Personal Care

How to care for very dry skin

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Dry skin
While dry skin can happen year-round, it's more prevalent during the winter months
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Learn how to prevent and care for extremely dry skin

Winter is a beautiful season, and it brings with it wonderful things like Christmas, snow and skiing. Unfortunately, it can also bring very dry skin. I have dry skin year-round, and winter only makes it worse. Here's how to care for very dry skin.


Our skin needs moisture to remain supple and flexible, and to protect it from weather and germs. When we don't have enough moisture in our skin, it can become rough and itchy and start to flake off. People most often experience dry skin on their shins, hands and elbows. It is more common during the winter months or in very dry climates.


The Symptoms of Dry Skin


First of all, not all itchy, scaly, flaky skin is simply dry skin. These symptoms, especially when accompanied by redness and inflammation, can be signs of a more serious problem like eczema, allergic dermatitis or athlete's foot. All of these conditions require prescription treatment from a doctor, so see your physician to rule out other causes for your itchy skin.


Once you have determined that you don't have a more serious dermatological problem, you're faced with the same question I had: How do I care for very dry skin?


Causes of Dry Skin


Avoiding the causes of dry skin can help to prevent its appearance in the first place. Some soaps can dry your skin, especially antibacterial or deodorant soaps. Using skin products that contain alcohol is also hard on the skin. Taking long, hot showers can strip your skin of its essential oils and cause it to dry out. Stay away from these things, and you may be able to prevent dry skin in the first place.


Home Treatment


If you aren't able to keep yourself from getting dry skin, there are some things you can do at home to treat it and make the itching more tolerable.


  • Limit the length of showers and baths. Long, hot showers feel great, but they are horrible for the skin. The hotter the water, the more the skins natural emollients wash away. Keep your showers as short as possible, and use lukewarm to warm water, but never hot.


  • Use moisturizing soaps. When you shower and wash your hands, use moisturizing soaps. Look for soaps that include cocoa butter or glycerin.


  • Apply moisturizer after bathing. As soon as you dry off, slather yourself with a moisturizing lotion or cream. During especially dry times, the thicker, the better.


  • Use water- and oil-based skin products. Make sure that all of the products that you use on your skin are water- or oil-based, and that they do not contain alcohol.


  • Use a humidifier. In very dry climates, and during the winter, running a humidifier can help keep the air in your home moist, and help moisturize your skin.


  • Drink water. Many people do not get enough water, and this can contribute to dry skin. Make sure you are getting at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.


  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it removes water from the body.


  • Take an oatmeal bath. Using oatmeal bath products can soothe itchy skin.


  • Use hydrocortisone cream. For small patches of itchy, rough skin, apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.


  • Avoid wool and acrylic fabrics. Wool and acrylic can irritate the skin. Try to stick to cotton or silk.


If you don't have any luck with the above home remedies, it's time to talk to your doctor. He can prescribe a stronger cream or decide if you need a referral to a dermatologist. And don't forget: Don't scratch. It only makes it worse.

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