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The Top 8 Causes of Perpetually Dry Skin

Unhappy woman touching skin in bathroom

If you have dry skin, then you know how frustrating it can be. Despite using lots of creams and lotions, you are left with flaking, peeling, and that uncomfortable tight skin feeling.

When your skin is too dry, it can affect both the way that you feel and how you look. If you try to apply makeup over dry skin, it often appears patchy and rough, only drawing more attention to parched areas. Dry skin can also exaggerate the look of any fine lines or wrinkles you make have.

But more important than how your skin looks is how well it is functioning under the surface. If you are experiencing the symptoms of dry skin, there is more than likely deeper skin issues causing it. Skin that lacks moisture will have a hard time protecting itself from environmental stressors and the toll of daily life.

Skin is our largest organ and plays an important role in keeping us healthy. Getting adequate water to your skin and keeping it there is vital to helping skin do its job well.

So what could be causing your perpetually dry skin, and how can you fix it?

Here we’ve compiled a list of 8 common causes of dry skin, and what you can do to heal.

Drying Soap

It’s no secret that dry skin can occur anywhere on the body. And one of the top things that can cause dry skin is typically used all over the body daily: soap.

Soap is a part of our daily routine: from cleansing our face, washing our hands, to taking a shower. But not all soaps are created equal.

We certainly need to keep our skin clean, but what we use to wash away dirt and grime can mean the difference between healthy, balanced skin and dry, cracked skin. Many soaps contain harsh detergents that strip away not only germs and bacteria, but also our skin’s naturally occurring oils, too.

Losing all those natural skin oils is a major reason that skin becomes dry. Instead of removing all of this every time we cleanse our skin, we want to use cleansers that help balance our skin’s natural moisture while removing unwanted substances.

If you suspect that your soaps, facial cleansers or body washes could be stripping your skin and causing dryness, try switching to a milder alternative. Look for cleansers designed for dry skin, that contain moisturizing ingredients. And stay away from anything that is made to remove oil. These types of cleansers are for skin types that produce excess skin oil and are certainly the opposite of what dry skin needs.

Also, keep in mind that the detergent you use to wash your laundry could also be a factor in your skin condition. Many laundry detergents contain dyes and fragrances that may irritate skin that is sensitive or inflamed. Instead, opt for a “sensitive skin” formula, or one that contains no dyes and perfumes.

Low Humidity

Unfortunately, there a few causes of dry skin that you have less control over. One of the big ones is the humidity level.

Low humidity means that there is not much moisture in the air, and these dry conditions certainly affect your body. The reasons for low humidity are also numerous.

Weather and climate are the two big causes of low humidity in the environment. If you live a dry climate, your skin will battle these dry conditions every time you step outside. If this is the reason for your dry skin, you don’t need to move away to a humid climate for relief. But you will have to make sure to add moisture back into your skin and use products that help keep it from evaporating into the dry air.

Even temporary seasonal changes in the weather may have a profound effect on your skin’s hydration level. Winter is a time of year that is notorious for causing dry, chapped skin, especially on the face and hands. This is because not only is the air drier than at other times of the year, but it is also often cold and windy.

While staying inside more may seem like the answer to all these low humidity situations, sometimes your home or workplace is actually contributing to the problem. The air that comes from air condition units and furnaces can be particularly dry. This is especially true for heat, but cooling your indoor environment can dry out your skin as well.

Smiling woman adjusting temperature on AC control

Luckily, you do have some options for controlling indoor humidity. You can use a humidifier to put some moisture into the air of your home or office. This can provide remarkable relief, along with protecting your skin from water loss when you go outside. More on that later.

Hard Water

When it comes to washing skin that is dry, you need to think about more than just the soap you use. The type of water that you use makes a difference as well.

Most of us just use the water that comes out of the tap without a second thought. But not all tap water is the same, and some water is kinder to your skin than others. If your home has hard water, it could be contributing to your dry skin.

“Hard water” refers to water that contains a lot of calcium. High amounts of calcium in your water can irritate your skin and make any existing skin conditions worse. This is because the calcium remains on the skin and affects the natural moisture barrier. In fact, it can actually damage the skin barrier and cause the skin to become easily sensitized.

So what is the solution if you are dealing with hard water?

Well, you could, of course, look into using water softeners to adjust the hardness of your home’s tap water.

But if you are not able to make these changes, there are other things you can do to minimize irritation that may come from using hard water. There are some skincare products that are specifically designed with hard water in mind, that can help break down calcium and keep it from remaining on the skin.

And simply using a gentle, creamy cleanser (see cause #1 above) will also do a lot to help minimize the effects of less than ideal tap water on your skin. But there is one other thing that can make any type of water softer on your skin: temperature.

Hot Water

Slipping into a steaming shower or hot bath after a long hard day can be very relaxing. But when the water temperature gets over a certain temperature, your skin will be anything but pleased.

Your skin has its own natural moisture barrier that is meant to keep moisture where it is needed, below the surface. But when you apply hot water to this delicate surface, this protective layer can be damaged. The natural skin oils that help make up this barrier can’t hold their own against a stream of hot water and will be washed away, leaving your skin dry and irritated.

Woman in the shower

Not sure what temperature you should be aiming for?

It turns out that about 84 degrees is the magic number. But since most of us can’t actually measure the temperature of our showers, your best bet is to aim for something just a little more than lukewarm. And to play it even safer, try to limit your time in the water, to around 10 minutes or less.

Cleansing Too Much

This is another case of too much of a good thing. If you are cleansing your face too much, this can certainly lead to excessive dryness.

The reason you wash your face is to remove dirt, oil, or makeup and avoid clogged pores and pimples. But if you are too aggressive with your wash routine, you run the risk of removing that good skin oil that is a natural protector of your skin.

Many of us were taught to wash our face morning and night, and this isn’t exactly bad advice. But when you are dealing with very dry skin, it may be that this standard practice isn’t right for you.

It’s important to listen to your individual skin needs and do what is best for your skin. While at some points in your life washing morning and night may be fine, if your skin becomes very dry, you may need to cut back.

Don’t skip washing your face before bed, as you need to remove any makeup or dirt accumulated throughout the day. But the next morning, pay attention to how your skin feels. Is it tight or already dry? Don’t wash with a cleanser again if that’s the case. Instead, rinse with lukewarm water and moisturize.

Not Moisturizing Properly

When your skin gets dry, slathering on the moisturizer is probably the first thing you do. But using the right type of moisturizer, the right way, is the key to getting to most out of this essential part of dry skincare.

One of the most important parts of moisturizing skin correctly is timing. You need to get your moisturizer onto the skin as soon as you’re done washing. Once you’ve rinsed your skin, pat dry gently (don’t rub) and start applying lotion or cream on skin is still a little damp. Usually, this is only minutes after you’ve toweled off.

The reason this short period is so important is that moisturizers don’t really add water to your skin. Their actual function is to keep the water in your skin from evaporating into the air. So once your skin has been wet, the clock starts ticking.

The next most important factor in moisturizing is the formulation and ingredients in your moisturizing product. When dealing with especially dry skin, you will need something heavier than a lotion. A cream or ointment moisturizer will provide better results.

Woman applying moisturizer

You should also look for powerful hydrating and skin-soothing ingredients in your moisturizer. Plant oils like argan and jojoba are great choices, as are mineral oil and petrolatum. These will be more effective at creating a protective layer on compromised skin.

One such moisturizing cream to try is the Vine Vera Resveratrol Merlot Moisture Day Cream. With sunflower seed oil and fatty acids, it will plump up skin with nourishing moisture that will last all day.


As we age our skin becomes more susceptible to the elements and to becoming dry. The main reason for this is that we lose some oil glands in our skin with age. Without the oil in our skin from these glands, it is harder for our skin to maintain moisture.

It’s true that you can’t stop your body’s natural loss of oil-producing glands in the future, but you can keep a moisturizing skincare regimen starting now. This will get you in the habit of adding oil back into your skin and keeping it there. Even if you are not suffering from aging skin yet, you can start this healthy skin practice today.


When you are seeing flaky, rough patches all over your skin, your first instinct may be to pull out the sugar scrub and buff them away. But this may actually make the problem worse.

Exfoliating is an important part of your skincare routine, even when your skin is very dry. But if you exfoliate too often or too aggressively, it may be counterproductive.

This applies to both physical and chemical exfoliation. Any type of exfoliation is going to remove the topmost layer of skin, allowing any build-up of dead skin cells to get removed. But if you do this every day, you are not giving your skin time to regenerate. In fact, you may actually start to wear away new and healthy skin cells that aren’t ready to be sloughed away.

The result can be skin that is red and inflamed and may peel even more than before. Eventually, you may even damage the skin barrier, making it difficult for your skin to retain moisture. This is why it is best to be conservative with your use of exfoliants. When your skin is dry, use your scrub, brush, or acid only once or twice a week at most. 

So there you have it. Those are the top 8 reasons for perpetually dry skin. If you are struggling with dry skin, give these tips a try. But keep in mind that there sometimes there may be a medical reason for very dry skin, so don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or dermatologist if you aren’t seeing improvement.

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