Justin Creel, MD, FAAD
Dry skin (also known as xerosis or asteatosis in “medical-speak”) is a common problem that often worsens or progresses with age. Your skin needs moisture to function correctly, and your naturally secreted oils protect against rash, irritation, and overall itchiness. Most people are unaware that daily routines, such as bathing and towel drying, can actually remove moisture from your skin, especially if done incorrectly. Furthermore, regular use of a moisturizer can reverse such dehydration and help to restore a healthy-functioning skin barrier. Here are a few other tips that should help prevent skin dryness!
- When it comes to baths and showers, keep it warmer and shorter! Do NOT use overly hot water, no matter how good it feels - this leads to opening of your pores and sweat glands with exaggerated loss of your skin’s protective oils (think “bigger door for your oils to escape out of”). Try not to bathe more than once a day, and always keep them to 10 minutes or less! For kids, bathing every other day can be great for the skin as well.
- Use a mild, fragrance free soap such as unscented Dove (bar preferred over liquid or gel) or try a soapless cleanser such as Cetaphil or Cerave.
- Soap should be applied with your hands only to dirty areas (underarms, feet, groin). If you are dirty from outdoor activities, etc, then soap can be applied to other areas of the body as necessary. But, in general, the shower/ bath water is enough to wash the rest of your body. For baths, wash your hair and body immediately before getting out (i.e. do not soak in the soapy water).
- After bathing, PAT dry with a towel. Do not rub the skin roughly with a towel.
- Immediately (less than 3 minutes after getting out) put on a good moisturizing cream (not a lotion). Generally, water-based lotions (Lubriderm, Keri lotion, others) are best cosmetically but oil-based creams are more effective in trapping moisture.
- We recommend Cerave, Cetaphil, or Vanicream These can be found in most pharmacies and are usually sold in a jar. Aquaphor and Vaseline (petroleum jelly) are other excellent moisturizers. For kids, vaseline can be used at night and then cover with pajamas. It is best to apply moisturizing cream twice daily everyday. Use immediately after bathing and another time throughout the day.
- We may also recommend an over-the-counter lactic acid (Amlactin or Lac-Hydrin) or salicylic acid (Cerave Psoriasis with Salicylic Acid) to help 'slough' dry, scaly skin. These can sometimes sting after they are applied to your skin, but usually the stinging subsides after a few applications. These lotions may be too irritating for some conditions and in kids.
- Try not to scratch, as this often makes the itching worse and can lead to a cycle of worsening itching and scratching. If you need a pill to help with your itching, your provider can discuss this with you and find the appropriate option.
- There are several over-the-counter “itching” lotions such as Sarna that may help with controlling your itching symptoms. These lotions can be put in the refrigerator, as the cool temperature can enhance the anti-itch effects. Of note, these lotions do NOT treat your condition or help with skin dryness - they should only be used for symptomatic relief.
- Do NOT use rubbing alcohol, Lanacaine, Neosporin, Caladryl, Calamine lotion, Clorox, or Lysol on your skin. These products can be drying and/or irritating and often make your condition worse.
- Avoid all fragranced products such as body lotions and perfumes. These can be very irritating to your skin.
For more information or to schedule your appointment, please call our office at 225.654.1124!