DRY SKIN (XEROSIS)

Dry skin is a very common dermatological complaint. It may be the result of a specific skin condition or disease. Or, it may be a side effect caused by any number of environmental factors. Very mild versions of contact dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis can make skin feel dry or slightly scaly before other symptoms appear. Dry skin may itch, flake, and become easily inflamed. It may burn if the skin is stretched or when a liquid irritant comes into contact with it. Skin affected by xerosis may even crack and bleed.


What Environmental Factors Cause Skin Dryness?

Exposure to hot water when showering can dry skin out. So can washing dishes by hand in very hot water. If you use even hotter water to soak the skin and relieve itching, this will actually make the condition worse. Low humidity levels in the winter tend to make skin dry as well. This condition actually has its own name: “winter itch”. Using soaps and body washes on the skin too frequently strips natural oils from the skin and makes itching and dryness worse. So does overuse of topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide, AHA toners, and retinoids. Some body and hand lotions can also dry out your skin.


Potential Treatments

If your dry skin is caused by an underlying skin condition (such as eczema), you will need to be diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist. Otherwise, you can take some simple steps at home to reduce dryness.

  • Take warm (not hot) showers and dry with a towel by patting skin lightly rather than rubbing.
  • Moisturize your skin at least 3-4 times per day using a fragrance-free cream or ointment (Cetaphil and Vaseline Intensive Care are a couple of good choices).
  • Treat thicker scaly areas on the hands and feet with a urea (Carmol) or lactic acid cream. Soak your feet in warm water first to help the ingredients penetrate deeply. You may also use Theraseal for your hands if the skin is dry and cracked.

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