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Dealing with dry and sensitive skin


From chapped lips to flaky, itchy arms, most of us have battled dry or overly sensitive skin at some point. Of course, it helps to moisturise, but finding out what’s behind the problem is the first step on the road to soft, glowing skin.

blister free feet with good foot care advice

Dry versus dehydrated skin

The first question you should ask yourself is whether the condition could be genetic or a product of your environment. Generally, dehydrated skin is a condition caused by a lack of water in the stratum corneum, or top layer of skin. Dry skin, however, is a skin type. Research shows that around a third of women may suffer from dry skin, causing severe itching, tightness, redness, flaking or sensitivity, most commonly on the face, upper arms and lower legs.

London-based skincare expert Debbie Thomas says: “It is important to understand the difference between dry and dehydrated skin. Dry skin tends to lack the protective oils in the skin leaving it feeling tight and often flaky. In addition, due to this lack of protective oil, the skin can actually be more reactive to ingredients in products, quite often not absorbing products very well.

“Dehydrated skin lacks moisture, again leaving the skin feeling tight and uncomfortable, but without the flakiness.”

In a nutshell, like oily or combination skin, dry skin is genetic, while dehydration is usually the result of environmental factors.

What causes dry and dehydrated skin?

Unfortunately, dry skin may become more common as the years roll by. Though there are often several factors, intrinsic ageing may be the main culprit. Entirely genetic, this kind of ageing isn’t the ‘too many glasses of wine’ kind – this condition arises when our sebaceous glands and the skin’s natural hydrators slow down. Age also affects our skin’s ability to regenerate the lipid barrier of the top layer, resulting in less oil production to keep skin naturally moisturised*.

It may also be time to rethink that no-fat diet. Says Thomas: “Diet is important because if you are not consuming enough water or essential fatty acids, this will have a knock-on effect on the skin’s moisture levels. Drying factors include very cold outdoor weather, central heating, air conditioning and the sun. So protecting your skin from these elements is also key to maintaining healthy, comfortable skin.”

Other possible offenders might be too much caffeine or alcohol, over-exfoliation, certain medications and excessively hot showers. Some reports even suggest that for every eight ounces of caffeinated drinks we gulp down to get through the day, we need to drink water in double, or even triple, that amount to replenish zapped moisture**.

Moisture-boosting tips

Since dry and dehydrated skin are caused by different factors, it makes sense to treat them differently, too. And with winter just around the corner, knowing your skin’s triggers is key.

Thomas says: “For dehydrated skin you need moisture but not oil, so ingredients like hyaluronic acid are ideal. For dry skins you need to address the lack of oil by introducing nourishing and balancing oils to the skin.”

Untreated, dry and dehydrated skin can eventually lead to increased sensitivity and even premature ageing, not to mention being downright uncomfortable. By finding the root of the problem, the right products to fix it and making a few minor lifestyle changes, you could be on the way to your best skin yet.



Formulated with active colloidal oatmeal, the AVEENO® range of moisturising products (Daily Moisturising Lotion, Creamy Oil, Hand Cream) hydrates and soothes dry, sensitive skin, leaving it feeling comfortable, soft and smooth from day one.


The skincare expert Debbie Thomas does not endorse any specific brand or product and has no relationship with the sponsor.

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