Dry skin is common and may occur at any age. The signs of dry skin are rough, scaly and itchy skin. Sometimes the skin cracks and bleeds when it is excessively dry. The lips may become so dry it is painful to eat. The skin on the feet, especially the heels, may become so dry that painful fissures and cracks form. Dry skin occurs when the skin loses too much water or oil. Environmental factors like hot and cold weather and low humidity may cause and/or worsen dry skin. Some people are more prone to dry skin such as children with eczema or atopic dermatitis. Adults commonly develop dry skin more easily as the skin gets thinner over time.
Treating dry skin may be very helpful in minimizing the itch that often goes along with dry skin. To start with, water can both IMPROVE and WORSEN dry skin! Soaking in a warm, not hot, bath is better for dry skin than taking a hot shower. Soaking for up to 20 minutes in the warm bath allows the water to sink into the upper layers of the skin (stratum corneum). Once the upper layer of skin or the stratum corneum is fully saturated with water it is essential to trap that water in with a greasy moisturizer (like Cetaphil Cream, CeraVe Cream, Vanicream, Neutrogena Body Oil or even plain Vaseline). It is best to apply the cream within a minute or two in a steam-filled room, after bathing. A hot shower may remove the natural oils on the skin more quickly. In addition, the water that comes from the shower bounces off the skin and is less likely to saturate and fully hydrate the skin like a bath.
Avoiding irritating soaps will also minimize dry skin. A good soap is one that has a pH that is around 5 or 6 (Cetaphil, Vanicream, CeraVe Soaps). Soap like Ivory, Baby Shampoo’s, Antibacterial Soaps are irritating to the skin and may cause dryness, irritation and even itching.