Dry skin is a very common condition and can be a major cause of skin symptoms such as itching as well as skin diseases such as dermatitis and eczema. Keeping your skin adequately moisturized will maintain your skin in a healthy state and can prevent the onset of these problems.
How does your skin become dry?
Dry skin results from excessive loss of both water and oil from the top layer of your skin. It often gets worse as we age, in low humidity climates, and in the winter season. Unless you are severely dehydrated, dry skin is not due to inadequate water intake.
How do I treat or prevent dry skin?
Here are 3 simple steps:
1. Avoid long, hot showers or baths. While hot showers or baths often temporarily feel good and may even lessen the itching associated with dry skin, the prolonged hot water exposure will further dry your skin and the skin will often itch even more a few minutes later. Long showers or baths wash off the natural protective oils of your skin. A quick, cool shower is best for your skin.
2. Use gentle soaps. Many brands of soaps are very harsh on your skin and remove the natural protective oils of your skin. Deodorant or scented soaps are the most common culprits. Try to choose gentle soaps that are fragrance-free such as unscented Dove, Olay, or Purpose.
3. Apply a moisturizer on your skin immediately after you get out of the shower. To retain moisture after your shower, apply a moisturizer to your skin immediately after your shower while your skin is still damp. Moisturizing creams or ointments are the most effective.
What moisturizer should I buy?
With hundreds of products on the market, it can be hard to choose a good moisturizer. Following a few simple rules will make purchasing one much easier:
1. Choose a cream or ointment (rather than a lotion) if your skin is severely dry. Lotions have a lighter consistency, and thus do not adequately hydrate severely dry skin. Creams or ointments have a thicker consistency and thus, you will typically find that they come in jars (rather than pumps for lotions).
2. The less fragrance the better. Moisturizers with fragrances often contain chemicals and additives that can irritate your skin and also strip your skin of natural oils.
3. Expensive is not better. It can be tempting to think that purchasing an expensive cream or lotion will produce better results for your skin, but rest assured that there are multiple options of reasonably priced creams that will protect your skin without breaking your budget.
Direct Dermatology has recommendations on moisturizers listed below, that we have found to work best in preventing and treating dry skin. Importantly, you can be confident that we have absolutely NO commercial interest in any of these products and offer no recommendations on where to purchase them:
Ointments: Recommendations - Vaseline petroleum jelly or Aquaphor ointment
Ointments work best for severely dry skin because it maintains skin hydration by creating a barrier between your skin and the environment. However, they have a more greasy feel on the skin. Think about using ointments at night when it won't limit your activities or stick to your clothing during the day.
Creams: Recommendations - Cetaphil cream or Eucerin Original Cream
Creams are sufficiently thick in consistency to maintain an effective barrier between your skin and the environment. They are not as greasy on the skin as ointments; thus, people find them to be more convenient for everyday use in the mornings as well as the evenings.