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Dry Skin and Chapped Lips

Your skin reacts to everything in your environment. The climate and your diet are just two of the many factors that can influence the structure and health of your skin. Dry skin is a common reaction to various influences, which can usually be easily remedied.

Skincare is a multi-billion-dollar industry encouraging us all to spend our money to look younger and better. It is true that having dry skin can be unpleasant and can lead to infection, bleeding, and other health complications if untreated, but, in most cases, you don’t need expensive remedies to treat it.

Some people are naturally prone to having dry skin, or xeroderma, but it’s generally nothing to worry about. Getting relief from more extreme cases, with diagnoses such as xerosis, may require the help of a dermatologist.


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Skin 101

The skin is the largest organ of the human body, typically 1,5 to 2 m2 and making up 12–15% of a person’s total body weight. The skin serves many purposes: it is a self-healing protective covering and the first line of defence against viruses, bacteria, UV radiation, and other potential hazards; it is a sensory organ containing specialized receptors to detect touch, pressure, vibration, temperature, and pain; it excretes sweat and oil; it produces Vitamin D in response to the sun; and it helps regulate body temperature and hydration.

The skin is composed of three strata:

The epidermis, the outermost stratum, is made up of 4 to 5 layers of cells, mainly interlocking keratinocytes that originate in the basal layer, transforming as they rise until they reach the surface and are almost waterproof. The top layer sloughs off and is replaced by new cells every 4 to 6 weeks.

The dermis, the strong, elastic middle stratum, contains many different kinds of cells and structures in two layers—the papillary layer where the sensitive ridges of our fingerprints are located, and the reticular layer that contains blood and lymph vessels, hair follicles, nerve endings, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands, among other structures.

Together, the epidermis and the dermis make up the cutis.

Finally, there is the hypodermis, the deepest or stratum. This is also called the sub-cutaneous layer, or superficial facia. This layer also contains various significant structures but is mostly made up of loose connective tissue and fat lobules. 

Compared to women, men’s skin is tougher, 20–25% thicker, contains more collagen, has larger pores, and produces about twice as much oil, so women are more likely to suffer from dry skin.

What causes dry skin?

While changes in any of the layers can play a role, most commonly skin feels dry due to overall dehydration or some disturbance in the natural protective oils in the epidermis.

Many factors can cause the skin to lose moisture. Following pandemic protocols in recent years, most of us have experienced how frequent hand washing and using disinfectant can dry and damage the skin.

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Some of the most common factors that contribute to dry skin include:

  • not drinking enough water
  • sleep deprivation, which disrupts the release of the hydration-regulating hormone vasopressin
  • drinking alcohol, which inhibits the production of vasopressin and acts as a diuretic
  • low humidity, particularly in the winter months when the air tends to be dry and cold or due to air-conditioner use in the summertime
  • exposure to environmental factors such as wind, sun, and heat
  • taking hot showers/baths or bathing too often
  • bathing in “hard” tap water with a high mineral content
  • using skincare products with harsh soaps, detergents, or fragrances
  • aging—as we grow older our skin becomes thinner and more fragile and our sebaceous glands produce less oil

Certain health conditions also cause dry skin, including:

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, one of the most common forms of eczema. This is a chronic condition in which the immune system becomes disordered and overactive, triggering inflammation that damages the skin’s natural protective barrier leaving it dry and prone to infection.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder that causes skin cells to build up rapidly into thick, scaly, dry patches.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland underproduces hormones that protect the skin, hair, and nails.

Diabetes

Diabetes, the inability to regulate blood sugar levels, can cause skin—particularly on the hands, feet, and legs—to become dry and cracked as moisture is pulled from the cells to help flush excess sugar from the body.

Sjögren’s syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s moisture-producing glands, especially in the tear ducts, mouth, and skin.

Ichthyosis

Ichthyosis, a group of genetic disorders that cause the skin to become thick, dry, and scaly.

Kidney disease

Kidney disease, which impairs the organ’s ability to remove waste and excess fluids from the body, often leading to dry skin.

Malnutrition and eating disorders

Malnutrition and eating disorders, including anorexia, can also cause the skin to become dry and brittle.


Many factors influence the health of your skin, including genetic predispositions and allergies.


Remedies for dry skin

If you struggle with dry skin, there are a number of easy things you can do to soothe and protect your skin.

Consider your skin care routine. Avoid using harsh soaps or detergents that cause dryness or irritation. Instead, use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers on your face and body.

Avoid hot showers and baths. Hot water can also strip the skin of oils, leading to dry and itchy, irritated skin. Try bathing in lukewarm water instead.

Moisturize your skin. Apply a moisturizer after washing to help lock in moisture and keep your skin hydrated. Moisturiser on damp skin right after washing without completely drying off beforehand.

Exfoliating can help remove dead skin cells and allow your moisturizer to penetrate more deeply. However, avoid using harsh scrubs that can irritate the skin. Instead, use a gentle exfoliator once or twice a week and be extra careful when you have a bout of dry skin.

If the air in your home is dry, a humidifier can add moisture to the air, which will help prevent your skin from reacting to dryness in the air.

Wear gloves outside during winter, and when dealing with chemicals at home.

Drink plenty of water.


If your skin is very dry and does not improve with consistent lifestyle changes and home remedies, consult a dermatologist who can recommend additional treatments, such as prescription moisturizers or medications.

Using moisturiser with acne

Applying moisturiser to acne-prone areas may seem counterintuitive but in fact dry skin can reactively overproduce sebum resulting in acne, so moisturising can help re-balance your skin.


Wash your hands carefully before applying moisturiser and other skin care products. Store your skin care products according to directions and discard them when they expire.

Chapped lips

Dry lips are caused by the same factors that cause dry skin in general, however some additional factors can influence lip hydration.

Although it may provide temporary relief, saliva evaporates quickly so licking your lips can leave them even drier than before. Likewise, breathing through your mouth, particularly when sleeping, can dry the lips.

What vitamins can I use to prevent dry lips?

Nutrient deficiencies can also cause cracked lips. Be sure to eat a varied diet that includes B-group vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, collagen, and essential fatty acids.

To prevent or treat chapped lips, hydrate, use a high-SPF lip balm, avoid licking, and use a humidifier. If your lips are severely or persistently dry, consult your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying health conditions.

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Share this article:
https://www.americanskin.org/resource/dryskin.php
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/dry-skin-causes
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/atopic-eczema/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-skin/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353891
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/dry-skin
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/9-ways-to-banish-dry-skin
https://www.everydayhealth.com/beauty-pictures/7-surprising-causes-of-dry-skin.aspx
https://www.visiblebody.com/learn/nervous/five-senses
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