Facts About Dry Skin
A loss of water or oil on the surface of the skin causes dry, itchy skin. While dry skin can develop at any time, dry skin is more common in the winter when cold air outside and heated air inside cause low humidity, according to MedLine Plus, a website of the National Institutes of Health. Relieving dry skin irritation and itching involves replacing lost moisture and avoiding activities that can decrease water and oil levels.
Dry skin symptoms include itching, flaking, peeling, cracking or scaling of skin. Your skin may feel tight after swimming, bathing or showering and may look dehydrated or rough. Areas of dry skin may appear red. If dryness is severe, bleeding may occur from cracked skin. Skin is often driest on the lower legs, arms and sides of the abdomen, according to the Mayo Clinic. The amount of dry skin can vary depending on exposure to sun and wind, age and humidity level.
Bath oils and over-the-counter moisturizers can be helpful in relieving dry skin when used daily. Products should be applied throughout the day as needed and just after bathing or showering. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends products that contain lactic acid or urea, as these ingredients help the skin hold water. Cold compresses can be effective in reducing itching. If your itching is severe or accompanied by redness, over-the-counter lotions or creams that contain cortisone can reduce symptoms.
Severe itching that does not improve after using over-the-counter lotions and creams may require a visit to a doctor. Your doctor will examine the areas of dry skin and ask about bathing habits and other factors that are drying the skin. Stronger prescription strength creams may be prescribed to relieve itching, particularly if eczema is present. Eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes itchy rashes that may scale, peel or blister.
Loss of moisture can be prevented or reduced by taking shorter showers or baths and using warm water rather than hot water to preserve natural oils. Spending more than 5 to 10 minutes in a bath or shower will leave your skin less hydrated, according to the AAD. Shaving just after bathing and using a shaving gel can help reduce dryness caused by shaving the face or legs. Using mild soap or a gentle cleanser can be helpful in reducing dryness as well.
Extremely dry skin can cause eczema or an inflammation of the skin called dermatitis. Using moisturizers on a regular basis can prevent dermatitis and can reduce eczema flare ups.
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