Dry skin is annoying. It can make your skin feel irritated and itchy. There are many reasons for dry skin – from dry, seasonal air to hormonal changes to excessive bathing or washing. It’s important to find out why you have it, so you can find a treatment before your skin becomes flaky or scaly.
If you’re one of the millions of people who suffer from dry skin, Anne Orzechowski, an advanced practiced registered nurse with OSF HealthCare, gave us the lowdown on how to spot it and find some relief.
How do I know I have dry skin?
Dry skin is one of those conditions that you know when you’ve got it. You can usually tell you have dry skin when your skin is:
In more severe cases of dry skin, your skin might crack or bleed.
“You can get dry skin on any part of your body,” Anne said.
Many people experience dry skin on their arms, legs, elbows, knees, face, feet and especially hands.
“With flu season and COVID-19, everybody is washing their hands a lot more. Every time we wash our hands, the natural oils that coat and protect our skin – called sebum – get stripped off by harsh soaps,” Anne said.
Causes of dry skin
Dry skin can depend on many factors – for instance, age, other medical conditions, the season of year, your lifestyle, where you live and so much more. It usually isn’t a big deal, but that doesn’t make it any more fun to live with.
Environmental factors can make a big difference, too.
“During winter, the air doesn’t hold as much humidity, which means our skin isn’t soaking in as much moisture. Plus, who doesn’t love hot showers during the cold months to warm up? But when we take really hot showers, the hot water opens every pore, which makes it harder for our skin to lock in moisture,” Anne said.
Solving the dry skin problem
“When you’re jumping in the shower, use warm or more tepid water, a soft cloth and a soft soap that doesn’t strip away your body’s oils,” Anne said.
She emphasized the importance of a mild, soft soap. Harsher soaps strip the skin of oils that provide necessary moisture.
“Avoid using a lot of soap. I always tell people struggling with dry skin to only wash the most necessary parts of the body,” Anne said.
That means you get a free pass on washing areas like arms and legs.
If your kids are suffering from dry skin, Anne said bathing them less frequently is not only OK but also encouraged.
She also suggested slathering on the lotion as soon as you get out of the shower or get the kids out of the bath.
“Any petroleum-based product, like Vaseline or Eucerin, works for adding moisture,” Anne said.
The same goes for washing hands. Try not to use water that is too hot or too cold and use a gentle cleansing soap.
When to see a doctor
If your skin is often cracked and bleeding and you can’t seem to get the dryness under control, a doctor can help.
“If you’ve tried over-the-counter products, like a mild hydrocortisone, and still have no relief, that’s when a doctor can step in and provide something a little bit stronger,” Anne said.
Dry skin is usually nothing serious, but it certainly is no fun. Taking a few simple steps can make dealing with dry skin nothing to even think about.