By Rachel Frederickson, PA-C
Excessive bathing, use of products that dry out the skin, harsh environmental causes, and normal skin aging all contribute to dry skin. Our high desert climate can also leave skin irritated and itchy. Colorado has an average daily relative humidity of 50%, which can drop down to as low as 34% during winter months. With all these factors, dry skin is a common condition among our patients.
Here are the questions my patients often ask about dry skin and my advice for you.
How can showering and bathing cause dry skin?
Long, hot showers and baths can dry out the skin by depleting the skin’s natural oils. Instead, take 5-10 minute warm showers or baths. Also, avoid perfumed and antibacterial soaps and choose gentle, unscented moisturizing cleansers. Great options for sensitive skin cleansers include Aveeno Moisturizing Bar for Dry Skin, Vanicream Cleansing Bar, CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, and Desert Essence Organics Fragrance-Free Body Wash.
Will moisturizing help dry skin?
Yes, especially if you time it right. Apply a moisturizer as soon as possible after a bath or shower, when your skin is still damp. This will help to lock in the water that your skin absorbs when you bathe. If you apply a good moisturizing cream while your skin is still damp, this will help your skin retain its natural oils and improve your skin’s hydration.
The best moisturizers for dry skin are oil-based and thicker than lotions. Our top picks for moisturizers contain ceramides, which are lipid molecules that form a protective layer that holds skin cells together, helping the skin retain moisture. CeraVe Cream and Cetaphil Restoraderm Moisturizer are two easy to find options at your local pharmacy.
A humidifier can help provide more moisture in the air, preventing your skin from drying out. If you have a whole-house humidifier, make sure your humidifier pad doesn’t need to be changed. Place a cool-mist humidifier in your bedroom with the door closed so the moist air doesn’t leave the room while you sleep.
What can help dry, chapped lips?
For dry, chapped, irritated lips, it is best to stay away from over the counter ‘medicated’ lip balms, which can actually worsen the problem. Aquaphor or Vaseline Original Lip Therapy (unflavored) are the best products to use day and night on sensitive lips.
My hands seem to suffer from dry skin, especially in the winter. What can I do about this?
Avoid washing your hands in hot water and use a gentle cleanser such as CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser, Neutrogena Extra Gentle Cleanser, and Avalon Organics Glycerin Hand Soap. Moisturize after every hand washing. Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream and Cetaphil Therapeutic Hand Cream are two moisturizers specifically made for dry, sensitive hands.
If you have dry, cracked hands, it is extremely important to wear gloves when washing dishes and doing household cleaning. It may seem like an inconvenience, but a good rule is that if a product is too harsh to apply to facial skin, it is too harsh for chapped hands. During winter months, wearing gloves whenever you go outdoors will help prevent dry hands.
When is it time to see a skin specialist?
- If your dry skin is severe and the itching disrupts your sleep.
- If the dryness affects your whole body or proper skincare techniques (outlined above) are not improving the problem.
- If your skin becomes red, bumpy, scaly, or irritated it is likely a rash that requires treatment from a dermatologist.
- If your dry skin is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, excessive fatigue, weight loss, rashes, or changes in urinary or bowel habits.
Rachel Frederickson, PA-C is an experienced dermatology physician assistant who treats a range of medical skin conditions. She is Vanguard’s expert on allergic contact dermatitis, and she also takes care of medical dermatology in patients of all ages. Rachel sees patients in the Briargate office in Colorado Springs.
Vanguard Skin Specialists began as a Colorado Springs dermatology practice and now has an additional office in Canon City, Pueblo, and Woodland Park. Vanguard specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, and also offers general dermatology, plastic surgery, and aesthetic medicine.