The summer season might not be the first thing you associate with dry skin, but for many, the hotter months and the post-summer period immediately afterwards are met with dry, flaky skin, and bouts of redness that stick around long after a hard day in the sun. We’ve all felt that parched, tight feeling in our skin after spending time in the great outdoors, but did you know that the sun might be one of the causes behind dry, dehydrated skin in the long term, too?
The sun damages our skin, in ways we are more aware of such as by causing damage to its natural proteins, and by contributing to the risk of skin cancer. However, the sun can also accelerate the natural signs of aging in the skin, in a process which is known as photoaging. Sun damage can speed up how quickly we see wrinkles appearing, and can increase the amount of dark spots on our skin. Let’s take a look at how photoaging can also cause skin dryness and redness, and discover how to build a photoaging routine to combat dry, dehydrated skin.
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How does the sun cause dry skin?
Sun damage has both short and long-term effects. The short-term effects are more noticeable immediately after sun exposure, such as with sunburn. In the long-term, when the skin is exposed to solar radiation without proper protection, sun damage affects skin cells and proteins in the skin. UV rays can cause the skin to thicken, resulting in it becoming more dehydrated.
Your skin’s natural protective barrier can also be affected by sun damage, as exposure to UV rays alters the formation of natural lipids (fats) that keep the barrier functioning as it should. When the skin’s protective barrier, sometimes called the moisture barrier, is affected, moisture can escape more easily and skin can feel tight, dry, and sensitive.
Recognizing the symptoms of dry skin
If your moisture barrier has been affected, symptoms of dry skin can appear in various ways, including:
- Sensitivity (skin gets more easily irritated)
- Rough patches
Sometimes these signs only appear in one specific place, such as on the nose or on the forehead. Wherever they appear, they can be a sign that your moisture barrier has been affected, so it’s important to look after your skin and build a photoaging routine that can combat dryness and dehydration caused by sun exposure.
How to build a skincare routine for dry skin and dehydration
When building a skincare routine to combat dryness and dehydration, your mantra is simple (and somewhat obvious): hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You should focus on using products which help replenish lost moisture in the skin, and which help keep your skin hydrated throughout the day. In addition, no morning skincare routine is complete without sunscreen: this will help to keep your skin protected from the sun’s rays and reduce damage to your skin.
1. Hydrating serum
After cleansing, your first basic step, both morning and evening should be a hydrating serum which works to boost natural moisture levels in the skin. Hydrating serums can also help to calm the skin, as the intense moisture can help to reduce the feeling of dryness associated with dehydration. If you’re looking for a skincare serum which is designed to be hydrating, look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and squalane.
Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are humectants, which means they work by drawing in water molecules and binding to them, retaining moisture in the skin. Hyaluronic acid also adds volume to the skin and offers a plumping effect, counteracting loss of elasticity and sagging in the skin. This makes a hyaluronic acid serum a popular choice for those concerned about tackling both dryness and fine lines and wrinkles.
2. Rich moisturizer
For those concerned with dryness, a rich moisturizer is your best bet to help seal in all the hydrating goodness of a serum, and help decrease moisture loss as the day (or night) goes by. A rich moisturizing cream can help reduce water loss in the skin, protecting your natural moisture barrier and helping skin feel more elastic overall. If your skin is especially dry, you may want to consider using a moisturizer both morning and night to help give your skin the hydration boost it needs.
Sunscreen is a must, no matter your skin type, and no matter your skin concern. In order to help protect your skin from those damaging UV rays, and help put a stop to further dehydration and dryness, sunscreen should be worn daily, and reapplied frequently.
Mineral formulas are a good choice for dry, sensitive skin, as they are generally suitable for a wide range of skin types. Choose a mineral formula with moisturizing ingredients such as vitamin E to help keep your skin protected and boost your skin’s natural defenses.
Can I exfoliate if I have dry skin?
It’s a common myth that exfoliation should be avoided if you have dry skin. Exfoliation helps get rid of dead skin cells and encourages healthy cell turnover, meaning it helps get rid of dry, flaky skin, and promotes smoother, more uniform texture.
Avoid manual exfoliation such as an exfoliating scrub, as this can irritate the skin further and lead to more dryness and redness. With dry skin, chemical exfoliants like AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids) are a good choice, especially in more gentle formulas with lower concentrations.
Glycolic acid is a popular AHA as it is an exfoliant with water-attracting properties, meaning in lower concentrations it is still effective while being kinder to skin. Gentle glycolic acid formulas can be used regularly with dry skin. Start with exfoliation 1-2 times a week, then build up from there if necessary. Just make sure to wear sun protection without fail, as exfoliation can make the skin more sensitive to the sun.
Which cleanser should I use for dry skin?
If your skin is dry and irritated, choosing the wrong cleanser could make it worse! Harsh cleansers can strip the skin of its natural oils, further damaging the moisture barrier and contributing to dryness, flakiness, and in some cases, irritation caused by dryness.
Choose a gentle cleanser which respects your skin’s moisture barrier. A micellar water is a great way to gently cleanse skin, while ridding it of impurities and hydrating at the same time. Check that your cleanser is suitable for either dry or sensitive skin, so you can use it daily without compromising your moisture barrier.
Follow a tailored daily skin routine for dry skin and dehydration, and choose your skincare steps carefully to help your concerns become a thing of the past! Even small changes can make the difference between flakiness and roughness, and smooth, bright, happy skin.
Sources and references:
Hashizume H. Skin aging and dry skin. J Dermatol. 2004 Aug;31(8):603-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1346-8138.2004.tb00565.x. PMID: 15492432.