The role of cleansers in causing dry skin

It is important to understand why some cleansers can cause or aggravate dry skin. In this article, Claudia Louch of The Natural Dermatology Clinic explains why taking care when deciding on skin cleansers can reduce skin problems and make a difference to skin condition.

Causes of dry skin

It is known that the incidence of skin dryness (roughness, scaling, and itch) increases with age because of changes in structure of the stratum corneum (SC), the outer layer of the skin, and its water holding capacity. The type of cleanser used is a key determinant of the moisture level in the SC, because cleansers can strongly interact with the “moisture-regulating” mechanisms in skin, such as the lipids (our natural fats) and the natural moisturizing factors (NMFs).

Emollients in liquid cleansers

One of the newer technologies is to incorporate high levels of emollients into liquid cleansers to alleviate the symptoms of dry skin and to mitigate the damaging effects of cleanser surfactants. Emollient cleansers results in significantly lower visual dryness and skin irritation compared to the cleanser without emollients. The emollient cleansers provide a greater benefit to the skin. Benefits of emollient-rich body washes can provide a significant improvement to skin compared to body washes without moisturizers.

Benefits of natural plant-based moisturisers

I personally prescribe and recommend natural and plant-based moisturizers/washes which reduces the risk of allergy and skin dryness. All over the counter ointments and creams which mix with water contain detergents as emulsifiers - pure oils have no detergents and are preferable to use in dry skin condition in particular.

The dangers of hot water and soaps

Hot water and soaps remove healthy oils from the skin. This can cause dry itchy skin conditions. You should only use tepid or cold water if you suffer from dry skin in particular. Don't bathe or shower more than once a day if you have dry skin. It is sometimes best to bathe fully only once or twice weekly. Avoid rubbing your skin too harshly with the towel and pad of gently the water.

I recommend to my patients to moisturize their skin with organic infused plant based oils, to be used on damp skin and never on dry skin; i.e. you should use the oil directly on damp skin after a shower or bath and then gently towel-dry your skin.

Problems of commercial bath and shower products

Very often commercially available soap substitutes, bubble baths and shower gels dry out the skin due to the amount of detergents and emulsifiers contained in them. Moisturizing infused oils can also be used on the skin before entering the bath or shower, to be washed off with warm water only and without soap. An emulsifying ointment can also be wrapped in a tubular bandage and be used as soap.

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The role of cleansers in causing dry skin
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