What Is Cracked Skin?
Cracked skin can happen when your skin barrier is compromised. Usually, it’s a symptom of skin irritation or extremely dry skin, but there are many possible causes.
Your feet, hands, and lips may be especially prone to cracking. However, depending on the cause, cracked, scaly skin can develop in other areas, too.
Most causes of skin cracking can be managed with DU’IT products that are suitable for all skin types and conditions including itchy skin and sensitive skin. But if your cracked skin is severe, or if you have any complications, it’s best to see a doctor.
What Causes Cracked Skin?
The causes of extremely dry and cracking skin range from poor skincare and environmental factors to health related skin conditions such as Atopic Dermatitis and Psoriasis. These causes are influenced by both internal and external factors.
A deficiency of water-binding Natural Moisturising Factors (NMFs) leaves the upper layers of the skin dehydrated.
The dry skin, or skin dehydration, process occurs in stages:
- Skin becomes dry when it starts to lose its natural lipids resulting in the breakdown of the skin’s natural lipid barrier. Skin’s water retention capability is impaired.
- This speeds up the rate at which skin loses moisture, causing its upper layers to dehydrate.
- Depending on the severity of dryness, skin tightens, becomes rough and scaly and is prone to itching and redness.
- Harsh weather conditions: hot, cold and dry air disrupt the skin’s surface barrier.
- Seasonal changes: symptoms of dry skin often worsen during either the winter or summer.
- Ultraviolet (UV) sunlight can lead to premature skin ageing. Skin becomes more prone to dryness as it ages.
Some soaps are very harsh on skin and strip natural lipids.Some medications can lead to dry skin.
- Frequent washing − and long, hot baths or showers − remove the lipids that make up the skin barrier.
- An inappropriate skincare routine – Follow a routine and use products, that are suitable for dry skin. It is especially important not to use strong soaps that strip away natural skin lipids.
The skin’s moisture balance is also influenced by genetics. We can inherit a propensity for dry skin from our parents, although this is not always the case. Skin conditions such as Atopic Dermatitis, Ichthyosis, Keratosis Polaris and Psoriasis, are often genetic.
Changes in the level of certain hormones, particularly oestrogen and testosterone, can influence the skin´s moisture and lipid levels. For women, this is particularly noticeable after the menopause or during pregnancy. Dry skin may also occur during pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
As skin ages its internal processes slow down and the production of lipids decreases. Skin’s water content, and its ability to hold moisture, is also reduced. These factors lead to dryness which in turn contributes to skin ageing and the development of fine lines and wrinkles. The overall term for this is age-induced dryness.
Like any other organ, the skin requires a range of important nutrients in order to function properly. These include vegetable oils and vitamins, particularly Vitamin C and E.
Areas Prone to Cracking
- Hands: Frequent washing, alkaline cleansers, chemicals and changes in climate can all play a part in drying out the skin on our hands. When cracks occur, they normally appear around the knuckles because the skin is tight and can easily break when stretched.
- Feet: Skin on the feet, especially in the heel area, often becomes dry resulting in rough skin with fissures. This can be uncomfortable and, in severe cases, painful and inflamed.
- Lips: Dry lips often crack. Acne patients taking some types of oral medication tend to suffer from cracked lips.