Unlike what many of us believe, not all dry skin is unhealthy. Dry skin is a skin type, which needs extra care and moisturization. However, if your skin is excessively dry, you may have an underlying condition. So the question is, what exactly is causing your dry skin?

1. Age

As we get older, our skin becomes thinner and drier because of hormonal changes.In the absence of a time machine, ensuring you moisturize morning and night will help. You may want to try a moisturizer containing Hyaluronic Acid, a substance that the body naturally produces, and which serves to bind water to skin. As we age, our natural levels of HA decrease, making moisturizers with this ingredient a good option for dry skin. Try Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion with Hyaluronic Acid or Cetaphil Hydrating Night Cream with Hyaluronic Acid.

And when you moisturize your face, be sure not to forget your neck. While you don’t need a separate product for this area (your facial moisturizer should do the job), it is important to keep your neck moisturized to prevent the appearance of lines and wrinkles that are more visible on dry, aging skin.

2. The weather/climate

If you live in a dry climate, this could be adversely affecting your skin’s moisture levels. To help, wear loose, natural fabrics, and consider using a humidifier in your bedroom or other areas in your home where you spend a lot of time—this will add moisture to the air and help soothe thirsty skin. Likewise if you’re often in cold and windy weather, your skin could be taking a battering. Be sure to use a moisturizer with SPF daily, making sure not to just focus on your face, but on body moisturization as well.

3. Swimming

Hitting 20 lengths before breakfast might be doing wonders for your cardiovascular system, but all that water could—ironically—also be drying out your skin. This is because pool water is treated with chlorine, which can cause the skin to dry out. Always rinse off after getting out of the pool and apply moisturizer. Ointments and creams with ingredients such as avocado oil and shea butter are great for softening skin (3).

4. Your job

Certain professions require exposure to substances or to kinds of physical tasks that can cause severely dry skin. If you work in a job such as nursing, hairdressing or other work that exposes your skin (most likely your hands) to potentially irritating chemicals, you may be at risk of Occupational Irritant Contact Dermatitis (OICD), a common type of hand eczema. Symptoms include severely dry and cracked skin. Prevention is key, and the specific precautions will differ per job. But in general, gloves and protective clothing are a good idea, using a specially formulated gentle cleanser when washing your hands and applying a protective hand cream several times per day.

5. A skin condition

Excessively dry skin could also be a sign of an underlying skin condition such as psoriasis (where your body grows skin cells too quickly or eczema (aside from OICD, eczema can take many forms and has various causes, including allergic reactions or contact with irritants) . If you think you are suffering from a skin condition, it’s worth getting it checked by a dermatologist and using the prescribed treatment.