Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water and oil.
Dry skin is common and can affect anyone at any age. You can get dry skin anywhere on your body. But it commonly shows up on the hands, feet, arms, and lower legs.
Dry skin can be caused by
- Cold, dry winter air
- Furnaces that heat the air and remove moisture
- Hot, dry air in desert environments
- Air conditioners that cool the air and remove moisture
- Taking long, hot baths or showers frequently
- Washing your hands often
- Some soaps and detergents
- Skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis
- Certain medications
- Aging, during which skin gets thinner and produces less natural oil
Symptoms of dry skin include
- Scaling, flaking, or peeling skin
- Skin that feels rough
- Skin tightness, especially after bathing
- Cracks in the skin that may bleed
Call your health care provider if
- You feel itchy without a visible rash
- Dryness and itching are preventing you from sleeping
- You have any open cuts or sores from scratching
- Home care measures do not relieve your dryness and itching
Keep the skin moist. Use ointments, like petroleum jelly, creams, or lotions 2 - 3 times a day. Moisturizers should not contain alcohol, scents, dyes, or other chemicals. Using a humidifier in your home will also help.
Moisturizers and emollients work best when they're applied to skin that is wet or damp. After washing or bathing, pat the skin dry and then apply the moisturizer right away.
You can use different types of emollients or moisturizers at different times of the day. Apply these substances as often as you need to keep your skin soft.
Avoid anything that makes your symptoms worse, including
- Sweating -- be careful not to overdress during warmer weather
- Strong soaps or detergents, as well as chemicals and solvents
- Sudden changes in body temperature or stress, which may cause you to sweat and make your condition worse
- Triggers that cause your allergy symptoms
When washing or bathing
- Bathe less often and keep water contact as brief as possible. Short, cooler baths are better than long, hot baths.
- Use gentle skin care cleansers instead of regular soaps. Only use them on your face, underarms, genital areas, hands, and feet.
- Do not scrub or dry the skin too hard or for too long.
- After bathing, apply lubricating creams, lotions, or ointments on the skin while it is still damp. This will help trap moisture in the skin.
Other tips include
- Use a humidifier if the air is dry.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Apply cool compresses to itchy areas, and try over-the-counter cortisone creams or lotions if your skin is inflamed.