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Dry skin is one of the most common reasons why people seek medical treatment. The treatment of dry skin and its irritating symptoms often takes lifestyle changes, time and lots of moisture.

Also known as "xerosis," dry skin is a dermatological condition. While some are predisposed to this condition, others develop irritated skin through disease, living conditions, medications or simple exposure.

SYMPTOMS
White, scaly patches of skin
Itching skin
Irritated, raw, red skin
Small plaques
Pink or violet colored target shaped circles
Flaking skin
Cracks in skin, especially on hands and feet
Red, swollen areas around joints
Night itch on legs or arms
"Tight" feeling on arms


CAUSES
Lack of moisture, lifestyle changes and seasonal allergies are the most common causes of dry skin. With age or illness, dry skin tends to occur more frequently and in larger areas.

WATER. Not drinking or taking in enough water can cause dehydration, which in turn, affects your skin, especially in colder climates, where humidity levels are difficult to regulate.

NOT DRESSING appropriately or covering exposed skin areas during cold or hot weather can cause dry, red, cracked and irritated skin.

HOT SHOWERS and baths may feel great, but they work against dry skin by opening pores. Too many hot showers or baths will actually give you dry skin.

SOAPS that do not contain fatty materials are a common cause of irritated skin. Deodorant soaps are the most to blame for large areas of dry skin on legs and arms and on the very young and old.

FABRIC softeners are often a common irritant to skin. Allergic reactions and the mix of chemicals used in fabric softeners can contribute to irritated skin.

ALLERGIC REACTIONS to soaps, conditioners, detergents and colorings can cause localized areas of dry patches.

SKIN BY AGE

*0-6 Years
Newborns very often have tender, supple skin that is easily irritated by chemicals, food and a changes in environment. The very young often suffer dehydration of the skin because it is more vulnerable to changes. Covering a young child's skin to protect against sun, wind and cold is the easiest preventative measure you can take.

Newborns often acquire dry skin by way of bathing, cradle cap and exposure. Newborns can be covered in moisturizers specially formulated for their age after bathing and before going to bed. Avoid using harsh detergents, bath soaps and fabric conditioners. Excessive use of talc based products can also dry out a small child's delicate skin.

*7-12 years
Young children are most vulnerable to dry skin due to environmental conditions. Lack of humidity, cold and sun are responsible for most episodes of dry skin. Providing adequate moisture and covering prevents most common problems. Moisturising soaps and creams can be used on troublesome areas, though it's usually not necessary.

*13-20
This age group is far more likely to suffer oily skin, than dry. Winter months can bring shortlived bouts of cracked, irritated skin, which can be treated through rehydration and lotions. Acne creams and treatments are a common cause of dry patches of skin in teenagers. Avoid using alcohol based cleansers and wipes and instead, splash water on the face once or twice daily.

*21-40 Years
Dry skin begins to appear more frequently with age. Cold outside air, heated air and a decrease in humidity frequently cause dry, itchy legs and patches of dry skin on joint areas and around the face. Lotions, creams, humidity monitoring and rehydration all work well to combat the effects of irritated skin.

*41-65
Little changes in humidity and weather make a big difference in this age group. Loss of moisture most often causes cracked and peeling skin, which then becomes red, inflamed and infected. Fatty soaps, moisturizers and humidifiers should all be used regularly.

*ELDERLY
Dry skin can be dangerous in the elderly. Cracked, raw skin easily becomes infected. Even something as innocent as a forced air furnace or air conditioning unit can be responsible for dry skin areas. The elderly should apply moisturizing creams and lotions at least twice daily, and constantly monitor humidity levels. Overly dry, irritated and cracked skin using requires prescription medication. See your doctor if over-the-counter remedies fail to work.


SOLUTIONS AND TREATMENTS

HUMIDIFIERS are a helpful, natural way to promote healthy skin. Change water daily and place the humidifier in a central location.

SUPER-FATTY SOAPS used once daily can help to keep moisture in the skin, especially in those over the age of 40.

AIR DRYING clothing will not only add moisture to the air, but also prevent your skin from being exposed to needless chemicals.

LOTIONS and moisturizers used after bathing or showering will work at "trapping" moisture in the skin. Blot skin lightly after bathing (do not dry completely), and top with a moisturising cream or lotion. Cocoa butter, glycerin and heavy, fatty creams work best.

WATCH HUMIDITY levels. When they drop, the air will feel dry. Boil a small amount of water on the stove or turn on the humidifier to help regulate internal humidity levels.

ANTI-INFLAMMATORY lotions (such as cortisone creams) can help to bring down swelling and reduce dry skin irritation.

EVENING PRIMROSE OIL helps to promote healthy skin, hair and nails. Two applications a day should produce results within 2 months.

BLACK CURRANT OIL, taken in doses of 500 milligrams, twice daily, is an economical remedy for dry skin, as well. Results will take longer, but time and a small investment may make your skin shinier and healthier. This not medically proven.