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What causes dry skin

What Causes Dry Skin?

The causes of dry skin can be complex - anything from genetics to your skincare habits can be causing your flaky skin woes. Read on to find out more about what triggers dry skin and our suggested routine to care for it. 

An intro to dry skin

Before we look at the causes of dry skin, let’s find out more about what dry skin is and the difference between a dry skin type and a dry skin condition.

The outer layer of your skin is known as the stratum corneum - or skin barrier. A healthy skin barrier is made up of dead cells and enough natural protective oils (sebum) to help trap in moisture and keep the skin soft and smooth.

The root cause of dry skin is a lack of protective oil in the outer layer. When the protective oils are diminished, the skin loses its capacity to hold onto moisture and dry skin in the result.

Dry skin type vs dry skin condition

You may have what is known as ‘true’ dry skin - which means you have a dry skin type.

Dry skin types produce less sebum which means the skin barrier is naturally lacking oil making it more susceptible to dryness and damage.

On the other hand, you may be experiencing a dry skin condition - where dryness is temporary and has been triggered by some of the causes of dry skin we’ll look at shortly. Even oily skin types can experience dry symptoms, especially if the skin is dehydrated.

Signs of dry skin include:

  • Rough or itchy skin
  • Flaky skin
  • Redness and irritation
  • Skin feels tight
  • Small, fine wrinkles
  • Thin, fragile skin
  • Cracks and bleeding in severe cases

Causes of dry skin

What causes dry skin on the face? Whether you have naturally dry skin or are experiencing temporary dryness some of the following things can exacerbate or cause the problem.

Seasonal changes (especially winter!)

Following the same skincare routine year-round might not work so well when temperatures drop. Winter is one of the main causes of dry skin for all skin types.

If you’re experiencing temporary dryness try adding a richer moisturising formulation than you might use in summer to target flaky, dry patches.

Facial oil makes an excellent moisturiser for dry skin in winter to help it better cope with the seasonal change. Oils contain essential fatty acids and antioxidants which help seal in moisture to keep the skin hydrated.

If you are a true dry skin type, your routine should be focused on relieving dry skin year-round but you’ll need to take extra care during the winter months.

Skin is also prone to dryness in summer. Spend too long in the sun without protection and skin will gradually lose moisture and essential oils, appearing dry, flaky, and more wrinkled. Bottom line: Never skip the SPF!

Skincare ingredients

Avoid ingredients with the potential to irritate or cause loss of oil or moisture. A few of the worst offenders include:

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Fragrance
  • Potent prescription retinoids
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Sodium tallowate (in soap)
  • Salicylic acid

What about the ingredients dry skin needs? Ingredients with occlusive, emollient, and humectant properties play vital roles in treating the causes of dry skin.

Occlusives - The cornerstone of dry skin treatments, occlusive ingredients form a seal over the skin, helping trap moisture in.

Emollients - Smooth and soften dry, rough skin.

Humectants - Have the ability to pull moisture to the skin’s surface from the air and the deeper layers of skin.

Key ingredients to remedy the causes of dry skin include hyaluronic acid, niacinamide (Vitamin B3), shea butter, rose essential oil, and squalene.


As we age, the sebaceous glands produce less oil and it becomes harder to keep the skin moist, resulting in dryness, more wrinkles, and a rougher appearance.

Not only does skin produce less oil, but the amount of hyaluronic acid present in our bodies also declines. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance that plays a key role in skin hydration.

Even if you have an oily skin type, you will find your complexion becoming drier with age.

Skincare habits

A simple change to your skincare habits can eliminate some of the causes of dry skin.


Cleansing your skin too frequently or using a harsh cleanser quickly depletes the skin of the natural oils that act as its first defence against external irritants and help seal in moisture.

Cleansing in the morning and evening is a must but if you’re experiencing a bout of excessive dryness, steer clear of gel cleansers and opt for a gentle cream or oil cleanser instead.


Just like over-cleansing, excessive exfoliation will quickly spell dry, flaky skin.

This is one of the common causes of dry skin in oily skin types with large pores. Overdoing exfoliation with the intent to keep pores clear of bacteria and oil build-up leads to stripped skin and a dry, damaged barrier.

Keep exfoliation sessions to a maximum of twice a week and even less if you have a dry skin type.

When you do exfoliate, it's important to replenish the lost oils and moisture lost from your skin by following up with a moisturiser or face oil.

Applying moisturiser at the wrong time

Knowing when you apply your moisturiser can help minimise dry skin.

Following cleansing, while your face is still damp, the skin is porous and more receptive to products. If you apply moisturiser to completely dry skin, you’ll miss this window of maximum absorption.

Not drinking enough water

How much water do you drink each day?

Skincare is only one part of the equation when it comes to solving the causes of dry skin.

If you’re not sufficiently hydrated, you’ll still be dealing with the signs of dry skin, no matter how great your skincare routine is.

Including more healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6 oils can boost the moisture-holding capacity of the skin, too. Foods like salmon, flaxseed, and plant oils are good sources of healthy fats - get more of them on your plate! 

Skincare routine for dry skin


The Uncomplicated Cleanser

Gently removes all traces of foundation and impurities with a double cleanse while calming and protecting skin with aloe vera and camilla leaf extract.

Skin Treats

Hyaluronic Hydrating Serum

The ultimate skin hydrator, this quick-absorbing serum fights dehydration for hydrated, plumper, and repaired skin. A superior dry skin treatment.

24K Gold Nourishing Oil

Non-greasy, it’s perfect for combination to dry skin as a moisturiser to address dryness, dehydration, ageing, fine lines and wrinkles.

Refreshing and Hydrating Skin Snack Face Mist

A hydrating and refreshing snack through the day to help replenish, rehydrate, and refresh your skin.

Booster Masks

Ultra Nourishing Booster Mask

Ideal for dry skin types in need of nourishment to reduce fine lines, inflammation, uneven skin tone, and heal damaged skin.


Skin Shield Natural Sunscreen SPF30

Every skin care routine for dry skin should include SPF protection and this non-greasy broad-spectrum SPF 30 enriched with antioxidant protection.

If you have any questions about the best dry skin treatment for your skin, book a free consultation with an esmi Skin Minerals Consultant. We’re here to help!

what causes dry skin