The end of summer is a good time for thinking about your skin.
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If you represent the one out of three Americans plagued by dry skin, you’ve probably tried scores of moisturizers. But despite advertiser promises of smooth, soft skin, moisturizers generally do little to remedy the problem.
Whether mildly flaky or painfully cracked and itchy, skin that is dry can more closely resemble alligator hide than the tender, supple skin we are meant to have. It’s more than just a cosmetic problem, though. As the body’s largest organ, your skin is the first line of protection against invading microorganisms. When your skin dries and cracks, it leaves you vulnerable to invasion by harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
For most people, dry skin is simply the result of dry air, harsh soaps, hot water, and the wrong moisturizer. Other common causes of dry skin include food allergies or sensitivities, malabsorption, or a deficiency of essential fatty acids or fat-soluble vitamins. Conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or psoriasis are factors that should also be considered when diagnosing the cause of dry skin.
The logical response to dry skin is to reach for a moisturizer. But moisturizers may not help, and they can even be dangerous to your health. Because skin is permeable, any substance applied to it will quickly be absorbed into the bloodstream and circulated to your organs and tissues. Most conventional moisturizers and body care products contain a staggering number of toxic substances, including the ubiquitous ingredient mineral oil—a known carcinogen. Recent studies show that mineral oil stimulates the growth of skin cancers. Fortunately, the simplest and most affordable moisturizers are also the most effective—and they’re the healthiest for your skin and overall health. Shea butter and pure coconut oil are two good examples.
Whatever the cause, you must change the way you treat your skin and use appropriate moisturizers if you want smoother, healthier skin. Dietary changes are also helpful in alleviating dry skin. Drinking more water seems like a logical decision and is often promoted as a remedy for dry skin, but in reality, eating more fat is far more important. Without a sufficient intake of healthful dietary fats, your skin cannot produce enough sebum, the natural protective barrier of oil that prevents moisture loss. Dry skin is one of the hallmarks of a low-fat diet. When healthful fats such as organic butter, coconut oil, and olive oil are added to the diet, skin is naturally moisturized from the inside out.
- What Is Known About Dry Skin
- Healthy Steps: Dry Skin—First Steps
- Healthy Steps: Dry Skin— Full Program
- Dry Skin Prevention
- From Dr. Deborah's Desk
Have you ever wondered whether your skin looks more human or reptilian, you have probably complained about dry skin. You represent the one out of three Americans with dry skin, and by now you’ve probably tried scores of moisturizers. But despite advertiser promises of smooth, soft skin, moisturizers generally do little to remedy the problem.