treating dry skin

How to treat dry skin?

Written by: Ayesha Khan, MBBS

In a Nutshell

  • Loss of oils or moisture from skin causes dryness, itchiness or scaly skin.
  • Symptoms of dry skin worsens during winter seasons even with good skin care routine
  • Self-care for dry skin requires frequent use of moisturizers, lotions, or ointments to keep skin nourished
  • Avoid irritants, excessive heat, chemicals, excessive bathing to prevent loss of moisture

Dry skin - Is it treatable?

Dry skin is a common skin condition that is caused by excessive loss of oils or hydration from the skin. The symptoms of dry skin usually worsen in less humid or cold, dry season. Affected individuals experience discomfort due to itchy, flaky skin as dry weather draws out the moisture from the superficial layer of skin. Without any intervention, such people may develop scaly, flaky, wrinkled, itchy skin that crack and even bleeds easily.

Simple Treatment Regimen:

Following are some tips to address dry skin in less humid climatic conditions:

Baths and showers

People with dry skin should follow these tips:

- Keep your baths and showers short to avoid excessive dryness of skin

- Hot water draws out your skin moisture, so avoid hot water instead use lukewarm water

- Use gentle cleanser or shower gel

- Pat skin dry after bathing, do not rub with towel

- Close the door to entrap the steam to improve humidity factor in the air

Avoid harsh and dry soaps

It is always recommended to use mild chemical free soaps (with added oils), gentle cleansers and shower gels with extra moisture. Harsh soaps can further aggravate the dryness and flakiness of your skin.

Moisturize your body after bath

Apply a good quality moisturizer immediately after getting out of bath when your skin is still damp. Apply moisturizer at least 2-3 times a day or as frequently your skin needs.

Use ointments or creams rather than lotions

Oil based ointments and creams are much better than lotions at retaining and locking in the moisture. Use ointment or cream that contains oils such as aloe oil, jojoba oil, mineral oil, petroleum, shea butter etc. Ceramide based ointments are also very helpful for dry inflamed skin.

Use a humidifier

The hot air inside our homes can worsen dryness of skin and increase itchiness or flakiness. A good quality humidifier can moisten the air.

Wear lip balm

In winter season lips get crack and dry easily. Always wear a good quality lip balm to protect the skin of your lips.

Petroleum jelly

Petroleum jelly, also known as mineral oil, is effective for extremely dry and itchy skin. It forms a protective layer on your skin to allow optimal healing of cracks and dry patches of skin.

Wear gloves

We often notice our hands gets rough and dry more easily in winter season as they are more exposed to environmental irritants. Gloves help in reducing dryness on skin. Wear gloves especially:

- When you go out in dry weather.

- Doing any household chores that make your hands wet or expose your skin to chemicals such as laundry or dish detergents.

Avoid sitting near a direct heat source

We usually keep ourselves warm in winter by sitting close to heaters or fireplace units for warmth. Remember, heat can also make your skin dry and patchy. Try to avoid sitting near fireplace or other heat source for long hours.

Healthy diet:

A well-balanced diet is needed for healthy and nourished skin, hair, and nails. Dry skin also means that body is not able to repair the damaged skin cells. For a healthy, nourished skin, consume sufficient amount of fats, proteins and vitamins in your diet.

There are certain foods that are loaded with antioxidants and help our body to make healthy cells. Foods which are good for healthy skin include:

- Tomatoes

- Blueberries

- Lentils

- Peas

- Carrots

- Beans

- Salmon

- Avocados

It is also necessary to hydrate yourself by drinking at least 11 cups of water each day.

Nuances/ Safety

If simple remedies don’t work or if dryness of skin is associated with bleeding, fibrosis or other changes in the texture of skin, speak to a dermatologist as it may be due to a more serious underlying issue.

Strength of Evidence: B

The information provided in this article is based on recommendations made by high quality and trusted sources, such as Medlineplus and American Academy of Dermatology Association.

Our Ruling:

Dry skin is a common condition that causes itchiness, irritation, or even bleeding if not managed properly. Management of dry skin revolves around avoidance of harsh chemicals, irritants, excessive heat, hot or long showers or any other activity that rob your skin of its moisture. In addition, make sure to use oil-based cosmetics and skincare products to keep your skin hydrated and moisturized.

Our Sources:

  1. Medline Plus - Treat dry skin
  2. AAD - Everyday skincare tips
  3. Medline - Dry skin treatment
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