Often times during the week in a consultation I get asked about dry skin. Dry skin is a very common condition that is characterized by decreased amounts of water in the top layers of the skin. Some of the symptoms of dry skin also include red, irritated, cracked or flaky skin. Itching is one of the most common symptoms of dry skin and it is very hard to resist the sensation to scratch. Dry skin is more common in the colder months than in the summer months, and more common in older mature skin than younger skin. Often times dry skin is commonly associated with skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and medical conditions like hypothyroidism.
The epidermis which is the top layer of the skin has a lipid (fat) layer that keeps the water within the skin. When our natural oils are stripped from the skin it leads to water loss leading to dryness. Another name for dry skin is xerosis. Severely dry skin can lead to painful cracks in the skin that can also make the skin prone to infections (xerodermatitis).
Dry skin can sometimes be seasonal lasting for weeks to months and sometimes it is a more chronic condition especially in the elderly.
If you have dry skin, you should avoid hot, long baths. Furthermore, avoid strong anti-bacterial soaps; instead, use milder non-scented soaps. A moisturizer/emollient applied to the skin immediately after a shower is also beneficial. Seek medical advice especially if the skin looks cracked, irritated or infected. Your physician may decided to treat it with topical steroids or antibiotic ointments.