Dry skin is a very common problem.  It can be very uncomfortable though not necessarily a serious health problem.  It can make skin feel tight and sore and look dull or red or flaky. Sometimes itchiness is so bad it keeps them awake at nights.

 

It can be particularly troublesome for African skin as the flakes of skin can look gray, or ashy.  It’s important to treat dry skin as it can lead to more serious problems.

 

Healthy skin acts as a barrier defence against infection.

 

Often, dry skin is simply caused by harsh soaps, itchy clothing, misusing moisturizer, and long, hot showers.  Other times, medications or medical conditions (diabetes, psoriasis, hypothyroidism, and malnutrition) could be the cause.

 

Understanding Dry Skin

 

Normal, healthy skin is coated in a thin layer of natural lipids, or fatty substance which, keeps in moisture, leaving the skin soft and supple.  If something strips away these fatty oils, your skin unprotected.

 

Less often, the cause is internal; a health condition or genetic predisposition is making your skin dry out.

 

Patches of dry, itchy skin can appear anywhere and are most common on the arms, hands, lower legs, and abdomen.

 

Does it need to be treated?

 

If untreated, dry skin can sometimes lead to dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin.  The good news is that just as most causes of dry skin are external, most cures for dry skin are external.  With careful skin care, you can usually solve the problem.

 

Dry Skin and Moisturizer Misuse

 

If you’ve been contending with dry skin, you’ve probably already tried a moisturizer (or dozens).  While moisturisers are a crucial part of dry skin care, experts say that we don’t always use them very well.

 

-      Apply to damp (not sopping wet) skin. Pat yourself dry with a towel and put it on.

-      Let it soak in for a few minutes, and then towel off the excess.

-      Get the right type of moisturizer. We recommend ones with no perfumes or alcohols. A thick and greasy moisturizer is often best at sealing in the moisture, though some people don’t like these.  Lighter moisturisers, even oil-free options, are also available.

Dry Skin and Dry Air

 

Dry air can cause dry skin, especially during the winter. This is due to a combination of the weather outside and central heating inside. Turning down central heating may help!

Another tip is to use a humidifier in your bedroom, and bundling up — with hats, scarves and gloves, when you’re outside.

 

Long, Hot Showers & Baths Also Dry Skin

 

Prolonged exposure to water, especially hot water, can wash away the natural oils that protect your skin.  If you get out of the bath or shower and skin feels tight, it’s dried out.

Showers are better for dry skin than baths on a regular basis, but keep them short and water shouldn’t be too hot.  Afterwards, pat your body dry with a towel and put on a moisturizer right away.

Soap can quickly strip away your skin’s protective oils, and often too much of it is used. Believe it or not, but most people aren’t that dirty! Use a good quality soap that is “fragrance free” and use soft clothes or sponges.

Washing hands too often can also lead to trouble.  Ironically, while done in the quest to rid ourselves of germs, excessive hand washing dries out the skin causing it to crack and bleed, making infection much more likely.

Itchy Clothing and Dry Skin

 

Wear clothing that is comfortable and doesn’t cause you to itch and isn’t too tight.  Use detergents without perfumes.

 

Some Drugs May Dry Skin

 

A number of drugs have the side effect of drying out the skin.  They include, High blood pressure drugs, like diuretics and Retinoids used for acne and for other purposes.

If you notice the onset of a dry skin problem after starting a medication, talk to Burkes Parmacist or your doctor.  He or she may be able to help by changing the dose or switching the medication.

 

Dry Skin’s Link to Certain Medical Conditions

 

Sometimes, dry skin can be a sign of something going on internally.

-      as we get older skin can get drier

-      eczema and psoriasis

-      Diabetes. Fluctuations in glucose levels can lead to dehydration, and that dries the skin out. Given that diabetes can also slow healing and increase the risk of infections, it’s especially important for people with this condition to keep their skin healthy.

-      Hypothyroidism. Low levels of thyroid hormone can reduce the amount of oil produced by your skin. As a result, skin becomes dry and rough and moisturizer is unlikely to help. Hypothyroidism is usually accompanied by other symptoms, like fatigue and weight gain.

-      Malnutrition. Not getting the nutrients you need, can leave your skin dried out. One possible cause is an eating disorder.

-       Other diseases, both minor and serious, can also cause dry skin problems. Ask your Burkes Pharmacist for more advice.

 

Getting Help for Dry, Itchy Skin

 

While dry skin can be a sign of more serious health conditions, it’s usually not, regardless how horrible it feels.

So if your dry skin is making you miserable, talk to one of our pharmacists. He or she can help you identify the causes and get you the treatment you need. There are many ways we can help.