Why Is My Skin So Dry?

While time and age itself are main constituents as to why moisture levels in the skin take a dip, external and internal factors (that can be controlled to varying degrees) can cause a once soft, well-hydrated complexion to look parched. As moisture levels decrease, the skin barrier is compromised, causing skin to appear unhealthy and rough, while also leading to difficulty retaining water and protecting the body against infections.

Like any cell in the body, the right amount of water is necessary for proper cellular function and the same goes for skin cells. The body is made primarily of water and specific molecules in the body and skin are responsible for trapping water. “Water passes through the skin to the environment to escape,” says West Palm Beach, FL, dermatologist, Kenneth R. Beer, MD. Water is retained by the skin’s moisture barrier molecules, but with age the body makes fewer molecules, which directly affects the quality of the skin.

“When there is a lack of water in the skin, cells become dehydrated and aren’t able to function properly,” says New York dermatologist Anne Chapas, MD. There is little that can be done to rev up the production of these water binders, which are technically ceramides and decrease with age. “The skin’s natural barrier contains ceramides (made from cholesterol) and when patients are on cholesterol-lowering drugs, their skin cannot make a decent protective barrier,” adds Dr. Beer.

To keep your skin soft and moisturized, apply your moisturizer after cleansing your face the right way but before your regular skin-care products since the skin is still damp, which helps to seal in moisture. Avoid washing with hot water, drink enough water to slow down aging and steer clear of harsh cleansers and ingredients.