Dry skin, also known as dry skin disease, is known medically, it is estimated to affect 70% of Canadians during the winter months. Perhaps, the real number is even higher, especially when winters are as cold and dry as this one in Canada.
Xeroderma is scaly skin that is rough, flaky, and itchy. Exposure to cold and dry outdoor air dries out the skin, and then when you go inside, the central heating is also very dry.
Dry skin itself is not caused by lack of oil, but by dehydration.
Certain conditions increase your chances of having dry skin, such as low thyroid levels, kidney disease, diabetes, liver disease. If you have a pre-existing skin condition like eczema or psoriasis, your risk of dry skin is also increased.
In addition, side effects of some medications include dry skin, eg niacin, vitamin A compounds, and chemotherapy.
Good management of medical conditions and preventive use of moisturizers can certainly help. One factor that no one can control is your age, and as you age, a good skin moisturizer is essential.
This is the upper layer of skin, or the “horny layer,” that is most associated with dry skin. It is composed of dead skin cells, flattened keratinocytes and lipids. When lipid levels drop (most notably ingredients called ceramides), skin integrity is compromised and can lead to dryness. Some moisturizers actually contain ceramides to replace those that have been lost.
Any dry skin treatment is aimed at reducing the feeling of rough, scaly skin and adding moisture to the skin. There are many options for lotions, creams, and even ointments. Creams and lotions have a more aesthetic feel, but are easier to remove. Conversely, although ointments can feel greasy, they can “lock in” moisture.
Ideally, the choice should be a favorite moisturizer and that will give it a better chance of being used more often. Also remember that moisturizer needs to be applied when the skin is still damp after bathing or in the shower when it is easier for the skin to retain moisture.
It’s best to avoid alcohol-based products like gels. Instead, opt for comparable ice cream products. Fragrances and artificial ingredients can increase irritation in dry skin that is already prone to irritation. Unscented emollients are preferred and should be applied in multiple layers three or four times daily.
Household humidity should be between 40 and 50% and a humidifier may be needed to achieve this, but remember to keep it clean. And, of course make sure your personal water intake is adequate; Drinking water is the best.
Bathing and showering should be quick and with warm, not very hot, water. Fragrance or scented soaps can irritate the skin, as can ingredients like lanolin, propylene glycol, vitamin E, and aloe.
After washing (this also applies to your hands!) Pat skin dry rather than rub vigorously. You want to keep it clean, but without causing dryness or damage to your skin. Protect your skin any time you come into contact with something potentially damaging, so when you go outside, wear gloves and a scarf, apply sunscreen lip balm, and wear rubber gloves to protect your skin. household chores such as washing dishes.
With dry skin, itchiness and damage are more likely to occur. Topical products containing oatmeal can relieve irritation, but an antihistamine to relieve itching or even a steroid cream to apply topically may be necessary. Scratching the skin can cause more damage, especially during the winter months!