Dry and very dry skin

What is it and what causes it?

The causes of dry, xerotic skin can be identified in a number of factors, which sometimes may even occur at the same time.

Water is the main component of skin, hence good hydration levels are key for keeping skin healthy.

When skin is dry, it becomes less resistant, easily irritable and more prone to inflammation and unpleasant conditions, such as itch.

Extremely dry, withered skin is often referred to with the term xerosis, from the greek word kseròs (dry).

Xerotic skin is rough and cracked. It may also show some flakiness, fissures and is often affected by itch and redness.

Why does skin becomes dry?

The outermost layer of the epidermis - the horny layer (or stratum corneum) – truly stand as a shield protecting from anything from the outside but also blocking water loss from the inner deep skin layers.

You can think to the stratum corneum as a brickwall, where the cells - the corneocytes - are the bricks, whilst the cement is made of the lipids (ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids) organised in a sort of liquid crystal pattern. In addition, on the surface of skin we also have the hydro-lipid mantle, a mixture of aqueous and fatty substances which is formed with the secretion of sweat and sebum.

As said, the horny layer is like a brickwall. Yet, not a simple, static structure, but rather a dynamic and complex one. In fact, it is:

- continuously renewing itself, as all the epidermis does,

- constantly on alert on what is happening inside and outside of skin,

- permanently active in organising and mobilising water in skin to keep it hydrated.

In "normal" conditions, the stratum corneum work sas an effective barrier, defending skin from physical and chemical agents, as well as pathogenic bacteria, and at the same time keeping the ideal water balance that is influenced by the external environment and the underlying skin layers. Losing a certain amount of water through skin is quite normal and this loss is measured as the amount of water vapour that from the stratum corneum moves outwards, and is defined as TEWL: Trans Epidermal Water Loss.

Low TEWL values indicate that the skin barrier is intact, while high levels indicate a weaker protection by the skin barrier.

If alterations occur to the proteins of the stratum corneum cells - the bricks of the wall, to the intercorneocyte lipids – the cement of the wall, and to the hydro-lipid mantle, the barrier function can become deficient, thus the water content in the epidermis is reduced and skin becomes dry and xerotic.

What are the causes of dry and xerotic skin?

Skin dryness can be a "primitive" condition due to the fact that skin is fragile, senile or atopic, or an acquired condition triggered by external factors such as exposure to the sun, extreme cold, frequent washing, contact with harsh substances.

The causes of dry, xerotic skin can be identified in a number of factors, which sometimes may even occur at the same time. These are:

  • CONSTITUTIONAL FACTORS: besides genetic predisposition, dry skin often affects children and the elderly because in these age groups sebaceous glands are lower (or even none sometimes) in number and work less, hence the skin-lubricating oil is not there,
  • ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS: exposure to the sun, wind, heat or cold, the use of harsh cleansers, mechanical irritation (rubbing), wearing synthetic clothing,
  • IATROGENIC FACTORS: certain drugs or therapies may also result in severe dryness,
  • WORKPLACE-RELATED FACTORS: contact with solvents and chemicals, working outdoors (thus more exposed to environmental agents), jobs that involve frequent contact with water (e.g. bartenders, healthcare personnel, etc.)
  • SKIN DISEASES: xerosis is a clinical symptom of a number of forms of dermatitis, characterized by abnormal desquamation, skin thickening - hyperkeratosis - or skin irritation, such as ichthyosis, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.

Dry skin is a fairly common condition. It affects environment-exposed areas especially, e.g. the face and hands, but can occur in any part of the body.

Dry and very dry skin are best taken care of by, on one hand, trying to not further aggravate the dryness, for instance by washing hands gently, and on the other hand by supporting skin’s natural hydration mechanisms with the daily use of moisturising cosmetics.

Moisturisers can have anumber of features. When they are for the body, they are usually more nourishing, whereas moisturisers for the face should hydrate skin, be suitable to work as a base for makeup and also counter oxidative stress.

Learn more by reading our articles:

What is atopic dermatitis and how should we treat it


Want to learn more?

Ask a question to our experts

All BioNike products of the TRIDERM, DEFENCE and PROXERA ranges are developed to reduce the risks of intolerance and are suitable for sensitive skin. Such products are, in fact nickel-tested, preservatives-free, perfume-free (or having an allergen-free perfume), gluten-free and manufactured ​​with carefully selected and controlled ingredients.

In any case, we recommend that you consult your pharmacist and/or dermatologist, who will be able to recommend what is best for your skin.

Did you know it?

For dry and xerotic skin of the body, BioNike offers PROXERA: a comprehensive range of products with excellent moisturising and restructuring properties, ideal for dry skin and even most sensitive skin, such as with the elderly and when skin is irritated.

As for face moisturisation, BioNike offers DEFENCE HYDRA5, based on the special DetoxHyal5 complex, which is the combination of vegetable active ingredients and hyaluronic acid in 5 molecular forms to moisturise skin intensely and strengthen its natural defence mechanisms against oxidative stress that daily impacts on our skin (for instance, due to UV radiation, pollutants).