Many people use the term “ashy” to describe dry skin. But what exactly does this mean? When taken literally, one can imagine skin covered with a thin layer of ash. Although it is commonly used to describe African-American type skin, anyone can have ashy skin. It’s just far more noticeable in those with darker skin tones.
Dead skin cells are fairly translucent and look like dust; however, this layer of dust looks different on each skin tone. Let’s use legs as our example, when you look closely at the shin or front calf area, you might see dusty looking cells lying on top of the skin and in-between the cellular borders. This can cause a snake-like appearance or look like a dry, crackling desert. On fair skin this can look brownish-pink, while darker skin may appear gray or “ashy”. The dead skin cells are the same, however. The way light reflects back through various skin tones gives different appearances.
The top layer of skin, the epidermis, is mostly composed of dead, keratin-filled cells. These cells migrate upward from deeper, basal layers. As these dead skin cells become drier and more abundant, they become less translucent and appear ashen.
When I see someone with this dry skin condition my alarm bells go off and I can’t help but to ask questions about their shower products!
My Recommendations for Preventing Ashy Skin
Change your Shower Products: There are thousands of shower gels and soaps claiming that they are moisturizing when they’re actually the culprit. The first several ingredients in a cleanser can tell you whether it’s going to help or hinder you. My previous blog post dives into how making simple changes can improve your skin.
Exfoliate Regularly: Weekly or bi-weekly exfoliation can help to rid skin of excess dead cells. Removing dead cells will allow for better product penetration and improved complexion. To exfoliate, look for products containing enzymes, Alpha Hydroxy acids (AHA), or natural scrubbing beads. Enzymes would mostly be found in shower gels since they’re activated in warm moist environments. However, some body lotions have them too, which can be very nice since they stay on the skin.
AHA’s can be found either in shower gels or moisturizers, while scrubbing beads (jojoba or cellulose) and salts are often found in shower gels and body scrubs.
Moisturize Daily: I haven’t met anyone who couldn’t use a bit of moisturizer after showering. They may not think they need it since their skin isn’t so dry as to feel tight, taut or uncomfortable. However, I’m betting that if you have a close enough look, you can see signs of dry skin.
To get the most out of a moisturizer, apply it to damp skin. I keep my bottle in the shower and apply it all over while I still have some water droplets on my skin. This tip will save you money since you’ll use less product and the moisturizer will penetrate deeper into your skin with the assistance of water.
You will want to stay away from moisturizers, lotions and creams containing petrolatum or mineral oil (Paraffinum Liquidum). These create a slippery texture which gives you a false sense of hydration. I have an entire post coming up dedicated to this topic. Stay tuned!
Good body moisturizers based with ingredients like soybean, jojoba, almond oil or shea butter. Additionally, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, vitamins and plant extracts are good support ingredients. However, if you have a favorite moisturizer you can always add a few drops of the oils mentioned.
Diet Changes: Make sure that you’re drinking plenty of water; this will help to hydrate your skin from the inside-out. Also, having the right balance of essential fatty acids in your diet can help keep your skin healthy and moisturized. This post will point you in the right direction.