Skin Care for Dry Skin
Dry skin can be uncomfortable and unattractive. It often shows up as rough,
red, and itchy patches in places of the body that show -- arms, hands, lower
legs, ankles. But it's also common on the soles of the feet, thighs, and the
It can lead to cracks and fissures in the skin. And because cold air outside
and heated air inside cause low humidity, it's often worse in winter -- just in
time for the holiday party season.
Some dry skin is hereditary. Some comes with aging, as natural skin oils
diminish. Some can accompany medical conditions such as asthma or thyroid
disease. But daily skin care habits such as washing with harsh soaps, using
sanitizing or harsh cleansing agents, and scrubbing can also cause or worsen dry
Since most dry skin is due to external causes, it responds well to external
skin care treatment. Just making a few adjustments to your daily skin care
routine can help. No matter what the cause, there are many things you can do to
make dry skin smooth and supple.
Dry Skin Care Strategies When You Wash
Treating dry skin is important because extensively dry skin can lead to
dermatitis, a more severe inflammation of the skin. Try these tips for the bath
- Skip long, hot showers. Hot water strips oils from the skin faster than warm
water. Long showers or baths actually result in dried out skin. Try to limit
yourself to a single 5- or 10-minute warm shower or bath a day.
- Use a gentle
cleanser or shower gel with moisturizer. Go for unscented, soap-free, or mild
soap cleansers instead of harsh cleansers.
- Moisturize while skin is moist. Pat
your skin with a towel after you shower or wash your face or hands, leaving it
damp. Apply a moisturizer within three to five minutes of washing to lock
moisture in your skin.
Ingredients to Look for in a Moisturizer
It's not necessary to pay a fortune for a good, rich moisturizer. Read the
label. Ingredients that may be helpful for dry skin include:
- Ceramides. Ceramides help the skin hold water and soothe dry
skin. Synthetic ceramides may mimic the natural substances in the outermost
layer of skin that help keep moisture in.
- Dimethicone and glycerin. These draw water to the skin and retain
- Hyaluronic acid. Like ceramides, hyaluronic acid helps skin hold
- Lanolin, mineral oil, and petroleum jelly. These keep water in
the skin that has been absorbed during bathing.
Be sure to apply sunscreen to areas of your body that are exposed to the sun
during the day. Look for a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or more.
5 Lifestyle Tips for Relieving Dry Skin
These strategies can also help make your skin supple and smooth:
- Plug in a humidifier at home to help keep skin hydrated when indoor air
is dry during winter months.
- Wear cotton and other natural fibers. Wool, synthetics, or other fabrics
can be scratchy and irritating.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Eat omega-3 foods. Essential fatty acids can help fortify the skin's
natural oil-retaining barriers. Foods rich in omega-3 include cold-water
fish (salmon, halibut, sardines), flax, walnuts, and safflower oil.
- For itching or inflammation, apply a cool compress or a hydrocortisone
cream on the area for a week. If these don't provide relief, talk to your
Dry Skin: Signs of Dermatitis
Some flaking along with redness may be a sign of an underlying dermatitis.
- Seborrheic dermatitis. This type involves a red, scaly, itchy
rash on various areas of the body, particularly those areas that contain
many oil glands. Seborrheic dermatitis can occur as scaling on the scalp,
eyebrows, and sides of the nose.
- Allergic contact dermatitis. This occurs when the skin comes into
contact with a substance that causes an allergic reaction, such as poison
ivy. Allergic contact dermatitis of the hands often causes scaling on the
- Atopic dermatitis. Also known as eczema, this is a long-lasting
type of dermatitis that often runs in families. It also may cause
excessively dry, itchy skin.
- Athlete's foot. In many cases, athlete's foot, a fungal
infection, shows up as itchy, flaky skin on the soles of the feet and
between the toes. Untreated, it can progress to skin inflammation and
redness typical of dermatitis.