WHAT’S THE CAUSE?
Dry skin can occur for a variety of reasons. Most commonly, it’s the result of dry air, cold weather, hot showers, harsh soaps, and detergents, or too much sun.
Dry skin is often temporary — you get it only in winter, for example — but it may be a lifelong problem. Most cases of dry skin respond well to lifestyle and home remedies. See your doctor if your skin doesn’t improve in spite of your best efforts or you have large areas of scaling or peeling skin or open sores from scratching.
If you have a more serious skin disease, such as atopic dermatitis or psoriasis, your doctor may prescribe prescription creams or other therapies to treat the condition. Otherwise, the following steps can often keep your skin healthy.
- Moisturize. Moisturizers provide a seal over your skin to keep water from escaping. If your skin is extremely dry, apply an oil, such as baby oil, while your skin is still moist. Oil has more staying power than do moisturizers and keeps water from evaporating from the surface of your skin. Ointments that contain petroleum jelly are helpful, but they may feel too greasy.
- Apply moisturizers immediately after bathing. Gently pat your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains. Immediately moisturize your skin to help trap water in the surface cells.
- Limit bathing. Long showers or baths and hot water remove oils from your skin. If possible, don’t bathe daily (use a washcloth to cleanse key areas). When you do shower or bathe, do so for only five to 10 minutes and use warm, not hot, water.
- Avoid harsh, drying soaps. Choose mild soaps with added oils and fats.
- Use a humidifier. Dry indoor air can worsen itching and flaking. A portable humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the inside air. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean.
Choose skin-friendly fabrics. Natural fibers, such as cotton and silk, allow your skin to breathe. Wool, though natural, can irritate your skin. Wash your clothes with detergents that don’t contain dyes or perfumes, both of which can irritate your skin.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.