Although dry and irritated skin is more common during cold and low humidity climates, some degree of dryness may occur in regardless of season in some people especially as one ages. If not taken care of, your skin becomes drier day-by-day, leading to inflammation of the skin, causing redness and itch. Emollients are moisturizing skin care products that help maintain water in the outer layer of the skin by covering it with a protective film, thus “trapping moisture in the skin”.
Here are a Few Things that You Need to Know when Choosing a Moisturizer:
- Choose a bland, non-perfumed, hypoallergenic emollient to reduce any chances of developing irritation or an allergic reaction.
- The choice of emollient also depends on the area of the body where the emollient needs to be applied and the degree of dryness and scaling of the skin. Generally, the greasier the emollient, the better it is in holding water within the skin. These include:
Lotions spread easily and give a cooling effect, but are not very effective in moisturizing very dry skin. These are useful for hairy areas such as the scalp, or for mild dryness over the face, trunk and limbs.
Creams are more moisturizing and should be used when the face, trunk and limbs become drier. They usually feel light and cool on the skin and people find them more acceptable for use during the day. They contain a mixture of fat and water, and contain preservatives.
Ointments are often stiff and greasy but are very effective in holding water in the skin. Some people find them cosmetically unacceptable especially over the face but they are useful for very dry and thickened skin. They also do not contain preservatives so are ideal for those reacting to preservatives.
- Frequent and liberal application of emollients is necessary, so your own preference is an important factor. Choose one that you will be comfortable and willing to applying as frequently as needed. An emollient suitable for one person may not necessarily be best for another.
Other Ways to Protect and Care for Dry Skin:
- Keep baths and showers brief between 5 and 10 minutes and avoid hot water. Although long, hot baths or showers are relaxing and comfortable, the skin is left less hydrated due to increased evaporation. It is best to apply the emollient immediately after a bath so that more moisture is “locked-in”.
- Avoid soaps and bubble baths. These remove the natural oils of the skin thus disrupting the skin’s barrier function. Instead, use soap substitutes, which have cleansing properties and are non-drying.
- Avoid vigorous scrubbing or rubbing with a towel during or after your bath. Rubbing the skin disrupts the barrier function of the skin and causes irritation.
When is the Time to See a Doctor?
When the skin becomes seriously dry, the skin may become cracked and inflamed resulting in redness and itchiness known as “dermatitis”. When dermatitis is present, your dermatologist may prescribe a topical steroid cream or ointment to reduce inflammation. Nevertheless, emollients should continually be used liberally to the areas of dry skin.