With our hot and muggy summers and our cold, dry winters, living in Maryland can take a toll on your skin. Itchy, flaky, ashy-looking skin usually isn’t a serious medical problem, but it can be incredibly uncomfortable and embarrassing.
If your medicine cabinet looks like a graveyard of bottles, tubes, and jars of lotions that have failed to keep their promise of delivering soft, supple skin, it may be because you’re approaching the problem from the wrong angle.
Rather than focusing on topical treatments that only give temporary relief, turn your attention to the moisture-robbing habits in your life. Whether it’s the weather, your job, your hobby, or your habits, the most common culprits in dry skin conditions are in your environment and are within your control.
Once you recognize and avoid these factors, you can reduce the symptoms of chronic dry skin and give those topical solutions a fighting chance.
Here, our team of skin experts at Easton Dermatology Associates in Easton and Salisbury, Maryland, shares four key ways to care for your dry skin by preventing moisture loss in the first place.
1. Shorten your shower
Your skin contains natural oils and lipids that help protect your skin and prevent it from losing water. Your skin cells provide the bulk of the barrier that protects you from the outside elements, but the oils and lipids seal the cells and keep your skin hydrated and functioning optimally.
Anything that robs your skin of these protective substances can leave you with dry, itchy, flaky skin and a compromised barrier. Ironically, water is one of the things that can lead to dehydrated skin.
Every time you shower, bathe, swim, or wash your hands, the water strips away your skin’s oils, so it’s best to limit your time underwater. Of course, hygiene is important, but there’s no need to hang out in the shower letting the water sluice over your body and steal your oils. Get in, get clean, and get out.
2. Cool down
All water can whisk away precious oils, but hot water is the worst. To avoid dry, itchy skin, turn the temp down to lukewarm — about the same as your body temperature: 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hot showers and baths not only dry out your skin faster, they may also damage your skin, leaving it vulnerable to eczema and other inflammatory conditions.
3. Go chemical-free
The products you use to clean your skin can be harsh as well. Stay away from the obvious culprits, such as deodorant soaps, but also beware of misleading labels like “unscented.” Just because you can’t smell the product doesn’t mean it’s pure and gentle. Some companies add chemicals to their products to mask or neutralize ingredient odors.
Look for a product formulated for sensitive skin, is “fragrance-free,” and doesn’t contain:
- Alpha-hydroxy acid
Most hand sanitizers contain alcohol, which strips your skin’s natural oils quickly. If you have to wash your hands frequently at work or you need to use hand sanitizer, make sure to slather on some lotion immediately afterward.
4. Kick the whole-body-lather habit
If you’re like most people, you lather up from head to toe when you shower or bathe, but it isn’t always necessary, and it may be doing more harm than good. If you work out daily and get sweaty, or if you get especially dirty, a full-body cleansing gets the call.
But for most folks, it’s sufficient to just focus on the areas where bacteria hangout and can cause harm if left alone — we’re talking about your pits and privates.
A few more tips
In addition to the four golden rules we’ve just listed, there are a few more tips you can put into play to keep your skin healthy and moist:
- Pat your skin dry; don’t rub it.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after showering while your skin is still damp.
- Close the bathroom door to keep the steam in.
- Run a humidifier in your house.
When you shop for moisturizers, choose ointments and creams rather than lotions, and look for products that contain:
- Coconut oil
- Argan oil
- Marula oil
- Rosehip seed oil
- Jojoba oil
- Hyaluronic acid
- Shea butter
- Mineral oil
If you still struggle with dry skin, come see us at Easton Dermatology Associates, because ignoring persistently dry skin can lead to complications, such as cracked skin that bleeds, hurts, and leaves you susceptible to infections and scarring.
To schedule an appointment at either location, call us at 410-819-8867 today.