Dry skin can be caused by many different factors. The key factors are the level of oil on the skin and the integrity of the skin’s barrier function. Both of these will determine the rate of Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL) – the rate at which water evaporate through the skin.

Skin is dynamic and will react to its environment. If you apply products that are very high in oils that do not penetrate the skin, the skin will react by reducing the amount of sebum that it produces. This means that if you stop applying the cream, your skin will be dry for a few days while your skin starts to produce its own sebum again. It’s worth going through a few days of slightly dry skin to break your skin’s reliance on occlusive oils.

There are two types of dry skin – lipid dry and dehydrated. The two are often linked, but they are separated here for ease of diagnosis.

Lipid Dry:

  • Matt with minimal oil
  • Tends to look dull
  • May be rough and flaky
  • Is often easily sensitised
  • Will feel taut after washing
  • Reddish patches with fine capillaries visible
  • Milia commonly present on the cheek bone and eye area
  • Fine lines often appear at an early age


  • The skin is tight
  • It shows fine lines
  • Prone to premature ageing
  • Fine capillaries may be visible
  • Reacts easily to climatic extremes

Here are some of the factors that may be contributing to uncontrolled Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL).

Lipid Dry:

  • Underactive sebaceous glands
  • Fat-free diet & essential fatty acid deficiency
  • Genetic factors
  • Use of cleansers containing harsh detergents
  • Disturbance in skin microflora resulting in a skin barrier which is not functioning optimally.


  • Not drinking enough water
  • Diuretic medication
  • Excessive caffeine or alcohol intake
  • Low humidity and artificial atmospheres
  • Impaired barrier function resulting in increased TEWL
  • Stripping of the skin with harsh surfactants
  • Excessive sun exposure

Here are some suggestions on lifestyle changes that will have a balancing effect on your skin

  • Take an omega-3 supplement with at least 600 mg of long chain omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA)
  • Avoid a fat-free diet – try to eat healthy lipids from seeds and nuts
  • Use a generous amount of moisturiszer (marble size) and ensure that it contains vegetable oils that can be absorbed and not petrochemical oils
  • Do not use bar soap on your body or face – find a mild pH balanced shower gel or, preferably, a cleansing cream
  • Minimal sun exposure with sun protection at all times
  • Use products containing Hyaluronic Acid
  • Take a good quality ingestible probiotic and apply a probiotic skincare treatment that contains live strains of beneficial microbes to improve the skin barrier and minimise TEWL through the surface of the skin