It's fairly normal at this time of year to look down at the skin on your body and wonder how you're going to wear skirts and shorts without your skin flaking off. You know it's dry because it's lacking moisture but why? Here are some reasons your skin might not have fared so well over the cold months, and what you can do about it.
1. Synthetic fragrance
Of course it's number one! And it's ubiquitous. Found in everything from body lotions, body washes to shampoos and conditioners (dry scalp anyone?) and it's drying AF.
"Synthetic fragrance has a tendency to irritate dry skin or make it worse, so avoid deodorants and skin care products that are filled with synthetic fragrance," says Amy Forman Taub, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Northwestern University.
2. Antibacterial hand lotion
"I'm obsessed with my travel size anti-bacterial lotion, I put it on about 20 times a day," says Gina, funnily enough, a travel agent.
Constantly pumping these clear liquids on your hands because you're concerned about germs? Don't. They do way more harm than good. They kill the bad bacteria, sure, but they also kill the good bacteria and a lot of bacteria species are now evolving to outsmart them.
By using antibacterial lotions we're contributing to the overuse of antibiotics and creating super bacteria that we can't actually kill. This is a huge problem in hospitals worldwide and there have been alarm bells ringing by scientists who say that unless we stop this prolific use of antibiotics, we're in for a number of years where we have no penicillin to stop them. That is way scarier than just the dry skin they cause if you ask me.
The advice is actually to wash your hands thoroughly with a good non-drying, oil-based hand wash for 20 seconds to kill germs while leaving the good bacteria intact, and follow with a natural hand lotion/body oil so you can rehydrate without drying.
3. Foaming washes
"But I love the lather!" I can hear you shouting from here. Our obsession with squeaky clean is actually leaving us drier and drier. Most products lather with ingredients that come under the "sulphates" banner. So cleansers, shampoos, hand washes and body washes that lather up and make us feel "clean" are actually stripping the skin, upsetting the PH balance and making it drier.
We need to get over our addiction to bubbles, and ditch the products containing sulphates. There are so many sulphate free options now that come under the clean beauty banner, you just have to look for them. Also try and choose products that are palm oil free Because, orangutans. Always check the ingredients. I once bought a hand soap from a very organic store only to realise a few weeks later it was based on palm oil.
4. Hard water
"I travel a lot for work and if I go to a place with hard water, I can really notice the difference in my skin and hair," says Marie, a digital artist.
If tap water has a high amount of minerals - magnesium, lead and zinc it's called hard water which is drying. The minerals deposit a film on the skin which clogs glands and prevents moisturisers from penetrating the skin. Add vitamins A and C to skincare because they can help lift the coating.
5. Acids and Retinol
"I love my glycolic acid but I can only use it once or twice a fortnight," says Heidi, a yoga teacher in Cronulla.
Highly active skincare with AHAs, BHAs, retinol and acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide can give great results but they can also be super drying, so use with caution. If you are noticing flaking, drying or sensitivity, lower your usage frequency and make sure the other products in your skin routine are gentle, nourishing and building your skin from the inside rather than stripping it back, which is what these products can do.
6. Dry Air
Overzealous airconditioners in the office are the bane of everyone's existence.
"They make my skin so dry that my skin produces more oil and then I get an oily t-zone which I need to mop up every few hours," says Katie who works in a freezing cold office.
Keep a hydrating face mist on hand, and even a face oil if you need to spot treat areas - the skin between the nose and face is a big one for most people that needs extra attention during the day. Our body + hair oils are perfect to spot treat dry areas and I have used it on my face often - it treats extra dry spots beautifully.
Photo: Chris Mohen
H&M: Melanie Burnicle