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 Dry Skin

                                        September 2010  

Dry Skin

Dry skinAccording to a leading UK pharmacy, one in three of us suffer from a skin condition at any one time and dry skin is one of the major problems.

Dry skin at best is a condition you hardly notice until you actually touch the skin; at worse it can crack causing pain or become inflamed and cause severe irritation which can bring in infection. Apart from visual aspects, your skin is the body’s primary defence against infection. If you let your skin dry out and become cracked, all sorts of bacteria can get in. Untreated dry skin can sometimes lead to dermatitis.

Normal skin is coated in a thin layer of natural lipids, or fatty substances which keep the skin moist, soft and supple, perfect for our everyday lives. Today dry skin occurs, especially on our arms, hands, lower legs and abdomen, mainly because of our lifestyles. Occasionally dry skin can be caused by health conditions or medication.

With autumn and winter fast approaching, one thing we need to look out for is over dry air. Due to modern heating systems, air in homes can become exceptionally dry. Many people invest in body moisturizers in the summer, especially after summer holidays, but then put it all way in the grey days of winter. Yet this is the time when you often need to moisturise your skin more regularly. Humidifiers are becoming more popular now to counteract the drying aspects of modern heating and to keep air moist; and these can go a long way to prevent your skin drying out in winter.

Weather conditions are fine right now, but in the depth of winter, and especially if we have as cold a winter as we had last year, then putting on extra moisturiser especially on your face and any exposed areas before you head out is a really good idea. Lips and ears especially need protection yet are often forgotten.

As the cooler weather comes in, it can be tempting to spend more time under a hot shower or relaxing in a lovely hot bath. Both these, though, can do so much damage to your skin. If you come out of the shower or bath and your skin feels at all tight, then you really have dried it out. Some people ask how skin can dry out when it is immersed in water; but the problem is that your skin is not moisturised by water but by natural fatty substances, and these can be slowly washed away, hence the skin becoming dry. Showers are better than baths, and experts say lukewarm water is much better that hot water.

Modern soap can be a real problem too as it can quickly strip away the skin’s protective oils. The general advice is that we all use too much soap! For really dirty areas, such as face, hands, feet, groin and underarms, soap can be necessary, but some skin experts suggest any other area should just be rinsed with water.

Many of us don’t choose the best soap for our skin, tending to select deodorant or antibacterial soaps that produce lots of lather and leave us feeling very clean. However, all this lathering removes the oils from the surface of our skin and dries it out. Evidently it is better to go for milder, fragrant free soaps. Even better can be some of the mild moisturizing skin cleansers and washes coming on to the market which will do less damage to the skin.

Itchy clothing can cause skin problems, and clothing that has been washed in harsh detergents can rub on the skin, removing the natural protective moisture.

There are also some medications that can have a side effect of drying out the skin.

Moisturizing skin makes a lot of sense, but even then care needs to be taken. One American expert has recently issued a warning on thin skin creams. He says that moisturizer must be thick and greasy in order to seal in moisture on the skin and do any good. He says if you put some lotion on the palm of your hand and flip your skin over, if the lotion runs or drips, then it is too thin to do much good to dry skin.

A lot of it is common sense, but the trouble is most of us simply do not think about our skin apart from when there is a problem. Taking care of our skin during the autumn and winter months is just as important as remembering to apply that suncream in summer.


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