Why Is My Skin So Dry?

Q:  My skin is incredibly dry. It even feels tight and itchy. What could be causing this?

A: Step outside on a dry winter’s day or spend a little extra time in a steamy shower and you may have your answer. Arid air and exposure to water can certainly leave you reaching for the moisturizer, and they’re indeed at the root of many people’s dry skin. But for such a seemingly simple issue, it has quite a few other potential causes. Harsh soaps, perfumes, dehydration and diet, certain medications (like blood pressure or allergy drugs), smoking, pregnancy and even stress and aging may—alone or in combination—also play a part.

You may simply think of your dry skin as a nuisance that’s irritating in more ways than one. Many people just like you have waved the white flag and given in to a life of scratching and discomfort when creams and lotions have only provided so-so relief. But it’s important to mention your dry skin to your doctor if it persists or worsens.

It could be a sign of a more serious skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis. But it can also be a sign of more serious health concerns you might not think of, such as a hypothyroidism or diabetes. Managing the underlying cause may not only improve your dry skin, but other aspects of your overall health.

Too help hydrate dry skin, try taking shorter showers—using warm water (instead of hot)—and apply coconut oil when skin is still damp.

Note: Do not stop taking any medications without first speaking to your physician.

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