Dry skin is a common problem and usually gets worse in winter when the humidity and air temperature are lower. Winter itch occurs in people of all ages, with or without serious skin problems, but especially when you’re over 60.
As you age, the lack of fat in your skin’s surface layer causes it to dry and lose elasticity. Harsh bath soaps, detergents, and cleaning products can irritate and dry your skin which may lead to the formation of eczema or allergies.
What to look for
We all know what dry skin looks like. As your skin loses moisture it begins to form fine lines and becomes red, rough or flaky. In advanced cases, this can lead to cracking that may become infected if it isn’t treated.
It is most common on the hands and feet but can also occur anywhere on the body. If your skin is extremely dry or has red bumps, it’s a good idea to consult your dermatologist or family doctor.
Severely dry skin may be the result of a genetic disease or atopic dermatitis such as eczema. Other causes could be a hormonal imbalance or a slow thyroid gland that can also make your hair dry and lifeless.
When is dry skin a concern?
As mentioned, your symptoms may be the result of a medical condition. For example, skin redness or a rash could be allergic contact dermatitis or fungal infection of the skin like tinea which includes ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch. It can also be the result of diabetes, hypothyroidism, kidney disease, or malnutrition.
Itching of the skin
Dry skin often causes itching, which is annoying and may interfere with sleep or your daily activities. Constant rubbing or scratching may harden your skin or make it rough (lichenification).
Once your skin becomes dry or thickened, especially in areas subject to chronic trauma (eg. hands and feet), you have to be careful that it doesn’t develop painful cracks that could become infected.
Excessive scratching will exacerbate dermatitis once your skin becomes inflamed. Scaly red patches, flakiness, or a rash that causes leg, arm, or trunk itching may be a form of nummular eczema.
If a yellow crust or pus develops see a dermatologist or general doctor immediately because it could indicate a bacterial infection. Treatment will most likely require specific antibiotic therapy. Only use medications when they are prescribed by a doctor.
Itching is also a symptom of liver disease or leukemia.
Why does our skin get dry?
The most common reason for skin dryness is an environmental factor such as cold weather or prolonged exposure to central heating.
But, just because your skin gets dry doesn’t mean it will become a chronic problem. It usually occurs when a shortage of natural oils in the outer layer of the skin causes a loss of fluid in the skin. This may be caused by using harsh soaps and excessive bathing.
Dry skin affects people of all ages but it is most common in people over the age of 60.
What are the symptoms?
When the skin becomes extremely dry it may develop small cracks or possibly even a rash. But it’s most noticeable when you begin to experience intense itching or skin flaking.
Symptoms are usually worst during the cold months of winter when the humidity is low due to wind and frigid temperatures. It often affects older people on the legs or feet as a result of diabetes which puts them at risk of infection if the skin breaks.
What can you do to avoid skin dryness?
First, it’s important to identify the cause of your dry skin to determine the best way to treat it. If you know you have eczema or psoriasis you can use a medicated moisturizer specially designed to alleviate those conditions or one formulated for sensitive skin if you’re prone to skin allergies.
Proper bathing and nurturing can significantly improve most temporary dry skin conditions. Don’t shower or bathe for longer than about 10 minutes and only once in a 24-hour period. A quick shower is usually better for your skin than taking a long bath.
Hot water may feel relaxing, but it will also dry your body’s natural oils and worsen your condition. Take a bath or shower with warm to tepid water instead. Use mild soaps or bath oils, which do not destroy the superficial layer of skin lipids.
For the most effective hydration, apply bath oil to your skin directly after a shower or bath while it’s still slightly wet. Moisturizer should be liberally applied again during the day and at night when possible, particularly in those areas of the skin prone to dryness (extremities) and in places where the skin is itchy.
Do you have this problem? How have you dealt with it. Please leave a comment below.