Dry, itchy skin is a common complaint during the winter months. Dry winter air and most types of indoor heating increase our chances of experiencing symptoms of dry skin. Symptoms of dry skin can include itching, mild soreness, flaking and cracks or fissures in the skin. Having cracks in the skin or scratching your skin open increases the risk of getting a skin infection. So It’s best to actively treat dry skin as soon as you are aware of it.
Some people struggle with dry skin all their lives however it is more common for it to become a problem for people as they get older. The thinning of skin as we age causes our skin to become dry more easily. The most common areas for people to have symptoms of dry skin are the hands and shins but any area of skin can suffer from dryness. A few simple actions can help you get control of your dry skin.
First, minimize your skin’s exposure to water, especially hot water. Long hot showers or baths are not friendly for dry skin. This means shorter, cooler showers or baths and consider showering only every other day. If you wash dishes or have a job that keeps your hands in water frequently wear rubber gloves if possible. When you dry your skin try to pat dry rather than rub. These things help to preserve your skin’s natural oils.
Next get a good moisturizer and use it often. The most effective moisturizers are going to come in a jar or need to be squeezed out of a tube. A lotion that is poured or comes out of a pump is usually not very effective for dry skin that is causing symptoms. Avoid heavily scented moisturizers as these frequently contain alcohols which are drying. Use your moisturizer at least twice a day. If you are a person who must wash their hands frequently during the day you may need to reapply your moisturizer much more often. Hand sanitizers are also drying so moisturize more often if you are using these products frequently.
If possible get some moisture back into the air in your home by using a humidifier, cool mist vaporizer or even a pan of water on a radiator or wood stove. It can be difficult and expensive to humidify an entire home so consider focusing on the room you spend the greatest number of hours in. For many people this room is their bedroom.
Lastly, get some moisture into yourself. Make sure you are staying well hydrated by drinking adequate amounts of water and non caffeinated beverages every day.
If you experience symptoms of dry skin that are not responding to your efforts to treat it or you have significant soreness and/or redness especially if these symptoms are worsening you should see your primary care provider. They will be able to rule out other causes of your symptoms and if needed provide prescription creams which can help