1. Use a humidifier. Consistent use of a humidifier will prevent the skin’s moisture from evaporating.
2. Limit your shower to less than 10 minutes, and minimize the amount of heat used in your shower. Heat feels great on a cold, snowy day, but it can also strip your skin of its natural oils, which can cause it to lose moisture. One of our favorite products to replenish skin’s moisture is ZO Skin Health’s Correcting Hand and Body Scrub (available in our office). This can be massaged into dry skin, then rinsed with warm water in the shower. It contains oils and hydrators, and has a luxurious feel that leaves the skin hydrated. Stop in and ask to sample this on your hands!
3. Avoid harsh washcloths, loofahs, and body brushes, as they can damage dry skin. Avoid vigorous rubbing of wet skin with towels after the shower, too. Instead, pat the skin dry or lightly blot the skin with a towel.
4. Apply moisturizer to the skin within two minutes of exiting the shower. Doing so will help lock in the skin’s moisture before it has a chance to evaporate.
5. Avoid scratching. Scratching dry skin will further damage the skin, and can also create more circulation to the area, which in turn can allow histamines to flow into the skin’s circulation and increase itching. Instead, use cool compresses, moisturizers, and antihistamine creams, if needed. If needed, over-the-counter Zyrtec (or its generic, cetirizine 10 mg) can be taken by adults orally, once daily, to minimize itching.
6. Use fragrance-free detergents, avoid fabric softeners, and consider double-rinsing clothes if you have skin sensitivity.
7. Avoid scratchy clothes, such as those made of wool and wool blends. If you can’t give up your favorite wool sweater, add a soft layer between the skin and the wool, to keep the wool from coming into contact with the skin.
8. Avoid harsh or scented soaps. Many antibacterial soaps strip the skin of its natural moisture barrier. Scented soaps are often skin irritants, as well. Instead, use soap-free cleansers such as Cetaphil, or moisturizing soaps such as Basis, Dove, or Olay.
9. Use a quality moisturizer. We recommend ZO Skin Health’s “Body Emulsion Plus” (available in our office), or over-the-counter Vanicream for dry skin. Harvard Medical School has a great description of the differences in types of moisturizers:
“Skin moisturizers, which rehydrate the top layer of skin cells and seal in the moisture, are the first step in combating dry skin. They contain three main types of ingredients. Humectants, which help attract moisture, include ceramides (pronounced ser-A-mids), glycerin, sorbitol, hyaluronic acid, and lecithin. Another set of ingredients — for example, petrolatum (petroleum jelly), silicone, lanolin, and mineral oil — helps seal that moisture within the skin. Emollients, such as linoleic, linoleic, and lauric acids, smooth skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells.
In general, the thicker and greasier a moisturizer, the more effective it will be. Some of the most effective (and least expensive) are petroleum jelly and moisturizing oils (such as mineral oil). Because they contain no water, they’re best used while the skin is still damp from bathing, to seal in the moisture. Other moisturizers contain water as well as oil, in varying proportions. These are less greasy and may be more cosmetically appealing than petroleum jelly or oils.”
(Harvard Medical School. “Nine Ways to Banish Dry Skin.” Healthbeat. Harvard Health Publishing, Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/9-ways-to-banish-dry-skin.)
10. Avoid products with unnecessary additives, which can be potential triggers for skin sensitivity. Some patients use at-home remedies for dry skin, including coconut oil, olive oil, and gentle shower scrubs made from sugar and olive oil, to gently exfoliate dry skin.
11. For severely dry skin, lactic acid creams such as over-the-counter AmLactin can be used. Consider covering hands with gloves during the night for additional moisture
12. Be sure to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water, and consume water-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables
13. For problematic skin that doesn’t heal, consult your physician.