“What can I do about this dry skin?”

As the heat and humidity of the summer leave us and cooler temperatures creep in, this is a common question heard almost daily in the office. Cooler weather and dry itchy skin go hand in hand for many individuals. The term Xerosis refers to an abnormal dryness of the skin and is a common problem. Dry skin can become scaly, rough, itchy, red and even cracked.

Skin barrier function plays an important role in the process of skin retaining moisture to stay smooth and supple. The skin barrier is made up of lipids and ceramides that essentially join together and function to protect from bacteria and irritants entering the skin and to keep moisture in. When there is a compromise in the skin barrier, moisture can escape and irritants can penetrate beyond this protective outer layer leading to dry, inflamed, itchy skin.

You can make changes in your daily skin care routine to help repair the skin barrier and prevent dry, itchy skin from setting in this winter.

Following is a list of some tips for your skin care regimen:

1. Avoid hot water when bathing and limit bathing to 10-15 minutes 

Hot water dries out the skin and bathing frequently or for an extended period will remove the natural oils from the skin causing dryness.

2. Avoid using harsh soaps

Gentle soaps such as Dove® sensitive skin body wash or skin cleaners such as Cetaphil Restroaderm® and Cerave® are great options. Deodorant soaps and antibacterial soaps tend to be very harsh and use of these products should be restricted to limited areas, i.e. armpits and feet.

3. Avoid vigorous rubbing when bathing and when drying after bathing 

This can further break down the skin barrier. Instead of rubbing, pat the skin dry with a towel.

4. MOISTURIZE!

This is a very important step in ones daily regimen. Moisturizer or emollients inhibit the evaporation of water and certain brands; can help to repair the skin barrier. The best time to apply a moisturizer is after bathing to slightly damp skin. Be sure to avoid fragranced lotions or creams. Applying an emollient a second time each day is also ideal. Cerave® cream and Cetaphil Restoraderm® are good options available over the counter. There are also a few prescription emollient creams and foams available.

5. Add a cool mist humidifier to the home 

Central heating systems can be very drying to the skin. Using a cool mist humidifier is very helpful in preventing dryness that can result from lower humidity levels seen most commonly in the winter months.

6. Avoid abrasive fabrics and fragranced laundry detergents and fabric softeners/dryer sheets

Wool, lace and other “scratchy” type clothing do not cause dry skin but can certainly irritate dry skin and cause inflammation and itching. For laundering try fragrance free, dye free products such as All Free® or Tide Free® detergent and Bounce Free® dryer sheets.

If you continue to struggle with dry, itchy, red skin we would love help. Gwinnett Dermatology has three locations to better serve our community; Snellville, Loganville and Houshton/Braselton. Give the office a call @ 770-972-4845 to set up your appointment.

Jennifer Sissom PA-C

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