Taking Care of Dry Skin

In most cases, dry skin responds well to common skincare methods, such as using moisturizers and avoiding long, hot showers and baths.

The following measures can help keep your skin hydrated and healthy:

  • Moisturize. Moisturizers provide a seal over your skin to keep water from escaping. Apply moisturizer several times a day and after bathing. Thicker moisturizers work best, such as over-the-counter brands, Eucerin and Cetaphil.

You may also want to use cosmetics that contain moisturizers. If your skin is extremely dry, you should apply an oil, such as baby oil, while your skin is still moist. Oil has more staying power than moisturizers do and prevents the evaporation of water from the surface of your skin. Another possibility to help hydrate your skin is using ointments that contain petroleum jelly (Vaseline, Aquaphor). These may feel greasy at first, so it would be best to use them at night.

  • Use warm water and limit bath time. Long, warm showers or baths remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower time to 5 to 10 minutes, and make sure to use warm, not hot, water.

  • Avoid harsh, drying soaps. It's best to use cleansing creams or gentle skin cleansers, along with bath or shower gels with added moisturizers. Choose mild soaps that have added oils and fats. Avoid deodorant and antibacterial detergents, fragrance, and alcohol.

  • Apply moisturizers immediately after bathing. Gently pat your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains on the surface. Within a couple of minutes of bathing, apply moisturizing cream or ointment to trap moisture in your skin. A product in which petrolatum is one of the top three ingredients may be best. Products containing glycerin, lactic acid or urea may also help.

  • Use a humidifier. Hot, dry, indoor air may ruin sensitive skin and worsen itching and flaking. Having a clean humidifier in your home will help maintain moisture in the air.

  • Choose fabrics that are kind to your skin. Natural fibers, such as cotton and silk, allow your skin to breathe. But wool, although natural, can irritate even normal skin.

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