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Preventing Dry Skin

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Dry skin is one of the most frustrating common problems in winter, but affects many people year-round. About 75% of people over 65 years of age complain of chronic dry skin. Anyone who is active in sports, exercises regularly, or participates in winter outdoor activities usually struggles with dry, itching skin. Understanding what irritates the skin can help alleviate the problem.

Normal skin oils provide a thin layer on the surface to retain moisture keeping the skin smooth and supple. Many things like dry air, wind, sun, bathing and hand washing can strip the skin of its natural oils leading to excessive dryness. Dry skin is itchy skin!

The first step is prevention. Using sunscreen year-round can help. Soaps can irritate the skin and obviously strip the natural oil from the surface. Excessively hot water for hand washing or showering only magnifies the problem. Using more lukewarm water, taking a shorter shower and using milder soaps that are fragrance-free can be a big step to alleviating dry skin. The best time to moisturize is right after the shower while the skin is still moist. Towel dry first, then apply a bland moisturizing lotion or cream. Usually the cheapest fragrance-free product is best. A number of ingredients in common moisturizing products either seal in moisture to protect from excessive dryness or try to extract moisture from the air to retain more moisture for the skin. Again, they are best used while the skin is well hydrated before it becomes dry to trap the existing moisture in the skin. Be wary of the high priced products that have very seductive ads. They are typically no better than the basic cheaper products.

Another common mistake is the effects of scrubbing too hard. Most of us don’t get that dirty during our daily activities. Young children actively playing outside or adults in a very dirty line of work aside, gentle attention to cleaning ourselves with water and a bland soap is all that is necessary. The role of the soap is solely to loosen the oils, grime, and bacteria, so it can be removed easily by the mechanical action of rubbing and rinsing with water. The antibacterial effect of hand and body soaps is highly overrated. Rubbing your hands vigorously with a paper towel to dry is akin to using fine sandpaper on them. The dryness, redness, and cracking that follow can be problematic. Blotting the moisture gently with paper towels can make a big difference to reduce the abuse to your hands.

There are some common skin conditions that present as dry skin but are more extensive and challenging to manage. Even some medications can exacerbate dryness and itching. Seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, some fungal infections and even allergic skin conditions can lead to prolonged dry itchy skin. You should definitely consult your health care provider if your dry skin does not respond to some basic efforts to manage the itching or seems to be spreading to wider areas of the body.

About Bruce Kaler M.D.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    I believe another thing that can help is drinking plenty of water. People don’t think you can become dehydrated during the winter months because of the cold but the opposite is actually true. I think dehydration is a huge reason for dry skin.

    I had an issue with dry skin and I switched to a body wash with the main ingredient being Glycerin & started to drink much more water. I don’t agree with the cheap lotion theory…I found that Lubriderm Advanced Therapy & Vaseline Hand Cream for Men worked wonders over the cheap stuff and their main ingredient is Glycerin as well.

  • michelle

    I purchased the Made from Earth “Vitamin Enhanced Moisturizer” from their website two weeks ago and it is fantastic!! With daily use over the last 2 weeks, it has completely cleared up the dry, red, crusty, itchy spots between my eyebrows, the sides of my nose and the corners of my mouth. It has also greatly diminished the discoloration on my cheekbones and above my upper lip (this one looked much like a thin mustache, I hated it).

    I have tried creams, scrubs, etc., to no avail, but this product actually does all that the manfacturer says it will do. It seems to break down the discoloration and start to remove it first in the area which is not the thickest and goes on to the most prominent parts. The moisturizer goes on smoothly, is not greasy, absorbs quickly, leaving my skin feeling soft and revitalized. It only takes a small amount to cover the face and neck area. I am noticing a difference in the reduction of the crow’s feet in the corners of my eyes and in the smoothness of the neck area. It worked fast and great for me. I hope that others will be as satisfied as I am with it. I’m going to invest in other Made from Earth products in their line, such as their face scrub, and the olive night time moisturizer. Even though it cost more than I usually pay for skin care products, it is more than well worth it. I can see now that it will last longer than most and I can’t say this enough “IT WORKS”!!

  • mary

    The Vitamin Enhanced Moisturizer (from the Made from Earth skincare line) has had the best anti-aging effect for me.

    It is probably the heaviest product I have used – providing a lot of moisture but basically leaving no residue and just a soft, matte feel. I like the way my wrinkles dont seem to be as deep as they used to be – it makes them like smoother so they dont show as much…i guess that is what the added moisture does.

    Made from Earth skincare line makes really advanced products and the ingredients on their moisturizer such as alpha/beta hydroxy acids are usually only found on the best organic skincare lines.

    I really like the fact that the product has no added fragance and comes in a generous 2oz bottle, when most of the other organic moisturizers come in .5oz containers.

  • Olivia

    I suffer from dry skin, but fall into a different category being relatively young , 27.

    I am of African decendance, and it seems to me that black people generally have to moisturise in order to avoid dry skin. I don’t know if I’m generalising here but thats been my experience in my life.

    Anyhow by far the best moisturiser I have used is Palmers Coconut butter that comes in a tub in solid form.

    Once I put on a coating of that stuff it keeps my skin nice and soft all day long…!..