As part of the endocrine system, the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body's metabolism. Your body processes slow down and change when your thyroid hormone production drops, affecting virtually every system in the body.
In people with hypothyroidism, symptoms related to skin tissues are common, including epidermal, dermal, and sweat gland changes. A primary complaint is of dry or coarse skin. Often, this dryness is due to decreased sweating, though the exact connection between the thyroid and sweat glands is unclear.
Other hypothyroid skin-related issues may include:
- Dry, brittle, coarse hair
- Hair loss (body and scalp)
- Coarsened, thin, scaly skin
- Pale or yellow-colored skin
- Swelling (edema)
- Coarse, dull, thin, brittle nails
Treat hypothyroidism to relieve dry skin
If you experience frustrating skin issues, consider taking a thyroid blood test to understand your thyroid function. Many labs only look at thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), but it's also critical to measure fT3, fT4, and TPO antibodies to see the full picture.
Should your results show that you have low thyroid levels, it is treatable in almost everyone. Optimizing your levels with thyroid medication is usually the first step in minimizing symptoms like dry skin. When determining a treatment plan with your doctor, remember that each of us is unique with individual sensitivities, and there is no one-size-fits-all.
Additional strategies for dry skin
Beyond taking a thyroid hormone replacement medication, you can support your thyroid with lifestyle modifications.
Water is essential for your skin - especially the outer layer - to function normally. Aim for half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces of water every day. And if you have a coffee, alcohol, or sweat for 30 minutes, have an extra 8-ounce glass. If you have oily skin, you're likely familiar with sebum production on your face, but by comparison, your arms, legs, and torso are practically parched. The placement of your sebaceous glands means your body is less adept at retaining moisture than your face and drier as a result. It may not bother you in the summer when your sweat glands are making up for it, but come winter that flaky dryness makes itself much more known, so hydration is vital year-round, even in the colder months.
Reduce baths and showers
Too much showering or bathing can exacerbate skin dryness, especially with foamy bubble baths or harsh soaps. Keep the water at the coolest practical temperature, and consider showering every other day. Use gentle bath products that won't over strip your skin's moisture barrier during cleansing, and while skin is still damp, make sure to apply body oil right after toweling off to help seal in your skin's moisture and promote a healthy balance of sebum.
Much like using moisturizers that contain irritants and synthetics, soaps and cleansers that contain these same ingredients can dry your skin, leaving it prone to early aging, wrinkles, and cracked skin. Surprisingly, even luxury body washes and hand soaps that tout themselves as "clean" still may contain irritating sulfates and artificial preservatives, leaving skin overly dry. Most soaps have artificial fragrances, parabens (which mimic estrogen in the body and can cause harm to the environment), and sodium lauryl sulfate, which helps increase the soap's foaming capabilities but is often harsh and irritating to the skin.
It's best if you aim to skip out on soaps containing any of the above harmful ingredients. Instead, look for cleansers made of calming and hydrating botanical extracts like aloe vera juice, calendula, hydrosols or floral waters, oatmeal, or honey.
Additionally, avoid rough towels or clothing that will irritate your skin.
Keep room temperature low and humidity high
Similarly to drinking water to hydrate skin from the inside, some research suggests that external humidity can help hydrate the outer layer of skin. Water is needed to lock in moisture in the skin.
Share what works for you to relieve dry skin from hypothyroidism:
Benefits of using a nourishing body oil
Body oil might seem counterintuitive, with concerns that it will leave your skin feeling greasy, make your break out, or take forever to absorb. Instead, the opposite is true. Well-crafted body oil formulas are lightweight and deeply restorative.
Oils retain moisture better
Oils are lipophilic, technically meaning "fat-loving" so they mix with other oils (fats) like sebum on your skin. This property lets them penetrate more deeply into the skin and retain moisture under the surface. Oils are encouraged for those with oily and acne-prone skin because they balance natural sebum production. Your skin no longer needs to overcompensate by producing excess oil, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts.
Oils are preservative and synthetic free
Lotions include a mix of water and oil, but like a bottle of salad dressing, oil and water don't mix. To create that creamy texture, formulators create an emulsion by whipping the water content and oil together. However, to keep bacteria from growing in water-based products, preservatives like parabens or other synthetics are added.
The beauty of oil is that it's anhydrous, meaning there's no water present and no need to add any synthetic preservatives to the formula to make it shelf-stable. Secondly, all-natural oils contain aroma derived directly from plants meaning there is no added 'fragrance.'
The word 'fragrance' on an ingredient label can often be a catch-all that can covertly include endocrine-disrupting ingredients like phlathates that can interfere with our delicate hormone systems.
Oils are bioactive to deliver nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants to the skin
Because of their lipophilic property and small molecular size, the nutrients and vitamins in botanical ingredients can absorb easily into the skin. This means oils are highly bio-active, and the ingredients absorb into your bloodstream after applying a product to your skin. Oils packed with active ingredients can help restore skin on a cellular level and create a more resilient moisture barrier. On the other hand, lotions can moisturize but typically sit on the skin's surface until you wash them off.
Oils can repair and regulate damage on the skin's surface
The outermost layer of skin on your body is a moisture barrier that locks in water and defends against bacteria and other environmental stressors. If you feel like your skin is dry, tight, or irritated, the moisture barrier on your skin's surface is likely compromised. When your moisture barrier is damaged, whether from harsh chemicals, over-exfoliation, or pollutants, it creates the tiniest cracks in the skin, leaving your skin vulnerable to outside irritants that can cause wrinkles, breakouts, discoloration, and other issues. Natural oils, unlike lotions, can penetrate through the surface. Ingredients like rosehip, jojoba, and carrot seed help to naturally heal and restore a compromised moisture barrier.
Oils protect against free radicals and environmental stressors
When you switch to an oil that protects the skin from the inside out, outside stressors have a more difficult time doing damage. Because body oils are pure and don't contain water or fillers, they can seal in the good ingredients and keep the bad ones out. Free radicals like pollution particles, the sun, and exposure to chemicals can lead to premature aging and damage to the skin's outer surface. Oils that contain cypress and squalane are especially helpful in safeguarding from free radicals and daily wear and tear. They can help reverse issues like dullness, premature wrinkles, or discoloration of the skin.
If you're ready to make the switch, look for oils that contain beneficial botanical oils, which ensures your skin is receiving all of the good-for-you ingredients body oils have to offer!