Dry skin?

Originally Published: December 1, 1993 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: February 7, 2013
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Dear Alice,

Please help! My skin is drying out like you would never believe. It is scaly and itchy at times. Could this be as a result of the weather? Are there any pointers that you could give me so that I don't feel like my face is cracking and looking like garbage? It seems to get worse after I shower. What is this? What can I do?

Signed,
Scales

Dear Scales,

Not to fear! Dry skin is a common concern; however, there are many preventative measures and treatments you can employ to soothe your skin. Each winter (in cooler climates) with the advent of cold weather and dry indoor heat, your skin becomes especially prone to dryness. The lack of humidity, both in- and out-of-doors, leaches the skin of its moisture, leaving it feeling flaky, itchy, and very dry.

Here are some tips to help prevent your skin from drying out:

  • Use a humidifier in your room, being sure to clean it after every use, or leave a pan of water on your radiator to evaporate and put some moisture into the air.
  • Make a point of drinking eight glasses of water per day.
  • Apply moisturizer to your face and body before going outside. The most effective products contain humectants, which help hold in moisture. This helps to protect your skin from the elements. If you are acne-prone, avoid oil-based moisturizers — they can clog your pores.
  • When you come in from the cold, splash cold water on your face to ease the temperature transition, and then apply moisturizer.
  • Use lipstick or lip balm/moisturizer to protect your lips
  • A five-minute facial massage can increase the blood flow through the capillaries that feed the skin. As part of your daily routine, this can help prevent your skin from drying out.
  • Use a moisturizing mask once a week. Mix one teaspoon of mayonnaise with one egg yolk, and if you have an aloe vera plant, add a teaspoon of the pulp. Mix together and spread on your face, leaving it on for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then removing it with warm water.
  • Take showers less frequently to retain your skin's natural oils, which help hold in moisture. If you need to take daily showers, use warm water instead of hot water and limit the amount of time you spend in the shower or bath to under 15 minutes.
  • Use a moisturizing cleanser such as mild creams and gels instead of soaps.
  • When you get out of the shower, pat your skin dry instead of rubbing. This can help your skin retain some of the moisture from the shower, and is especially effective if you immediately apply a moisturizing lotion, cream, or oil.
  • Petroleum jelly eliminates dryness, cracks, and scales on the legs if applied for fourteen consecutive days. Lanolin is a second best.

If you continue to experience chronic dry skin, you may have a skin condition that requires prescription strength medicine. Make an appointment with your health care provider and/or dermatologist to have your skin checked out; if you're a student at Columbia on the Morningside campus, you can use the Open Communicator link to make an appointment. If you are on the Medical Center campus, try the Student Health Service. The winter months can be rough for many reasons, but your skin need not be. Good luck staying moist!

Alice

August 13, 2012

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Make sure the soap you're using isn't too harsh. I have very sensitive skin and switching to a "baby" shampoo...
Make sure the soap you're using isn't too harsh. I have very sensitive skin and switching to a "baby" shampoo & wash was what made my dry skin and breakouts go away. If you can use oil based moisturizers, jojoba oil is closest to human sebum and can safely be used to clean & moisturize skin.