Having dry, itchy, irritated skin can be pretty uncomfortable—especially if it brings flaking, shedding, ashy spots, chapping, and cracking along with it. The only real silver lining to these symptoms is that they alert to you your skin’s need for hydration, which most people need and never realize; the reason why this becomes such a bonus is because hydrating and protecting your skin in the face of dryness actually has a boatload of other benefits that come along with it, aside from alleviating your discomfort. Keeping skin moisturized noticeably affects the longevity of a youthful appearance and the pallor or tone of skin, among other things. Healthy, hydrated skin simply looks clearer, younger, and more radiant than its neglected counterpart.

But assuming that your skin is noticeably dry on a regular basis, bringing you to these tips, the most important part at the moment is likely a sense of relief. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to work to influence and improve your dry skin problems, many of which are very accessible and quite uncomplicated to test. The most time-consuming and thought-provoking part of this process will likely be realizing how many factors are in your daily routine that could be better-suited to your skin care needs (and general health).

Top Habits

1. Cut down on water exposure but increase water intake. Drinking alcohol dehydrates us all over, but drinking water is exceptionally good for the skin and can diminish acne while improving tone. On the other hand, exposing our skin to water can be very drying. It’s frequently recommended that hot showers don’t last longer than 10 minutes for anyone looking to improve dry skin issues. Reducing the water temperature from scorching to tepid also helps, but of course there are times when we can’t stringently control our exposure as we can with our own bathing time.

When washing dishes, hot water is often needed to break up hard food stains and help sanitize culinary ware, and this exposure to hot water can be very long-lasting and harmful. To help protect your skin from dryness, always use gloves when performing tasks like washing the dishes. After necessary hand-washing (or any water exposure), use a dry skin lotion or moisturizer right away to seal in hydration and prevent skin from becoming dry.

2. Wear sunscreen and moisturizer—don’t wear fragrance! Many perfumes are alcohol-based, and just as drinking alcohol dehydrates our skin from the inside out, spritzing alcohol-based products onto our skin dries it out immensely. While you can still rely on your signature scent by spraying it directly onto the fabric of your outfit instead of onto your skin, fragrances should be avoided as much as possible in all other soaps, cleansers, lotions, moisturizers, eye creams, and so on. Many of the chemicals used to create these scented products are also intensely drying to the skin and are not excellent vehicles for providing a fragrance, anyhow.

Note: This rule is not just for teeny-boppers and beauty queens; even alcohol-based hand sanitizers—in all of their germ-fighting glory—can be just as drying and irritating as the next product. Opt for a hydrating hand-sanitizer and/or hand soap.

Now that we’ve covered the “don’ts,” it’s just as important to highlight the “do’s”: do wear SPF! Sunscreen is actually recommended to be worn every day, all year round. UVA and UVB rays can still be penetrating our skin, even when the sun isn’t shining. While the whole body should be covered, everywhere from the neck up is a huge priority for daily sunscreen application, and most facial moisturizers now include SPF as a basic perk (read: necessity!). Protecting your skin from sun damage is arguably the most widely important way to maintain youthful, glowing skin, free of wrinkles and lines.

03. Assess your cleaning products. Detergents, soaps, multi-purpose sprays, aerosols, and other chemicals are all around us every day. Switching up products to more natural formulas with fewer ingredients is the easiest first step to take, although less sensitive skin types may be able to simply change brands or scents and see a difference.

Just as it is with the soaps, shampoos, and perfumes we directly apply to our bodies, residue from washing soaps, dryer sheets, sprays, and wipes also come into contact with our skin and are therefore best to be unscented. As a general rule of thumb, chemicals strip and dry our skin, so use protective gloves and masks as much as possible and seek a formula that does not irritate or dry your skin.

Clothing can be a vehicle for delivering some of these residues that irritate our dermal layer, but they can also be a problem on their own. If you are dealing with dry skin issues, avoid fabric types that may itch or scratch the skin as well, such as wool. This may not sound like a direct solution for dry skin, but it’s crucial in both prevention and the healing process, making it worth a mention.

04. If you like it hot, you’d better get used to it being humid. Heat, itself, is not always enough to noticeably dry out skin, but a lack of humidity will definitely do the trick. Even though our showers should be shorter and cooler, it’s a good idea to keep the shower door closed to trap the warm steam as much as possible. The humid environment will help protect your post-shower skin between toweling off and applying your lotion, moisturizer, ointment, or cream.

In the winter, if you prefer to crank up the heat and keep things toasty, consider utilizing a room humidifier. These small units vaporize water and disperse it into the surrounding air, increasing humidity and helping to heal dry skin, lips, and throat. (Be careful, as humidity can affect some paint finishes and wallpapering.)

05. Sleep it off. This point may be listed last, but it’s certainly competing for the top spot when it comes to importance. Getting adequate sleep affects every aspect of our health, and our skin condition is no exception. As with drinking more water, sleeping may sound like a very basic solution, but the reason why these factors are mentioned ad nauseum is because they really, really matter.

While we sleep, our bodies regenerate and heal from all of the minor, major, and in-between assaults that we face daily. Many of these elements are things that we can’t see or feel in the moment, but they become easily apparent over time, working away at our skin on a small level until it becomes big enough to be noticed (cue skin changes like wrinkles, dryness, and acne). Getting adequate sleep allows our bodies to combat these unavoidable elements, letting all the good steps we’ve taken for our skin throughout the day to take effect, simultaneously.

The Point

Taking care of our skin doesn’t have to be a huge, time-wasting inconvenience. We can make small changes to our habits every day that will help benefit our skin and bodily health. Some of these changes may be immediately obvious (glowing skin, less acne, noticeable vibrancy), while others will come in time (fewer wrinkles, no deep creases, younger-looking skin). Across the board, making these small tweaks will reap massive skin care profits. 

Resources— Harvard Health, WebMD

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