Dry skin occurs for a variety of reasons. Many times the causes are external such as too much exposure to chlorine in swimming pools, or weather that is too dry, hot or cold. Other causes such as psoriasis or eczema can be more difficult to treat.
Dry skin may be red, itchy and scaly, usually occurring in areas such as the arms, hands, lower legs and feet. Further problems such as infections from excess scratching can develop if dry skin is ignored.
Below are general tips on how to combat dry skin:
1. Skip the hot water - Use warm water instead since hot water strips moisture-retaining oil from the skin. Limit showers to only 5 or 10 minutes, or take a quick bath.
2. Use a moisturizing cleanser - Use fragrance-free mild soaps or gels such as glycerin bars or Cetaphil. Deodorant soaps and antibacterial cleaners tend to be the most drying.
3. Moisturize after each time you shower - Right after bathing, our skin will readily absorb moisturizers. Pat your skin dry and while it is still damp, select one that contains one or more of the following water-retaining ingredients: ceramides, glycerin, dimethicone or hyaluronic acid. Heavier moisturizers such as lanolin, mineral oil or petroleum jelly can also be used for more severe dry skin.
4. Get more humidity - During the winter, forced air heating dries out the air, making skin more susceptible to dryness. In the summer, air conditioning can do the same thing. Use a humidifier to get more moisture back into the air, and try to increase your water intake.
5. Protect your skin from the sun - During summer, UV rays are the most damaging, penetrating into the deeper layers of skin and contributing to dryness. Exposure to sun, along with the cold in the winter, can be equally as brutal to your skin. Make sure to wear sunscreen year-round.
6. Wear loose clothing - Tight clothing traps perspiration that can be irritating to the skin, rubbing tender areas that respond by thickening and drying out. Cotton clothing is a good choice instead of wool. Even some synthetic fabrics can be itchy, leading to dry skin. They should be avoided.
7. Check your medications - Certain drugs, such as diuretics, which are used to treat high blood pressure, or acne medications such a Retin-A or benzoyl peroxide, can have a side effect of drying out the skin. If your dry skin persists, speak to your doctor to determine if the medication is the cause, and whether you can change the dose or switch to another drug.
8. Check medical conditions - Sometimes dry skin is part of a medical condition and other times it may be a hint that you are developing one. Eczema and psoriasis are common causes of dry skin and require careful, regular use of special moisturizers to treat and control.
Diabetics may develop dry skin due to fluctuations of glucose levels, so stabilizing sugar levels may help. Diabetics should also monitor their skin for any changes overall since they are more susceptible to skin infections and heal more slowly.
Hypothyroidism can contribute to dry skin. If dry skin is accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue or weight gain, it is best to be evaluated by a doctor.
Dry Skin By Mayo Clinic staff. Retrieved Jan. 16, 2012.
What's Causing Your Dry Skin? Check these 11 common causes of dry skin.
By R. Morgan Griffin. WebMD Feature. Retrieved Jan. 16, 2012.
Skin Care for Dry Skin. WebMD. Retrieved Jan. 16, 2012.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jessica Obert