Dry skin, also referred to as xerosis, is often itchy and irritating.
Dry skin results from the loss of oils (sebum) in the skin that serve as a natural moisturizer. This may occur with excessive bathing (particularly with hot water), low humidity (in desert climates or cold winter weather), advancing age, or the use of drying soaps (antibacterial, deodorant soaps, Ivory).
In addition, several skin disorders, such as atopic dermatitis, lead to dry skin.
The tendency for dry skin runs in families and is usually a recurring problem, especially in winter. Because of this seasonal occurrence, it is sometimes referred to as “winter itch.”
It is important to regularly apply a moisturizer when your skin becomes dry. Moisturizer is best applied within 3 minutes after a shower or bath when your skin is still damp, but not wet.
Use hypoallergenic and fragrance-free moisturizers. The drier the skin, the “thicker” the moisturizer should be. For some people with very dry skin, petrolatum (Vaseline®) is quickly absorbed and may be required to sufficiently moisturize the skin. Other effective moisturizers that are readily available include:
In severe cases, your doctor may recommend a urea- or lactic-acid-based product.