Dry skin is most common in your lower legs, arms, sides of the abdomen (flanks), and thighs. The symptoms of dry skin include:
Dry skin is common. It happens more often in the winter when cold air outside and heated air inside cause low humidity. Forced-air furnaces make skin even drier.
The skin loses moisture and may crack and peel, or become irritated and inflamed. Bathing too frequently, especially with harsh soaps, may contribute to dry skin. Eczema may cause dry skin.
Keep the skin moist (called lubricating or moisturizing the skin). Use ointments (such as petroleum jelly), creams, or lotions 2 - 3 times a day. Moisturizers should not contain alcohol, scents, dyes, or other chemicals. Using a humidifier in your home will also help.
Moisturizers and emollients work best when they're applied to skin that is wet or damp. After washing or bathing, pat the skin dry and then apply the moisturizer right away.
You can use different types of emollients or moisturizers at different times of the day. Apply these substances as often as you need to keep your skin soft.
Avoid anything that makes your symptoms worse, including:
When washing or bathing:
Other tips include:
Call your health care provider if:
Skin - dry; Winter itch
Habif TP. Atopic dermatitis. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 5.
Lim HW. Eczemas, photodermatoses, papulosquamous (including fungal) diseases, and figurate erythemas. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 446.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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