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What Causes Dry Skin?

Discover everything you need to know about dry skin, including ways to prevent, treat and care for it with NIVEA

Relieving Dry Skin: Causes, Prevention & Skincare Routine

Dry skin is common complaint that can affect us all at some point. It can range from being mild to uncomfortable or even painful, with symptoms such as scaly, itchy and cracking skin. 
Read on to find out the reasons why your skin might be dry, the steps you can take to get rid of dry skin on your face and body, and a skin care routine that can help you find relief and care for parched skin.


Our skin needs water and natural moistures to stay supple, stretchy and healthy.


As our body’s first line of defence, it protects us from our environment and prevents viruses and bacteria getting into our bodies.


Dry skin happens if it lacks moisture or loses moisture too quickly. The skin then becomes dehydrated and won’t be able to do its job properly. 




Xeroderma is the medical

term for dry skin,

and xerosis is the term for

severely dry skin.


woman applying Nivea body cream

Where can you have dry skin?

Dry skin can be found on most areas of our body, but especially:
- Hands
- Feet
- Face
- Legs
- Elbows
- Mouth
- Genitals

What are the symptoms of dry skin?

Common signs of dry skin are skin that’s:
- Flaky
- Rough
- Scaling
- Peeling
- Tight
- Itchy
- Cracked
 - Lighter or darker than your usual skin tone

Severely dry skin is more fragile and likely to crack, bleed and be painful. When dry skin cracks, viruses and bacteria are more easily able to enter our body posing a risk of infection. Remember to always consult a medical professional if your symptoms are severe. 
Milder symptoms of dry skin are usually easy to tell simply by looking at it, but if you’re not sure, here’s a good way to test it. Lightly drag your fingernails across a large section of skin, such as your arms and legs. If your skin flakes, it’s a tell-tale sign that your skin is dry. This might look like dust or tiny snowflakes. It might also leave a line similar to that of a chalkboard.

So, why is my skin so dry?

Dry skin is normal and can happen to us all. However, there are many causes of dry skin, including environmental factors and some medical conditions that can rob our skin of moisture. Bear in mind some of us naturally have dry skin, just like others have oily skin, although even oily skin can become dry.
woman touching her face

1. Age

As we get older, it’s normal that our skin becomes dryer. This is because our pores naturally stop producing as much oil. Also our production of collagen slows down. This is a natural protein in our body that gives skin its elasticity and strength, and with less collagen skin becomes thinner and dryer.

2. Season

Our skin can be more parched in the autumn and winter months when the air is cooler, humidity levels are low and we have heating on. In the summer, humidity is higher, although dry, hot places and the sun, can both have a drying effect on our skin. 

3. Medical conditions

Some health conditions can lead to chronic or severe dry skin. These include allergies, eczema, diabetes and kidney disease. Similarly, some medications have side effects that can affect the body’s balance of fluids which can dry the skin out, such as diuretics, laxatives, antacids, antihistamines and blood pressure medication. 

4. Occupation

Certain occupations increase our chances of getting dry skin. For example, if you work outdoors and are exposed to the elements that sap moisture from our skin. Other examples are healthcare providers or hair stylists that wash hands more regularly. Hot water, some soaps and hand sanitisers all strip skin of its natural oily barrier that keeps it hydrated.

Caring for dry skin on the face

Having dry skin on the face means that we aren’t as protected from external influences, such as cosmetics and sunlight. This can lead to damaged skin and signs of premature ageing.
Following a regular routine is a good place to start caring for the dry skin on your face:
woman applying Nivea cream on her hand

1. Cleanse
Soaps and facial toners or heavily foaming makeup removal products containing alcohol may dissolve natural oils from the skin and destroy skin’s natural protective barriers. Cleanse your skin with extra gentle care, for example with a lipid balancing cleansing milk.


2. Exfoliate
Exfoliating is a tricky balance for dry skin. You don’t want to overdo it and further dry the skin out. However, using a gentle exfoliator once a week, such as our NIVEA Gentle Exfoliating Scrub will buff away dead skin cells and allow serums and moisturisers to deeply penetrate the skin for a more hydrating effect. Plus, it’s enriched with moisturising Vitamin E to help skin keep its natural moisture balance.


3. Serum
Serums are a great way to seal an extra surge of moisture within your skin. Look for ones with vitamin C or hyaluronic acid. As a humectant, hyaluronic acid pulls water into the skin and also helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

4. Moisturise
When choosing a face moisturiser for dry skin, look for rich moisturisers that can help prevent tightness and dehydration. If you need a rich, intense burst of moisture, liberally apply creams like NIVEA Soothing 24H Moisturising Cream. Enriched with Grape Seed Oil and Liquorice Extract, it intensely moisturises for up to 24 hours.
With so many products out there, it can seem impossible to discover the best moisturiser for you and your dry skin. Rich, moisturising creams ease feelings of tension and dryness. NIVEA understands the needs of dry skin and combine natural ingredients in our formulas. The result is a product line which strengthens and protects the skin’s natural protective function and treats existing dry skin.


Explore our NIVEA Day Cream range to find the right product for you.

Caring for dry skin on the body

We often have a solid facial skin care routine in place, but neglect our full body. It is well worth establishing a body skin care routine, as well as identifying what body products work best in order to keep your dry skin nourished and glowing. 

1. Bathe 
Make sure that the water in the shower or bath is not too hot as this can be damaging, especially for dry skin. Hot water can damage our skin’s protective film and further dry out skin. NIVEA has plenty of nourishing products designed specifically to moisturise your skin in the shower.
2. Exfoliate
Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells and is the basis for beginning your body skin care routine. As well as removing dead skin cells, exfoliating also prepares your skin to better absorb and lock in moisturisers. Be careful with dry skin though, choose gentle scrubs and don’t overdo it.

Learn how to exfoliate properly for your skin type by reading The NIVEA Exfoliation Guide.

woman applying Nivea body lotion

3. Moisturise 
Moisturising is vital to keep our skin’s defence in check and stop it drying out, cracking and become damaged. Both shaving and exfoliating can cause skin to dry out so it is particularly important to moisturise after either of these. Lather a moisturising body cream over your body, working it into your skin as you go, allowing time for it to absorb before getting dressed. 
NIVEA has a broad range of rich body lotions and nourishing body milks that can help alleviate dry skin, whether you need something light or more firming. Discover our NIVEA Body Lotions & Milks.
The key with skin care for dry skin is that it needs to be consistent. Our skin likes routine, so be sure to nourish it on a daily basis with special, moisturising care products.

How to prevent dry skin

As well as adopting a consistent skin care routine for dry skin, it’s a good idea to look at ways to prevent it. There are simple steps we can take to avoid drying our skin out.  Here are the most common ones: 
- Wash in lukewarm – not hot – water 
- Stay in the bath or shower for less than 10 minutes
- Use only gentle cleaning products
- Pat the skin dry after washing instead of rubbing
- Avoid sitting or standing close to heat sources, such as fireplaces

Lifestyle tips that help against dry skin

When we look after ourselves, this shines through with our skin. Making a few little lifestyle changes can make a big difference to the health and hydration of our skin. 

1. Eat well
For a healthy appearance, your skin needs a range of nutrients, unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins. A lack of these can contribute to dry skin.

2. Sleep well
Getting plenty of sleep allows your skin’s cellular repair process to take place. There’s a reason it’s called beauty sleep!

3. Keep hydrated
By drinking a lot, you also treat your skin to some refreshment! Drink at least 2  litres a day. If you have been sweating, then drink more to make up for this.

4. Relax
Stress can also cause the skin to dry out. Treat yourself and your skin to regular relaxation, for example with a nurturing moisturising mask. Good planning results in less stress, so try and find a little spare time in your diary for yourself!

5. Be balanced
An hour of exercise or a quick spa session in the evening will often work wonders. With a feel-good programme as a balance, your skin will instantly feel better, too. This will allow you to regain your strength and energy for the rest of the tasks you need to do.

6. Stay protected
Excessive exposure to sunlight can really dry out your skin. Be sure to use a sunscreen product for dry skin which contains moisturising ingredients as well as the SPF. Find out more about the right Sun Cream for your face.

5 home remedies for dry skin

There are some natural remedies we can try at home that can help relieve our symptoms and give dry skin a moisture boost.

1. Coconut oil
Coconut oil is an emollient, which means it fills in the spaces between skin cells, creating a smooth surface. Plus it has saturated fatty acids that can hydrate and smooth the skin. Apply to damp skin and let it soak in.

2. Aloe Vera
With natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, aloe vera gel is a great natural remedy to soothe dry skin. It’s especially good on the hands and feet. Apply to your feet or hands before bed, cover with a sock or glove and let it soak in overnight.
3. Oat Bath
With anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, oats can soothe the irritation and itchiness you may experience with dry skin. Soak in a bath of raw or cooked oats with water – but remember not too hot. Afterwards, make sure you moisturise to lock in the barrier.
4. Petroleum Jelly
This mineral oil will cover the skin in a protective layer and trap moisture below the surface to help heal dry, sore patches. Rub it into dry skin and let it absorb. 
5. Drink Milk
Studies suggest that drinking milk can provide relief from dry skin. As it’s loaded with biotin, it can help revitalise dry and withered skin, while the lactic acid in milk moisturises hydrates and nourishes.

woman preventing dry skin

Final Thoughts

Dry skin is very normal and usually nothing to worry about. There are lots of simple things we can do to restore and maintain our skin’s moisture barriers to achieve healthy and hydrated skin. 
However, if your dry skin doesn’t improve with treatment or prevention, or it interferes with your daily life, remember to seek medical advice.