Dry skin

What causes dry skin?
Hormonal changes
Skin disease
Sun exposure
Inappropriate or irritating skincare

How can I manage my dry skin?
Avoid smoking, excessive sun exposure
Cleanse with lukewarm water
Use a gentle, SLS-free cleanser
Moisturise regularly with a cream rather than a lotion
Look for key ingredients: urea, glycerine, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, squalane
Take care when using active ingredients, and start slowly

Almost all of us will encounter dry skin at some point, and fixing it isn’t always as straightforward as applying some moisturiser. Lots of factors can contribute to skin dryness, and it’s important to address as many as you can to keep your skin as healthy as possible.

What is dry skin, and what causes it? 

Dry skin occurs when there’s a lack of water in the stratum corneum, the top layer of the skin. It can be a sign of impaired skin barrier function. Dry skin may be caused by a variety of factors. ‘Internal’ factors include genetics, ageing, hormonal changes, certain medications and skin diseases. ‘External’ factors include climate, sun exposure, lifestyle, over-cleansing, over-exfoliation, and inappropriate or irritating skin care.

What are the consequences of having dry skin? 

Dry skin is more prone to irritation and inflammation, heals more slowly, and may have a dull appearance. 

How can I treat my dry skin?

To manage dry skin, adequate hydration and avoiding environmental stressors such as excessive ultraviolet light exposure and smoking is important. Use cool or lukewarm water to cleanse, and choose a gentle, fragrance-free and SLS-free cleanser. Keep showers and baths brief and lukewarm. Use a cream, ointment or balm moisturiser which contains a combination of moisturising ingredients such as humectants, emollients and occlusives, and look for added ingredients that target dryness such as ceramides, squalane, hyaluronic acid and essential fatty acids. Apply your moisturiser straight after bathing or cleansing to damp skin, to trap in the moisture. 

When introducing active ingredients which have the potential to be drying or irritating, always start slowly. Introduce one product at a time, applying to a test area first, and use in conjunction with a moisturiser. Avoid over-exfoliating the skin, using a gentle chemical exfoliant at most three times per week.

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Pons-Guiraud A. Dry skin in dermatology: a complex physiopathology. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2007 Sep;21 Suppl 2:1-4.

Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287.




Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…