Dry Skin Care

Treating and preventing itchy skin

Dry, itchy skin is often a temporary condition, but if ignored, it may develop into a lifelong complication. So it's necessary to understand the condition and its causes, as well as ways to avoid, prevent and treat it.

Causes include:

  • The Age Factor. With age, the skin gradually becomes drier, as the oil-producing glands become less active.
  • The Sex Factor. A woman's skin tends to become drier post-menopause, while a man's skin oil production doesn't decrease as much.
  • The Hereditary Factor. Sometimes, dry skin conditions like ichthyosis may be inherited.
  • The Metabolic Factor. Underactive thyroid gland conditions, or excessive and sudden weight loss can cause dry skin.
  • The Environmental Factor. Excessive exposure to the sun dries the skin. Damage from the ultraviolet radiation occurs deep within the dermis. Exposure to extreme weather conditions, even intermittently can dry out the skin as well. Lastly, for most people the skin becomes drier in winter, when both temperature and humidity levels are low.
  • The On-Site Factor. Constant exposure to air conditioning and central heating can dehydrate the skin.
  • The Behavioral Factor. Habits which include frequent, prolonged baths, use of very hot water or swimming in highly chlorinated water or heated pools dries the skin.
  • The Lifestyle Factor. Constant use of popular, perfumed soaps and detergents, deodorants, anti-bacterial soaps and washes, shampoos with colorants all affect the skin. Excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeine, use of some prescription drugs and use of excess popular make-up without proper cleaning are other factors.
  • The Skin Disease Factor. Other factors may include skin diseases and the aftermath of dehydration.

How to Avoid

Dry skin is nature's way of warning us that the protective layers of the skin have been stripped away. Fortunately, it can be avoided by controlling the above factors and taking good care of your skin.

Natural prevention and skin care regimen:

  • Take lukewarm baths, or better yet, take showers.
  • Limit bathing duration to 5 to10 minutes.
  • Gently pat your skin dry.
  • Apply moisturizers after a bath, preferably having natural ingredients like zinc.
  • Use moisturizing body soap and hand soap, or water-miscible emollient, containing added oils and fats.
  • Use heavier creams and lotions during winter months.
  • Try to avoid extreme cold.
  • Protect your skin from the sun with a sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater.
  • Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
  • For clothes and furnishings, use natural fabrics that breathe.
  • Use cosmetics that contain moisturizers or natural formulations.

Medical Treatments

For very dry skin, over-the-counter creams are available. They contain lactic acid or urea formulations to relieve itchiness. For more serious conditions, your dermatologist will prescribe medicated creams and ointments, containing hydrocortisone. It's best to avoid steroid creams, as they may lead to other complications.

When dry, itchy skin gets infected, it needs antibiotics and astringent dressing.

Natural Treatments

Whenever you notice your skin is becoming dry, moisturize and use natural cleansers. Use natural packs of mud and neem extracts.

How to Relieve the Itch of Dry Skin

Use skin-softening humectants to promote the retention of moisture. When used together with moisturizers, they restore the skin's natural ability to hydrate itself. Select a moisturizer that is hypoallergenic, and use it three or four times a day. You can also use topical creams or lotions.

Using a humidifier will also help relieve some itchiness.

By Sangeeta Deogawanka