Pharmacist Tips: Remedy Your Dry Skin
What is Dry skin?
Dry skin (Xerosis) affects us all at some time but is often worse during the cooler months. This can be due to low humidity and the skin being further dried out by factors such as air-conditioning, electric blankets and heaters. Then add in a nice long hot shower or bath that are so enjoyable on a cold day and voila … dry itchy skin.
Dry skin can range from a mild condition to a more severe condition that persists and worsens. When the surface of the skin loses moisture, fine cracks appear in the skin – these cracks, if left untreated, can form deep fissures and bleed. Dry skin also causes itching, which may be severe and lead to scratching and picking at the skin which may result in infection of the skin. Some factors, for example increasing age, zinc deficiency, diabetic neuropathy and underactive thyroid, increase the risk of dry skin, as do some medications.
How can dry skin be prevented or managed?
The first very important piece of advice we give to people is to avoid soap and soap products (eg shower gels) for washing – these strip the skin of its natural protective oils and leave it prone to drying out. Instead, use a soap free wash – there are many different options available in many different forms (bars, washes, bath soaks) – ask our pharmacist for the most suitable product for your skin.
Next, we recommend a suitable emollient or moisturiser. An emollient prevents the movement of water out of the skin by placing a barrier between the skin and the environment – these act to soften the skin, restore the impaired barrier function of the skin, and reduce the itch of dry skin. Emollients are available in a range of formulations – creams, ointments, lotions, soap substitutes including shampoos and gels, and bath oils. Moisturisers are a combination of emollients with humectants. Humectants work to increase the hydration and elasticity of the skin and include agents such as lactic acid, urea and glycerine. Ask our pharmacist for the best choice of product for your skin.
- Apply liberally and frequently, every four hours or at least 2-4 times a day
- Use during and after bathing to help retain the moisture in the skin: use when washing (eg soap substitute), then dry the skin gently, leaving it slightly moist before applying the leave-on emollient (eg cream, ointment, oil)
- Smooth gently onto the skin – do not rub vigorously as rubbing will stimulate circulation, generate heat and make the skin feel itchier
And one last piece of advice – as lovely as long, hot showers and baths are – please turn down the temperature a bit, to give your skin a little extra TLC !
Suzanne is our Professional Care Pharmacist, with special interest in skin conditions and respiratory disease. She is heading up our therapeutic skin clinic in September – for more details, please visit our Facebook Page.