Your skin is a very sensitive organ and should not be exposed to temperature extremes. Using water that is too hot or too cold may damage your skin cells and lead to skin issues. (1)
Thus, it is advisable to use lukewarm or relatively cool water to wash your face.
What Is Dry Skin?
Xeroderma, or dry skin, is a common skin condition that causes rough, scaly skin. It may also lead to skin lesions and itching.
Xeroderma may be caused by a variety of factors such as environmental factors, genetics, and medical conditions. (2)
Most people may experience xeroderma at some point in their lives due to loss of lipids. (2)(3)
Benefits of Cold and Lukewarm Water for Dry Skin
Skin dryness may cause inflammation, skin irritation, redness, etc. (4)(5) Cold water can help decrease skin irritation and reduce the symptoms of inflammation. It may also help with pain by numbing the area. (6)(7)(1)
Cold water immersion helps regulate body temperature by adjusting heat exchange with the external environment through peripheral vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which results in a central pooling of blood, followed by peripheral vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) immediately after emerging from the cold water. (8) This mechanism may improve the rate at which muscles become reoxygenated and may make your skin will look healthier.
However, using extremely cold water may be counterproductive as it can cause your skin to shrivel up and wrinkle. Always use moderately cool water for dry skin.
Note: Water at temperatures above 41°C is considered hot water.
How Does Lukewarm Water Help in Treating Dry Skin Problems?
Lukewarm water is also effective in cleansing the skin without causing dryness.
It protects the skin’s natural sebum layer and keeps it moisturized and soft. Lukewarm water can help decrease skin sensitivity as well. There is a decreased chance of skin irritation when you use lukewarm water for washing your skin.
Water at a temperature below 40°C is considered warm water. (9)(2)
Best Way to Wash Extremely Dry and Irritated Facial Skin
The best way to wash your face, as recommended by skin care experts, is to use lukewarm water and a mild cleanser to remove all impurities, makeup, or dirt. Then, rinse off with cool water to help tighten the skin pores. (5)(10)
Disadvantages of Hot Water for Dry Skin
Continuous exposure to hot water can damage the skin’s protective barrier or sebum layer and cause skin irritation. (11) While this condition may be observed at any temperature, hot water can exacerbate the problem significantly. (11)(12)
Thus, it is clear that washing with cold water and lukewarm water is recommended and effective for dry skin.
What Causes Dry Skin?
Here are some possible causes of dry skin.
- Skin cleansing: Bathing too frequently or taking hot showers is a major factor for dry skin. Harsh soaps and chemicals may also cause dryness.
- Environmental factors: Very cold or hot weather can cause skin dryness. Low humidity is also a possible cause.
- Occupational factors: Frequent exposure to certain chemicals (used in hair dyes, sanitizers, etc.) can cause skin dryness. (2)
Your diet also plays a major role in skin health. Here are a few dietary causes of xeroderma:
- Dehydration: Not drinking enough water or frequent urination and perspiration may cause xeroderma.
- Malnutrition: Deficiencies of certain nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and C, zinc, and iron may contribute to xeroderma. (2)
Additional Tips for Treating Dry Skin
Oil-based creams and moisturizers are effective in reducing skin dryness. Ointments, although greasier, help prevent water loss and lipid loss from the skin barrier. (13)
Avoid sitting too close to hot places such as fireplaces to prevent skin dryness. Exposure to extreme cold or hot weather is a major factor for xeroderma.
When to See a Doctor
If your skin dryness is chronic and does not seem to resolve with at-home treatments, it may be time to visit a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis.
If you have severe inflammation, your doctor may treat the condition by prescribing steroid creams, medicated ointments, etc. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat skin infections caused by cracks or frequent scratching. (2)
General Queries Related to Dry Skin
What should the skin care routine be for dry skin?
Your skin care routine needs to be consistent to reap results. It should include cleansing, toning, and moisturizing.
Is hyaluronic acid helpful against dry skin?
Hyaluronic acid has been found to be effective against xeroderma and related conditions. It hydrates the skin and boosts overall skin healing.
Hyaluronic acid can be used alone or in combination with other ingredients such as glycerin and lidocaine. (14) Taking hyaluronic acid supplements may help reduce wrinkles. (15)(16)
What are the most recommended ingredients for dry skin?
The most recommended skin care ingredients for dry skin are:
• Hydrocarbons – Mineral oil, petroleum jelly, paraffin wax, etc.
• Silicones – Dimethicone
• Vegetable oils – Hydrating oils such as coconut oil, castor oil, and olive oil
• Animal fats – Lanolin, mink oil, etc., which help repair the skin barrier
• Wax esters – Lanolin and beeswax
• Sterols – Cholesterol and ceramides (17)
Choose skin care products and moisturizers that contain these ingredients for best results.
What does dry skin look like?
Symptoms of dry skin include:
• Skin tightness
• Shrunken or shriveled-up skin, especially after swimming or showering
• Roughness or scaly patches
• Itching and pain
• Fine lines and cracks on the skin
• Skin inflammation and irritation
• Bleeding in severe cases (1)
Xeroderma is a chronic skin condition for some people and occurs infrequently throughout life for many. Exposure to hot water can exacerbate skin dryness and cause inflammation.
If you suffer from skin dryness, it may be a good idea to switch to cool water when cleansing your skin. In addition, proper intake of fluids, dietary improvements, and using the right skin care products recommended by dermatologists can go a long way in treatment.
- (PDF) pathway to dry skin prevention and treatment – researchgate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312342256/.
- Xeroderma – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK565884/.
- Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: The slippery road. Indian journal of dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885180/. Published 2016.
- Tobalem M; Harder Y; Tschanz E; Speidel V; Pittet-Cuénod B; Wettstein R; First-aid with warm water delays burn progression and increases skin survival. Journal of plastic, reconstructive & aesthetic surgery: JPRAS. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23059135/.
- Herrero-Fernandez M, Montero-Vilchez T, Diaz-Calvillo P, Romera-Vilchez M, Buendia-Eisman A, Arias-Santiago S. Impact of water exposure and temperature changes on skin barrier function. Journal of clinical medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8778033/. Published January 7, 2022.
- R; HEDTCPC. Perfusion of the skin’s microcirculation after cold-water immersion (10°C) and partial-body cryotherapy (-135°C). Skin research and technology : official journal of International Society for Bioengineering and the Skin (ISBS) [and] International Society for Digital Imaging of Skin (ISDIS) [and] International Society for Skin Imaging (ISSI). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31038232/.
- Esperland D, de Weerd L, Mercer JB. Health effects of voluntary exposure to cold water – a continuing subject of debate. International journal of circumpolar health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9518606/. Published December 2022.
- Yeung SS, Ting KH, Hon M, et al. Effects of cold water immersion on muscle oxygenation during repeated bouts of fatiguing exercise: A randomized controlled study. Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4706272/. Published January 2016.
- Kaushik V, Ganashalingam Y, Schesny R, Raab C, Sengupta S, Keck CM. Influence of massage and skin hydration on dermal penetration efficacy of Nile red from Petroleum Jelly-an unexpected outcome. Pharmaceutics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8705314/. Published December 18, 2021.
- Skin care for acne-prone skin – informedhealth.org – NCBI bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279208/.
- (PDF) impact of water exposure and temperature … – researchgate.net. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/357659578/.
- Berardesca E; Vignoli GP; Distante F; Brizzi P; Rabbiosi G; Effects of water temperature on surfactant-induced skin irritation. Contact dermatitis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7758326/.
- Tabassum N, Hamdani M. Plants used to treat skin diseases. Pharmacognosy reviews. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931201/. Published January 2014.
- Bukhari SNA; Roswandi NL; Waqas M; Habib H; Hussain F; Khan S; Sohail M; Ramli NA; Thu HE; Hussain Z; Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. International journal of biological macromolecules. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30287361/.
- Hsu TF; Su ZR; Hsieh YH; Wang MF; Oe M; Matsuoka R; Masuda Y; Oral hyaluronan relieves wrinkles and improves dry skin: A 12-week double-blinded, placebo-controlled study. Nutrients. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34203487/.
- Milani M, Sparavigna A. The 24-hour skin hydration and barrier function effects of a hyaluronic 1%, glycerin 5%, and centella asiatica stem cells extract moisturizing fluid: An intra-subject, randomized, assessor-blinded study. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5560567/. Published August 11, 2017.
- Moisturizers – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK545171/.