Dry Skin: Stop Scratching This Winter

The Moist Skin Recipe

Some moisturizers feel greasier than others because they contain a lot of oil. These types stay on longer and are better for really dry skin, but tend to feel heavy and uncomfortable.

The water-based moisturizers feel lighter on the skin but they don't stay on as long, nor do they provide the same degree of skin protection as the oilier type. Sometimes your doctor will have to prescribe a medication to help heal dry skin, but for the common, easier-to-help causes of the "winter itch", here are some suggestions to stop that scratching:

  • Lotions are good for most parts of your body, but creams are best for the really rough areas such as elbows, knees, hands and feet.
  • Try not to use bath oils because they don't stay on the skin very long and make the tub slippery and more dangerous.
  • Apply a moisturizer after you take a bath or shower. This will help keep your skin hydrated. It's often best to take a bath or shower before you go to bed. Cold dry air tends to cause the moisture on your skin to evaporate, setting up a cycle of drier skin.
  • Drink plenty of water (as long as you have no fluid restrictions), not soda or caffeinated beverages.
  • Avoid long showers or baths, use warm water, not hot, and try not to use scented soaps or detergents.
  • Don't wear wool or other scratchy materials against your skin.
  • Wear gloves when washing dishes, or if your hands are exposed to harsh chemicals.
  • Consider getting a humidifier during the heating season, or use the time-proven method of keeping pots filled with water near the heating vents to increase the moisture in the air.
  • Don't lick chapped lips because this will lead to even more fluid loss and more lip cracking.

If these measures don't stop the itch in a week or two, or if you notice any red rashes or patches, then schedule a visit with your health-care professional.

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Robert Danoff, D.O., M.S., is a family physician. He is program director of Family Practice Residency Frankford Hospitals, Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia, Pa. He also is a medical correspondent for The Comcast Network, CN8, contributing writer to the New York Times and writes a weekly medical column for the Bucks Courier Times, Bucks County Pa.

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