It’s been unseasonably warm this fall, but cold weather is certainly on its way. And blustering winds and chilly temperatures bring an unfortunate visitor along for the ride: dry skin. This itchy, ashy, and sometimes cracking ailment affects countless individuals, especially in the colder months. The good news is while dry skin can be irritating and unsightly, it’s often pretty easy to cure!
Dry Skin, or xerosis, is caused when your skin has trouble retaining moisture. Pretty obvious, right? Naturally occurring oils in your skin form a protective barrier to keep moisture locked in tight. When we remove those oils with frequent washing or harsh soaps, it’s harder for our skin to keep it’s natural moisture. During winter seasons where the air outside is bitter & cold, and the air inside is manufactured dry heat, it becomes an uphill battle for our skin to stay hydrated. Add frequent handwashing--cold & flu season makes this a must!--or spending too much time in a hot shower to warm back up in the cold months, and your skin is being stripped of its natural oils too often to replenish & rehydrate.
With environmental factors being the skin’s worst enemy, it’s no wonder nearly everyone and their neighbor is affected by dry skin in the winter! Because dry skin is so common, there are plenty of easy ways to help alleviate and prevent it. Switching from soaps designed to “cleanse” oils from your skin to gentler, hydrating formulas will help your body retain its natural moisture in the face of dry heat. Reducing the length of showers or baths, using warm rather than hot water, as well as using a humidifier to bring moisture back into your home can help significantly.
If your skin could use further hydration, moisturizing after bathing--as well as several times throughout the day--can keep it healthy. Moisturizers create a seal over your skin to keep oil and moisture from escaping, as well as replace the skin’s natural oil with a temporary suitable substitute. For people with sensitive skin, or looking for stronger and longer lasting relief, petroleum jellies like Vaseline, Vaniply, or Aquaphor are good, heavier options as well.
Like instruction given for chickenpox and poison ivy, try not to itch that dry skin! We know it’s hard, but too much scratching can cause open wounds, which will prevent your skin from healing and could lead to infections. Instead, try a cold compress or an over-the-counter ointment containing hydrocortisone. It’s time to make an appointment with your dermatologist if these measures don’t relieve your symptoms, if the irritation prevents you from doing day-to-day tasks like focusing or sleeping, or if the condition worsens.
While most people experience dry skin, there are those for whom dry skin is a warning sign of something else. Sometimes these are more severe dermatological diseases like eczema or psoriasis, but for some it’s a symptom of something internal, like hypothyroidism. Again, if dry skin is persistent, worsens over time, or begins to interfere with daily life, it’s time to see a dermatologist. A doctor will be able to assess your symptoms--such as appearance and frequency--and determine the best course of action.
If you think it’s time to see a dermatologist about your dry skin, give us a call or visit our website to make an appointment with us! We’re here to make sure your skin is happy & healthy all year ‘round, so you can look & feel your best.