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Dry skin - self-care

  • Description
    • Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water and oil. Dry skin is common and can affect anyone at any age.

      Symptoms of dry skin include:

      • Scaling, flaking, or peeling skin
      • Skin that feels rough
      • Skin tightness, especially after bathing
      • Itching
      • Cracks in the skin that may bleed

      You can get dry skin anywhere on your body. But it commonly shows up on the hands, feet, arms, and lower legs.

  • Alternative names
    • Skin - dry; Winter itch; Xerosis; Xerosis cutis

  • Causes
    • Dry skin can be caused by:

      • Cold, dry winter air
      • Furnaces that heat the air and remove moisture
      • Hot, dry air in desert environments
      • Air conditioners that cool the air and remove moisture
      • Taking long, hot baths or showers frequently
      • Washing your hands often
      • Some soaps and detergents
      • Skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis
      • Certain medicines (both topical and oral)
      • Aging, during which skin gets thinner and produces less natural oil
  • Home Care
    • You can ease dry skin by restoring moisture to your skin.

      • Moisturize your skin with an ointment, cream, or lotion 2 to 3 times a day, or as often as needed.
      • Moisturizers help lock in moisture, so they work best on damp skin. After you bathe, pat skin dry then apply your moisturizer.
      • Avoid skin care products and soaps that contain alcohol, fragrances, dyes, or other chemicals.
      • Take short, warm baths or showers. Limit your time to 5 to 10 minutes. Avoid taking hot baths or showers.
      • Bathe only once a day.
      • Instead of regular soap, try using gentle skin cleansers or soap with added moisturizers.
      • Only use soap or cleansers on your face, underarms, genital areas, hands, and feet.
      • Avoid scrubbing your skin.
      • Shave right after bathing, when hair is soft.
      • Wear soft, comfortable clothing next to your skin. Avoid rough fabrics like wool.
      • Wash clothes with detergents that are free of dyes or fragrances.
      • Drink plenty of water.
      • Ease itchy skin by applying a cool compress to irritated areas.
      • Try over-the-counter cortisone creams or lotions if your skin is inflamed.
      • Look for moisturizers that contain ceramides.
  • When to Call the Doctor
    • Call your doctor if:

      • You feel itchy without a visible rash
      • Dryness and itching keep you from sleeping
      • You have open cuts or sores from scratching
      • Self-care tips do not relieve your dryness and itching
  • References
    • Habif TP. Atopic dermatitis. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016: chap 5.

      Lim HW. Eczemas, photodermatoses, papulosquamous (including fungal) diseases, and figurate erythemas. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016: chap 438.