Q. What is dry skin?
A. Dry skin, also known as xerosis, is a common problem. Your skin needs moisture to stay smooth and supple. A lack of moisture or dehydration of the skin results in dryness of the skin.
Q. How do you recognise dry skin?
A. Dry skin has many forms. The mildest cases can be recognised by a dry look to your skin, some mild flaking of the skin, and a slight tightness in the feel of your skin. More severe cases of dry skin can be accompanied by severe itching, red or white patches of skin, cracking, bleeding, severe tightness, and pain.
Q. What causes dry skin?
A. There are many causes of dry skin:
- When oil glands do not supply enough lubrication to the skin. As a result, the skin becomes dehydrated
- .When skin gets exposed to the elements especially in winter.
- Dry skin could be due to a genetic condition & can run in families e.g Icthyosis Vulgaris
- Poor diet. Nutritional deficiencies, especially deficiencies of vitamin A and the B vitamins, can also contribute to dry skin.
- Environmental factors such as exposure to sun, wind, cold, chemicals, or cosmetics, or excessive bathing with harsh soaps.
- Conditions such as dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, or seborrhea.
- Dry skin could also be from underlying medical problems e.g. Dry skin can be a sign of an underactive thyroid; Diabetic patients often have dry skin; Certain drugs, including diuretics, antispasmodics, and antihistamines
Q. How can I prevent and treat dry skin?
A. These are a few simple steps to follow.
- Each day when you take your bath or shower, try to use lukewarm water. Hot water dries out the skin. Try to limit your time to fifteen minutes or less in the bath or shower. Bathing should be done no more than once a day. If you bathe too frequently you will remove the natural oils from the skin causing dryness.
- Avoid using harsh soaps that dry the skin. Use a glycerine soap or aqueous cream to bath. Avoid soaps with antibacterial ingredients. A fragrance-free bath oil may be added to the bath water.
- Avoid vigorous use of a washcloth in cleansing. When towelling dry, do not rub the skin. Blot or pat dry so there is still some moisture left on the skin.
- Next apply a good quality moisturizer to the skin. The best time to do this is immediately after a bath or shower so that the moisturizer holds in the moisture from the shower.
- Use a sun block of SPF 15 or more daily on exposed areas.
- Drink plenty of water and other liquids to keep your skin moist from the inside. Take multivitamins and essential fatty acids like flaxseed oil.
Q. Which moisturisers should I use?
A. Use a good quality moisturiser that is fragrance-free and which contains cetamacrogol and urea. Urea is a synthetic compound that acts as a humectant i.e. it helps to lock moisture in the skin. In winter, moisturisers should be greasier. Aqueous cream is actually NOT a good moisturiser for dry skin.
Q. When should I see a Dermatologist?
A. See a doctor if:
- You feel itchy without a visible rash
- Dryness and itching are preventing you from sleeping
- You have any open cuts or sores from scratching
- Home care measures do not relieve your dryness and itching
- You have associated skin disease like eczema & psoriasis or a genetic dry skin condition like Ichtyosis.