If you’re looking to manage dry skin, you’re not alone. These top tips are on hand to get soothed skin back on track

Most of us will experience dry skin at some point in our lives. Some may find it drier than others and there can be many reasons for this, from your skin type to seasonal changes to more serious skin conditions.

If you have dry skin, try not to worry. It’s a common skin condition affecting people of all ages and there are plenty of management tips that can help.

How does our skin function?

Skin - it’s the largest organ of the integumentary system (your body’s outer layer), made up of multiple different layers, proteins, fats, water and minerals. Its job? In short, it protects our body.

The skin is made up of three layers of tissue:

• Epidermis – the top layer that acts as a protective barrier and continuously makes new skin cells. The upper layer, called the stratum corneum, acts as a skin barrier and is the first line of defence against environmental aggressors

• Dermis – the middle layer that contains proteins like collagen to strengthen skin cells

• Hypodermis – the bottom or fatty layer of the skin that regulates body temperature and cushions the muscles and bones

There’s much more to skin than the eye can see. Made up of millions of skin cells and thousands of melanocytes (the cells that produce and contain the pigment melanin), nerve endings and blood vessels. It’s a pretty complex, yet fascinating organ if you ask us!

Why do we get dry skin?

When we lose water from the outer layer of our skin, it can cause it to dry out. There are several reasons why someone might encounter dry skin, including:

• Excessive bathing

• Age - as we age, the number of sebaceous and sweat glands in the skin decrease which can lead to dryness

• Genetics - some of us are born with drier skin than others

• Changes in the levels of certain hormones

• Harsh laundry detergents and soap

• Environmental conditions, including changes in temperature that increase water loss

• Frequent sun exposure

• Allergies

• Dehydration

• Dry skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis

Unless you have a dry skin condition, most people will experience dry skin either temporarily or seasonally.

Why is my skin drier throughout the winter months?

You might notice that you get seasonal dryness. This is a term that describes moisture loss during the colder seasons. For example, during the wintertime the temperature and humidity plummets, stripping the skin of moisture and subsequently contributing to dryness. Central heating and indoor fireplaces can zap even more moisture from the air, leading to further skin dryness.

So, what can you do to help manage dry winter skin? It all starts with adopting a good winter skincare routine. Here are our top tips:

• Use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip skin of its natural oils. Try avoiding harsher foaming cleansers and instead opt for nourishing cream cleansers that remove dirt and make-up whilst adding moisturisation

• Incorporate a hydrating serum into your routine with ingredients like hyaluronic acid which can help draw water from the air into your skin for ultimate hydration

• Use a rich moisturiser to seal in hydration – even better if it’s one formulated specifically for dry skin.

• Don’t forget to moisturise your body every day with a body lotion or indulgent body butter. Try to do this when your skin is damp after showering or bathing when it’s most receptive to the nourishing ingredients

• Carry around a hand cream and lip balm for when you’re out and about – these areas of the body are more exposed to the colder air and can get drier and chapped more quickly

• Try to avoid using hot water when you’re showering, bathing or rinsing your face because this can strip skin of its natural oils. Instead, opt for warm or cool water to help keep your skin feeling comfortable

How does this differ from other skin conditions?

Many people can experience dry skin temporarily throughout their lives which can often be managed with moisturisers. However, some people can have long-term chronic dry skin conditions which can require medicinal treatment. These dry skin conditions can include more severe symptoms such as cracked sore skin that can become inflamed. There are periods when symptoms are less noticeable, as well as periods when symptoms become more severe (flare-ups). Some of these include:

Eczema: This common skin condition, also known as atopic eczema, causes the skin to become dry, red, itchy and cracked. Although it’s a long-term chronic condition, it can improve over time with the right treatment. Read more about how to treat and manage eczema.

Psoriasis: Causes flaky patches of skin which form scales. This skin condition is caused by a problem with the immune system which results in your body producing too many skin cells. Find out more information on what is psoriasis?

Contact dermatitis: A type of eczema that’s triggered by contact with a particular substance, causing the skin to become itchy, dry, blistered and cracked. For more information, visit our what is contact dermatitis? condition page.

If you think you're experiencing a medical dry skin condition then you should seek advice from your pharmacy team or GP.

7 ways to help improve dry skin at home

While everyone’s skin type is unique to them, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your dry skin. Take a look at our tips below:

Tip 1: Moisturise

Regardless of skin type, everyone should use moisturiser in their daily skincare routine. Moisturisers seal the skin, trapping water to help keep your skin’s protective barrier healthy. Aim to use moisturiser throughout the day particularly after washing your face or hands, drying yourself after a bath or shower or before you go outdoors.

There are plenty of moisturisers for dry and sensitive skin and all different skin types out there. You  may need to trial a few different products until you find the one that works best for you.

If you're using moisturiser and find it’s not improving your dry skin, speak to your pharmacist.

Tip 2: Refine your bath & shower routine

If you frequently have long hot baths or showers, try limiting your time spent in there and don’t be afraid to turn down that temperature. Hot temperatures strip the natural moisture from your skin, which can cause it to dry out.

It’s also recommended that you pat dry your skin rather than rubbing it after bathing. Blot your skin with a clean towel and always follow up with a generous slathering of moisturiser.

Tip 3: Use creams & ointments over lotions

Creams and ointments are generally thicker than lotions and less irritable, making them suitable for people with dry skin. When shopping for ointments and creams, make sure to look out for hydrating ingredients like shea butter and jojoba oil.

Tip 4: Choose gentle skincare products

Although fragranced products smell nice, they’re not necessarily the best for dry skin. They can often be quite harsh on the skin. The solution? Choose skincare products with gentle ingredients like ceramides and glycerin and look out for the ones labelled ‘fragrance-free’.

If you notice your skin is drying out from your skincare routine, take a look through your products. Try to remove any products that contain alcohol, alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), fragrance and retinoids. All of those ingredients can strip your skin of its natural oils and dry them out so try to avoid them where possible.

Tip 5: Wear non-irritable, protective clothing

Have you noticed dry skin on your hands? Wearing gloves can help and during the warmer months more frequent moisturising is key!

Your choice of clothing, like gloves, can help prevent dry skin from getting worse. Ideally, you should choose non-irritating clothing. For example, wear breathable fabrics like cotton. If you do want to wear clothing that's rougher on the skin, put a protective layer underneath.

Laundry detergent can also be an irritant. Choose one that's labelled ‘hypoallergenic’. This means the product contains fewer allergens (a substance that can cause an allergic reaction).

Tip 6: Add moisture to the air

Dry skin develops when our skin loses moisture. One way we can help prevent this is by putting moisture into the air. A humidifier works great for this and they’re easily accessible to buy online. They’re particularly useful for those with dry skin, allergies and respiratory problems.

Tip 7: Drink plenty of water

Drinking water can help keep the skin well hydrated. If you need help incorporating more water into your daily routine, check out these practical tips to help you drink more water.

How can a pharmacist help with dry skin?

If you have dry skin and can successfully treat it with the help of moisturiser, you shouldn’t need to turn to a pharmacist for help. A pharmacist will only be able to help with dry skin that is associated to a specific skin condition, including eczema and psoriasis.

If you do have a dry skin condition, your pharmacist may recommend treatment options to help ease your symptoms, such as an emollient. These are moisturising treatments that are applied directly to the skin, helping to prevent inflammation and flare-ups. Emollients work by trapping moisture into the skin as they act like a protective film.

There are several different types of emollient, from:

• Creams

• Lotions

• Sprays

• Ointments

• Soap substitutes

• Leave-on products

Your pharmacist will be able to recommend which type is most suitable for you. If you're experiencing a flare-up of your dry skin condition, your pharmacist may suggest a topical steroid cream or refer you to your GP.

Alternatively, you can also seek support and advice from the Boots Online Doctor Acne and Skin Treatment services*. You’ll be asked to fill out a quick online consultation before one of our clinicians assesses your specific skin condition and prescribes treatment if appropriate.

*Access to treatment is subject to an online consultation with a clinician to assess suitability. Subject to availability. Charges apply.