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Dry Skin Care & Treatment

Dry Skin Care & Treatment


Dry skin, or xeroderma, is a fairly common condition in which the skin appears rough, dull and flaky. Fine lines also become more prominent and dry skin sufferers may also experience uncomfortable itching and flaking. Dry skin is more common during the lower humidity of the winter months, and occurs most commonly on the hands, arms, legs and face. Most cases of dry skin can be successfully treated at home, and do not require a dermatologist's intervention.


The University of Iowa Hospital explains that dry skin is like a cake that has become dried out from being exposed to the air. Ideally, the upper layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, acts as a barrier to the environment. It contains natural oils that help to keep moisture locked inside. When there isn't a sufficient amount of water in the outer layer of skin, it dries out and shrinks, leaving behind itchy, cracked skin. Dry skin is most common in the winter months, due to lower humidity and harsh cold and wind. Very hot baths and showers and swimming in chlorinated water can also contribute to the problem.


Symptoms of dry skin can vary greatly, but generally include a feeling of tightness, skin redness, flaky, dull and rough appearance and noticeable cracks or lines in the skin's texture. But dry skin goes beyond the cosmetic, and can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms such as itching and severely cracked skin, which, in some cases, may even bleed.


Keeping skin hydrated from both the inside and the outside is the key to avoiding the problem of dry skin. R.N. and skin expert, Noreen Nicol, says that the one thing that everyone can and should do to keep skin hydrated is to "soak and seal" every day after bathing and showering. She suggests a liberal application of moisturizer from head to toe while the skin is still damp, to help seal in moisture. Eating foods with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna increases the rate of skin regeneration, which leaves behind fresher, softer skin. Drinking sufficient water, a recommended minimum of eight cups per day, is necessary to hydrate all of the body's tissues, skin included.

Treatment at Home

When dry skin does strike, and a simple body or facial lotion does not provide adequate relief, it may be time to try products that are designed specifically for dry skin. Nicol suggests picking up an ointment-based moisturizer, and notes that the thicker the product, the less of it you need to use, and the less often it has to be applied. According to the University of Iowa Hospital, it is also advisable to bathe or shower no more often than once every 24 hours. More frequent bathing, or bathing in very hot water, increases the rate of loss of the skin's natural oils. Additionally, individuals with dry skin should use very gentle cleansers or soaps without added fragrance and other chemicals, which can further strip oil from the outer layer of skin.

Medical Treatment

If dry skin continues year round, or becomes increasingly uncomfortable, with severe cracking, itching or bleeding, consult a doctor. In some cases, dry skin can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as psoriasis, or could be the result of reaction to an allergen. Doctors can prescribe prescription creams with hydrocortisone or other ingredients that can cut down on inflammation and soothe the skin. Dermatitis can also result from severe dry skin, and causes redness and itching, and can be treated with specific prescriptions and over the counter preparations. Doctors may also prescribe antibiotics or astringents to decrease the risk of infection where skin is severely cracked.

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