Soothe and prevent dry skin

December 2012

Father and son bonding

If you’ve ever been bothered by itchy, dry skin, you know how uncomfortable and irritating it can be. The good news is that there are lots of ways to get relief from this common problem.

Learn what causes dry skin

Dry skin can be more of a problem in the winter. That’s because cold temperatures, low humidity, and indoor heating can sap your skin of moisture. That makes it more vulnerable to irritation, itchiness, cracking, and peeling.

Long baths and showers with hot water and harsh soaps can also dry out skin because they break down the lipid barriers of your skin and remove its natural oils.

Some other things that can cause dry skin include eczema, psoriasis, and thyroid problems.

Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize

If you have dry skin, the most important thing to remember is to moisturize — especially right after a shower or bath, when your skin is still damp. When you put on lotion, you basically put a barrier over your skin to keep moisture from escaping. Use a thick lotion or an oil like baby oil or coconut oil. And stay away from products that contain alcohol, which can dry skin. If your skin is extremely dry and irritated, try using a cool compress and put on some over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.

When you’re moisturizing your face and body, don’t forget the lips. It can be easy to forget to moisturize this very sensitive and delicate part of your face. Protect your lips with lip balm and apply petroleum jelly at night to help keep lips smooth while you sleep.

Prevent problems before they begin

To prevent dry skin, keep your baths or showers short, and use warm, not hot, water. Use mild cleansers and pat skin gently to dry.

Try using a humidifier to boost moisture in your home, and drink plenty of water to make sure you stay hydrated on the inside.

Wear natural fibers that let your skin breathe, like cotton and silk. Avoid wool, which can be itchy. Wash clothes in a mild detergent that’s free of dyes and perfumes. And be sure to cover up your hands and face when braving the cold and winter wind.

Finally, be sure to include foods that help your skin stay soft and smooth. Some of these skin-friendly foods include fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel; nuts; lots of fresh fruits and vegetables; and whole grains.

See a doctor when you spot these dry skin problems

Dry skin in the winter can be itchy and uncomfortable, but there are ways to get relief.

Sometimes itchy skin can be more than a minor irritation. Talk to your doctor if you have:

  • Redness that won’t go away
  • Dryness and itching that’s so irritating that it keeps you from sleeping at night
  • Sores or infections from scratching
  • Patches of scaling or peeling skin
  • Itchiness without a visible rash
  • Dryness and itching that won’t get better after moisturizing and trying other home skincare treatments

To treat very dry skin, your doctor may give you prescription medications.

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