Dry skin isn't just a winter issue. Many of us suffer all year round, with it impacting our mood, how we dress and how we interact with others. We got expert advice on how to treat dry skin, not just on our face, but on our scalp and body too. Here are five things people with dry skin will relate to and how you can treat it with over-the-counter products.
1. You avoid black or dark clothing
A common complaint from people who have dry skin is dandruff. Anyone who suffers from a dry scalp will know the social awkwardness of wearing a black top and flaking on to your shoulders. Not a good look, even if you're socially distancing.
“Dandruff and dry scalp have the same main symptoms, which are falling flakes and an itchy scalp, but they are two different conditions," says Dylan Griffiths, medical manager for Eucerin.
"In dry scalp, the skin gets irritated and flakes off. With dandruff, the cause is too much oil on the scalp. That excess oil causes skin cells to build up and then shed. Knowing which of these conditions you have can help you get the right treatment and banish those flakes for good.
"With a dry scalp, moisturising can prove challenging but there are scalp and hair products available specifically designed to relieve the tight and itchy feeling you may experience and prevent the ‘shoulder snow’ you may experience.
"Flaky skin is a sign that your skin barrier is broken, and it is flaking away so it needs something like a urea product to help repair the barrier and lock in that moisture.”
A shampoo such as the Eucerin DermoCapillaire Calming Urea Shampoo gently cleanses and helps to relieve the symptoms of scalp irritation, including itchiness, tightness, redness, roughness and sensitivity. Urea and lactate help prevent the scalp from drying out, restores the scalp's natural balance and conditions the hair making it feel soft with a healthy shine.
2. You've spent thousands of euro over the years on expensive serums and creams
We've all been in the skincare aisle when a new miracle cream is announced, willing to hand over our hard-earned cash. According to Dylan, 60-70% of the population will suffer from some form of dry skin. The best way to treat dry skin is a urea-based product. "Urea is probably the most well-known and established moisturising agent. It’s one of 18 natural moisturising factors produced by the body."
Dylan refers to the Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS 10% Urea Lotion as a "hero" product. This lotion, which is suitable for the entire body, provides highly effective moisturisation that supports the treatment of dry, itchy and flaky skin conditions, including atopic eczema.
And here comes the science bit. It has a concentration of 10% urea, "as well as 17 other ‘water-loving’ natural moisturising factors which absorb and regulate water in the skin to support hydration" says Dylan. "Urea, at a concentration of 10% higher, helps to exfoliate the skin as does lactic acid so that helps to remove any dead skin cells to help refresh the skin."
And the best part of this "hero" lotion? It only costs €13.
3. You are used to turning up to work with red, blotchy skin thanks to the intense exfoliation you partook in the night before
It can be tempting to 'scrub off' your dry skin with a harsh exfoliator in a bid to obtain smooth skin. But there are some ingredients that could make your dry skin worse or leave you with red and blotchy skin.
"If you have broken, dry skin, we advise that you use products without fragrances or ingredients that could cause irritation," says Dylan. "We know that certain acids are quite good for dry skin to help exfoliate, the likes of alpha hydroxy acid which include lactic, and glycolic, but we tend to advise that you avoid stronger acids, unless you’re advised to do so by a medical professional."
The key ingredients to look out for in your skincare for dry skin are key actives that are designed to moisturise says Dylan, known as humectants. "The likes of urea, glycerin and hyaluronic acid are really beneficial. Focus on those first rather than on-trend actives such as vitamin C, which is a very well-known active for skin ageing, it is advised not to use that when you’ve got a broken skin barrier or dry skin. The key thing is to ensure you’re using established, tested ingredients specifically for dry skin."
The fast-absorbing Eucerin UreaRepair Replenishing Face Cream (with 5% urea) provides instant moisture and reduces the feeling of tightness in the skin.
4. Your make-up or self-tan doesn't sit right
For those who suffer from eczema or psoriasis, applying make-up or fake tan to the area can often feel like you've made the appearance of dry skin worse.
"Dry skin is a bit of an umbrella term, there are a lot of conditions that fit under it," says Dylan. "With the likes of the UreaRepair range we focus significantly on xerosis, the medical term for dry skin. And dry skin basically is a lack of lipids (oil) within the skin. These lipids, or ceramides, create a natural protective barrier that helps prevent moisture loss due to evaporation, and to block out irritants that can cause inflammation and itching. If you don’t have enough ceramides between the skin cells, moisture can escape and lead to dry skin."
Will the Eucerin skincare range work for someone who has eczema? "With eczema, you have a broken skin barrier where allergens or pathogens, such as bacteria, penetrate the skin. When you have a flare up, which is very red, itchy, painful skin, that tends to be when a dermatologist or a GP recommends using a steroid cream. So, moisturisers, such as the Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS 10% Urea Lotion, are designed to help lock the skin barrier and keep it hydrated, but work alongside the medicines that the doctors will prescribe."
And for people with psoriasis, there is good news for you too. "The 10% lotion is proven to support patients with psoriasis," says Dylan. "Psoriasis is an additional auto-immune element of dry skin, where the cell turnover is far faster than it should be. Generally turnover is 21-28 days on a cycle, psoriasis is far faster (every 3 to 7 days), and you end up with a build-up of skin cells or what’s known as plaques. The 10% lotion is really good at penetrating the plaques by helping to hydrate but slowly exfoliate the skin."
The Eucerin UreaRepair Replenishing Face Cream, enhanced with 5% urea, is recommended for use under make-up or after shaving.
5. You have to get up to use the toilet in the middle of the night
For many of us, the first port of call when we see a patch of dry skin is to drink more water. More water = hydration, and hydration means no more dry skin, right? Wrong, says Dylan. Plus, we're only making ourselves need the toilet at all hours, which is not ideal when your bedroom is upstairs, and your bathroom is downstairs.
While we should all strive to drink about three litres of water a day (for women, men should aim for four litres, according to the Mayo Clinic) dry skin doesn't necessarily mean dehydrated skin. "A lot of people think dry skin and dehydrated skin are the same – they’re not," says Dylan. "Dehydrated skin is a lack of moisture but with dehydrated skin, your skin is still intact. The top barrier is not broken. With dry skin, the barrier is either damaged or broken and that is because not only do the cells not have enough moisture within them, but also because they have a lack of lipids."
As previously mentioned, urea at a concentration of 10% higher helps to exfoliate the skin. Dylan says there two further ingredients in the Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS 10% Urea Lotion that are beneficial to dry skin. "You have skin identical ceramides, ceramides replace the lack of lipids, therefore they create envelopes around the skin cells to protect them and also to heal the skin barrier, which therefore locks the skin to prevent any moisture escaping.
"Finally, you’ve got an ingredient gluco-glycerol, so gluco-glycerol is a very powerful form of glycerin. Gluco-glycerol comes from algae, and it opens up the water channels in your skin cells. Your skin cells have these little water channels called aquaporins. I class them as Tube tunnels like the London Underground, so if you don’t have enough aquaporins, you don’t have enough trains travelling through your skin and these trains transport water from the deep layer to the top layer.
So, by using something like gluco-glycerol, you’re opening up the train stations and water can travel all over your skin, boosting hydration, even in the deep layers.
"Urea and natural moisturising factors help bring in the moisture and lock it in. Ceramides protect the cells and also heal the skin barrier to lock in the benefits and the gluco-glycerol ensures that you have transportation of moisture throughout the cells, even in the deep layers."
So there you have it! Bet you didn't know your skin had trains...
The Eucerin dry skin range is available in all good pharmacies now. The dermatologist-recommended skincare range is designed to help children and adults manage dry skin, with different variants from 5% to 10% urea available for different skin types.
For more information see here.