A plaintive e-mail from Talia.
Do you have any advice on what can be done for healing peeling skin on the face more quickly? I live in a very dry climate and lately my mouth and cheeks have been cracking and peeling from the dryness. (I might add that I’m also on some very drying prescription acne meds that probably are worsening things — though what happens to my face if I stop using those is no better.) I stay pretty hydrated beveragewise and don’t think there’s much more liquid I can force down… is there something that fixes this? (Like, some anti-cracking cream or a behavior/home remedy that eases the cracks?) Some understanding of the science of cracked skin that can be put to use? Anything?
Dry cracked skin is a tough problem Talia, and a fairly common one sadly. The science of cracked skin is not too difficult. Normal healthy skin is a good barrier to water loss. Some water is lost, but it is quickly made up for by water coming from inside your body.
Once this goes out of balance your skin gets into all kinds of problems, one of which is that it dries up and shrinks slightly leading to cracks. This can happen for all kinds of reasons. One that I suffer from sometimes is over doing products that are rich in detergents. The obvious ones are shampoo and facial cleansers, but some skin creams that haven’t been formulated thoughtfully can have a similar effect. But it is worth remembering that soap is also very drying.
Hot dry air is another stresser, especially if it is also windy. Bright sunlight won’t help either.
You mention being on medication for acne. Isotretinoin, trade name is usually Roaccutane, has a very drying effect indeed and will definitely make things worse, even if it has very good effects against acne.
My advice would be to avoid all the things that make your skin dry as much as you are able to. Drink plenty of water – this should increase the rate of water loss across your skin. Look for skin creams that are good barriers. These should have plenty of oil in them. There are lots out there. E45 is one that is good. Ponds Cocoa Butter cream is another. Oilatum Cream is worth trying. I personally use lanolin mixed with a bit of olive oil, or coconut oil when I have dry skin I really want to shift. You may not be able to get hold of lanolin where you are, but if you can it can work miracles on dry skin. You can buy it it in pharmacies in some countries and it is quite cheap and goes a very long way. Failing that, look for products with lanolin high up in the ingredient list.
I hope this helps, and good luck.
(If you have any tips for dealing with dry cracked skin, I’d love to hear them.)