Dry Skin

Dry skin can appear at any age. From young infants to the elderly, dry skin is very common across all age groups. Symptoms tend to be worse during the winter months due to low humidity, causing water to be lost in the outermost layer of the skin. This creates worsening skin sensitivity, irritation, and itchiness – prolonged and severe symptoms can lead to scaling, cracking, and fissuring. Dry skin that is repeatedly washed can lead to further water loss and break down of the skin barrier. One of the skin’s primary functions is to act as the first line of defense against external threats (pathogens, foreign substances) by acting as a physical barrier. Once the skin barrier is compromised, then we become more susceptible to infection.

Dry skin is an important feature in atopic dermatitis (eczema). Constantly dry, itchy skin can also cause several different dermatologic conditions that arise from incessant scratching. Inflammation in the flexural surfaces of skin (anterior elbows and behind the knees) are the most common areas for eczema. Repeated flexing and extending during movement, worsened by perspiration, can stimulate burning and trigger the itch-scratch cycle. Individuals who suffer from dry skin and atopic dermatitis tend to also have asthma and allergic rhinitis, predisposing them to a lifelong sensitivity to irritants and eczema flares induced by psychological stress, allergens, and seasonal/climate changes.

Treatment options for eczema are primarily with topical creams and ointments to help calm down inflammation. Identifying triggers and restoring moisture to the skin barrier are also a priority. Some patients with more severe symptoms may benefit from occlusive dressings. Individuals with skin infections may require topical or oral antibiotics. In the most severe cases, oral immunosuppressive or biologic agents may even be considered.

Here are some important tips to follow if you have issues with dry skin:

  • Avoid frequent washing with heavily scented products.
  • Try to use mild, hypoallergenic soaps, lotions, and detergents (Vanicream, CeraVe, Cetaphil, Dove for Sensitive Skin, Tide Free & Gentle, All Free & Clear)
  • Liberally apply moisturizing lotions or creams throughout the day: The best time to moisturize is right after you step out of the shower. Pat dry first, then apply your favorite lotion or cream.
  • Maintain cool, stable temperatures in the home and avoid sweating. Consider sleeping with a humidifier running at night.
  • If experiencing uncontrollable itching, dryness, blistering, or cracking that is not resolving, then call and schedule with our office to update your treatment regimen.

By Mareah Lucio, PA