that can cause dry skin, you may still experience the familiar, uncomfortable sensation due to underlying conditions. 

Here are just a couple of conditions that include dry skin as a symptom:

  • Eczema: This chronic skin condition causes red, itchy, and dry patches on the skin. It can be caused by genetics, allergies, and environmental triggers. 
  • Psoriasis: This chronic autoimmune condition causes thick, scaly patches on the skin. These symptoms may appear due to stress, infections, or certain medications. 
  • Rosacea: Redness, flushing, and acne-like bumps on the face brought on by sun exposure, heat, and spicy foods.
  • Contact dermatitis: This condition can result when the skin is exposed to an irritant or allergen. In some cases, the skin can become irritated with blisters or change colors (light skin becomes red, and dark skin can become brown, purple, or gray). Bumps and blisters can also appear, depending on the severity of the case. 
  • Hypo- or hyperthyroidism: These thyroid disorders play a role in skin health and moisture balance. 
  • Diabetes: High blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves and decrease circulation and the ability to produce oils that keep skin moist. 
  • Kidney disease: This can cause dry skin due to decreased hydration and the inability to remove toxins.

Regardless of what’s causing your dry skin, there are several ways to treat it. 

Treatments for Dry and Irritated Skin 

As mentioned before, dry skin can be handled without medication most of the time. However, in many cases, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to seek out proper treatment. 

Reduce Scented Product Use 

Scented products such as perfumes, colognes, lotions, and soaps, often contain alcohol and other harsh chemicals that strip the skin of its natural oils. Reducing the use of scented products can help prevent dryness and irritation. 

Moisturize After Every Shower or Bath 

Water naturally strips the skin of its natural oils. Moisturizing after every shower or bath can replenish hydration on your skin and encourage the production of more natural oils. 

Use Jelly-based Moisturizers 

Moisturizing in general can keep your skin healthy, however, certain brands may mislabel themselves as “hydrating” when in reality, they can cause further damage to your skin. It comes down to using the right lotion, as certain moisturizers can be more beneficial than others. 

Some moisturizers are formulated with a jelly-like texture. These kinds of lotions create a barrier on the skin that helps to lock in moisture. They typically contain hydrating ingredients. When looking for a good lotion, look for ingredients like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, as they help your skin retain moisture. 

Talk to a Skin Professional

Although there are plenty of methods to maintain the moisture of your skin at home, if your condition persists, it may be best to talk to a skin professional to help identify the underlying causes of your dry skin. They can recommend personalized treatments and skincare routines tailored to your specific needs, including your skin type and concerns. 

Most of the time, skin specialists have access to moisturizers, cleansers, and serums that you can’t find in the store — some of which are clinical strength and therefore more effective. In addition to providing these personalized recommendations, a skin professional can provide advice on lifestyle changes that can help prevent dry skin. Sometimes, a change of habit can improve dry skin, like limiting the length of your showers. 

Chronically dry skin doesn’t have to be something you live with. Take the right steps, use the right products, consult the right professionals, and you’ll have moisturized skin in no time.