Dry skin is an uncomfortable condition that is usually characterised initially by dryness of the skin, and later by scaling, itching, cracking and peeling of the skin. It occurs for several different reasons. Some people may have naturally dry skin which can worsen if not taken care of properly. Others who have oily skin may also develop dry skin from time to time.
Dry skin can develop on any part of your body but it usually affects your hands, arms and legs- especially areas such as the elbows, knees and heels. Often, changes to your lifestyle and effective over-the-counter moisturisers such as Suu Balm™ along with constant moisturising are all you need to treat dry skin. However, if those treatments do not work, consult with your doctor.
The exposure to harsh weather conditions such as hot, humid and dry weather or even the cold winter weather, hot water and certain chemicals may cause your skin to dry out. This is why, it is important to always moisturise and be sure you read the labels of any skincare or cosmetics you are putting on your skin. Dry skin can also be a result of underlying medical conditions such as dermatitis or psoriasis.
Dermatitis is the medical term for extremely dry skin. There are several different types of dermatitis such as:
- Irritant Contact Dermatitis
- Allergic Contact Dermatitis
- Seborrheic Dermatitis
- Atopic Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is a condition which develops when your skin reacts to something it touches, causing an inflammation. There are broadly two types, irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.
Irritant contact dermatitis can occur when your skin is exposed to an irritating chemical agent, such as bleach, perfumes or detergents.
Allergic contact dermatitis can develop when your skin is exposed to a substance you are allergic to, such as nickel in jewelry.
Seborrheic dermatitis occurs when your skin produces too much oil. It results in a red and scaly rash and this usually appears on your scalp. This type of dermatitis is commonly seen in infants.
Atopic dermatitis or more commonly known as eczema is a chronic skin condition that causes dry scaly, red patches to appear on your skin. It is also common among young children.
Other conditions such as psoriasis, varicose veins and type 2 diabetes can also cause your skin to dry out.
RISK FACTORS FOR DRY SKIN
Dry skin can affect just about anyone! But some risk factors increase your chances of developing dry skin. The following are some factors you should look out for:
- Age: Older adults are more likely to develop dry skin. This is because as you age, your pores naturally produce less oil, which is part of the skin’s natural defence against drying out, hence increasing your risk of dry skin.
- Medical history: Your chances of developing eczema or allergic contact dermatitis increases if you have a history of either of these conditions or other allergic diseases in your family (conditions such as asthma or hay-fever).
- Season: Dry skin is more common during the fall and winter months, when humidity levels are relatively low. In the summer, higher levels of humidity help stop your skin from drying out. This does not mean you should skip moisturising in the summer, though!
- Environment: The weather outside is only one consideration; the environment in which you work or live is another; for example, people living in tropical countries, in spite of the humidity outside, often live and work in highly air-conditioned, dry, environments, which can be very drying for the skin. Similarly, people in colder climates, during winter months may increase their risk by overheating their homes, creating a very dry atmosphere which again predisposes to dry skin.
- Bathing habits: Bathing too frequently, or bathing with very hot water, increases your susceptibility to dry skin. Use of soaps, or washes with soap like ingredients such as Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) increases the risk of dry skin, as these ingredients wash away the natural oils that help keep the skin moist.
TREATMENT FOR DRY SKIN
For the simplest cases of dry skin, you can manage this on your own, following two simple strategies:
- Try to reduce exposure to things or environments that are drying out your skin
- Moisturise regularly; if your skin is itchy, then you should choose a moisturiser that has added itch relief
However, if within 1-2 weeks of adopting these strategies your dry skin isn’t improving, or is getting worse, then you should go to the doctor to confirm your diagnosis – there may be something more than simple dry skin going on.
Your doctor will then recommend a suitable treatment plan depending on the cause of your dry skin and the severity of it. If your condition is serious or if your doctor feels it is necessary, they may refer you to a dermatologist or skin specialist. Otherwise, some changes to your lifestyle, over-the-counter itch-relieving moisturising creams such as Suu Balm™ should be sufficient to treat your symptoms.
Simple changes to your daily activities and lifestyle can help to prevent and relieve dry skin. Try to:
- Avoid using hot water to bathe or shower. Try using lukewarm water instead.
- Keep your shower time to less than 10 minutes each time as prolonged time in the shower strips your skin of its natural moisture.
- Use a moisturising soap when you bathe or shower.
- Avoid shower gels, body washes that contain SLS and/or SLES, and avoid using soaps; all of these strip the natural oils from the skin’s surface.
- Apply an itch-relieving moisturiser such as Suu Balm™ immediately after bathing or showering.
- Gently pat, rather than rub, wet skin dry with a soft towel.
- Avoid scratching or scrubbing dry skin patches. Break your-itch-scratch cycle with creams such as Suu Balm™ which has been clinically proven to relieve itch in under 5 minutes!
- Use a humidifier in your home if the air is very dry
- Always hydrate yourself! Drink plenty of water daily. (At least 8 glasses, if not more!)
- It’s also important to choose the right kind of moisturiser for your skin type. Make sure you read the labels and ingredient lists before applying any cosmetics or skincare product on your skin.
OUTLOOK FOR DRY SKIN
If you experience occasional dry skin, usually you can prevent and treat it by making simple changes to your lifestyle as well as over-the-counter itch-relieving moisturisers such as Suu Balm™. If you develop severe dry skin, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
If left untreated, dermatitis can get worse. The longer the skin is dry, the more likely it is to get itchy. When you scratch an itch, it actually intensifies the itch, which makes you want to scratch it even more – this is known as the itch-scratch cycle. In the longer term, this can make your dry skin condition much more complicated, and much harder to manage: scratching can tear the skin, risking skin infections, which often require antibiotics to treat, and in the longer run, scratching can lead to thickening of the skin, which can be disfiguring and a source of much distress, especially when it is in readily visible parts of the body.
This is why it is important to take action early. Early detection and treatment will help you to avoid these longer-term complications, feel comfortable sooner and may also prevent the condition from worsening. Given this, you can continue to enjoy and full, active and fulfilling life, freed from the irritation of dry and itchy skin!