A close up of dry skin

How do you define dryness?

Think rhinoceros skin with it’s coarse, elevated ridges.

Where cellular turnover appears abnormal, with skin coming off in sheets instead of cell by cell.

This is why a dry skin often appears dull and sallow.

It can feel one size to small, which is due to the lack of oil in the skin.

Characteristically it has small pores, which secrete only a minimal amount of oil (sebum).


When your skins equilibrium is totally out of whack, it can cause a cycle of events to occur:

  • Uneven texture
  • Tightness or tautness
  • Slight to severe flaking and scaling
  • Severe redness, inflammation and sensitivity
  • Cracks appear accentuating the natural skin lines, creating premature ageing, the cracks deepen forming fissures, which enlarge reaching to the dermis and capillaries which can cause bleeding
  • Severe itching occurs as a result of xerotic eczema, a condition of dry skin leading that can lead to infection

Many manufacturers of skincare appear to have a blanket approach to dry skin, often categorising it under normal skin which alarms me, because it is a very difficult skin condition to treat. In order to truly understand the anatomy of dry skin and because it is so complex, I need to get a little technical so please bare with me. Dry skin can be categorised into three groups:

  • Xerosis is the most common dry skin complaint
  • Ichthyosis is a moderate dry skin condition
  • Ichthyosis vulgaris is the most severe dry skin condition, characterised by scaling


    Is there more than one type of dry skin? Well in my professional opinion, no guide to dry skin would be complete without noting, that both OIL DRY and DEHYDRATED skin can create similar concerns. So let me clear this up. When your skin is rough or tight it is easy to assume the skin is dry which means oil dry, but it can also mean it is dehydrated meaning moisture dry, which can cause a lot of confusion. DEHYDRATED SKIN:  This is not a skin type it is a condition, basically a dehydrated skin doesn’t discriminate between dry, combination or an oily skin type. Anyones skin can become dehydrated, if it is exposed to enough stripping of the outside protective layer that is, the protective sebum (oil) is stripped and the lipids found in the barrier function become affected. OIL DRY SKIN: Technically referred to alipidic skin, this is when not enough sebum is being produced to prevent surface dryness. The role of sebum is to provide a fatty protective layer over the surface, when skin becomes oil dry the sebum is not doing it’s job correctly, which means water can escape and irritants and pathogens can easily enter. This skin type is characterised by a lack of pores, indicating that the sebaceous glands are not producing enough oil due to the follicles not being dilated enough, which is why pores are very small on a dry skin. Did you know that protecting your barrier function is the first step in caring for your dry skin? Follow the link to find out more.


    As we age our cellular renewal slows right down. When were young our cells constantly shed, this process continually replaces older cells with fresh young cells, from deeper tissue layers. But as we age the cell renewal that creates the intercellular lipids that makes up the barrier function slows, so does the production of these important protective lipids. This is why exfoliation is key if you have a dry or mature skin. There is also a gender difference in sebaceous activity in the skin. The sebaceous activity in males remains robust as they age, but levels in women drop significantly as they age, women aged 60 having around 60% of the sebaceous activity they had in their youth. Fortunately most cases of dry skin are treatable with topical moisturisers, or procedures which can help facilitate cellular turnover. If you’ve enjoyed this guide to dry skin, then follow the link to find out about common causes of dry skin.

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