Dry skin problems effect a large percent of the world population and can be caused by a number of things, from simple element exposure to the very things you're doing to help your skin. One of the most common mistakes you can make is using the wrong soap. While you're goal is to keep your skin clean, a harsh or non-moisturizing soap can actually leave your skin drier than it was before you washed it. Selecting and using the right soap can not only nourish your skin, but also encourage your skin to produce its natural oils, which will protect it from the elements and other products you may expose it to.
Soap is one of the worst things you can use on your skin, especially if you already have dry skin. Soap strips your skin of its natural oils, which keep your skin moist, protect it against exposure to elements, and enhance the barrier to combat bacteria and other illness-causing germs.
Most everyday soap you see on the shelves is all pretty close to the same formula. They have different packaging and market to different demographics, but all contain many of the same ingredients as the one next to it. Most soaps contain three different types of sodium, mostly used to solidfy the fat solids and create a bar. Sodium by nature is a bit abrasive and can have the same effect on your skin.
Though unscented soap sounds like it's free from the harsh chemicals used to frangrant soap, it's actually the opposite. Mild frangrances are still used to acheive that "unscented" scent. Instead, look for soap labelled "frangrance-free" to ensure there are no chemicals added for frangraces.
Moisturizing soap is generally a good choice; just be sure your soap isn't just stripping the natural oils and replacing them with chemical ones.
When washing with soap, be careful not to lather too much or overwash your skin. Excessive exposure to soap can increase the stripping of the natural oils in your skin, which can cause your skin to become much more dry and irritated. Also, avoid using rough sponges or brushes on your skin. While exfoiliating occasionally can help slough off dead skin and reveal healthy new skin, the constant use of a loofah or other harsh sponge constantly strips your skin. Instead, use your hands or a soft cloth.
Soap is by no means off limits, but take care when selecting the right soap to use to avoid or exacerbate a dry skin problem. If most soaps irritate your skin, consider switching to a body wash, but watch for some of the same ingredients and oil stripping frangrances as they can also be present in even the most moisturizing body wash. You can control and avoid dry skin by being more proactive about the type of products you use on your skin.