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Dry skin care essential during winter

Dr. Jim Surrell

Many of us will notice that our skin tends to be dryer in the winter and this often give us the symptoms of our skin being too dry.

Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water and oil. Dry skin is common and can affect anyone at any age. Symptoms of dry skin may include any and all of the following.

Scaling, flaking, or peeling skin, skin that feels rough, skin tightness, especially after bathing, skin feeling itchy, and cracks in the skin that cause discomfort and may also bleed. We can get dry skin anywhere on our body but it is reported to most commonly show up on the hands, feet, arms, and lower legs.

There are multiple causes of dry skin and, if we are noting personal dry skin symptoms, we need to be aware of the following possible causes of dry skin. Dry skin may occur any time of the year but is generally noted to be more common in our geographic area during the winter months. Following is a list of the most common causes of dry skin and our dry skin may be caused by any one or more of the following.

Cold, dry winter air, our frequently running furnaces that heat the air and also remove moisture, taking long hot baths or showers very frequently, washing one’s hands too often, medical skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis, and it may also be caused by a skin reaction to some topical or oral medications. Further, as a normal part of the aging process, our skin tends to get thinner and may produce less natural oil.

The following dry skin treatment information is from the National Library of Medicine, with these specific recommendations provided by the American College of Dermatology.

You can minimize any dry skin symptoms by restoring moisture to your skin. It is recommended that you moisturize your skin with an ointment, cream, or lotion 2 to 3 times a day, or as often as your skin feels too dry. Moisturizers also help lock in moisture. After you bathe, gently pat your skin dry with your towel and then apply your moisturizer. Avoid taking excessively long very hot baths or showers. Bath no more than once a day.

Further help to relieve dry skin may be provided by the following recommendations. Instead of regular soap, try using gentle skin cleansers or soap with added moisturizers. Only use soap or cleansers on your face, underarms, genital areas, hands, and feet. Avoid scrubbing your skin. Wear soft, comfortable clothing next to your skin. Avoid clothing with rough fabrics. Drink plenty of water. If approved by your health care provider, you may wish to try some of the over-the-counter mild cortisone creams or lotions for a short time if your skin is inflamed.

Know that it is very important to contact your health care provider if you are experiencing any of the following persistent and potentially more serious symptoms of dry skin. 1. Your skin feels very itchy even though you do not see a visible rash. 2. Your skin dryness and itching keeps you from sleeping. 3. You have any open cuts or sores from scratching your dry skin. 4. Your dry skin symptoms persist even though you reduced excess skin washing and applied skin moisturizers. 5. You have a personal or family history of skin cancer.

The bottom line suggestions for us to avoid dry skin problems are to avoid excess skin washing and to use skin moisturizers. If your symptoms persist and are very bothersome to you, contact your health care provider for further assessment and recommendations.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.