Dry skin is a common affliction that can happen to anyone. It can be caused by a number of different factors or conditions, so the best way to treat dry skin is to first determine what’s causing it, and then seek specific treatments and/or make necessary lifestyle changes.
For example, switching from a harsh soap to a mild one may be an easy way to prevent dry skin. Or, say your dry skin is caused by dry or cold weather. Using a humidifier at home and applying moisturizer more frequently may be an effective solution.
If your dry skin is related to a specific skin condition—eczema, psoriasis, shingles, contact dermatitis, and hives are common ones—it’s important that you speak to a doctor who can direct you on how to treat the underlying cause.
Let’s take a look at 8 common symptoms of dry skin and steps you can take to get some relief.
The occasional itch here and there is completely normal and not cause for concern. However, if the itching becomes overwhelming or lasts for more than six weeks, you should speak with a dermatologist. In the meantime, here are some ways you can reduce itchiness associated with dry skin:
While bathing in oatmeal may sound unusual, it’s actually a common treatment for soothing itchy blisters associated with chickenpox, poison ivy, hives, insect bites, and sunburn. For this treatment, it’s important that you use whole, uncooked oats. Grind them into a fine powder using a blender or food processor, and add approximately 1 cup to your bathwater. You can also make a smaller amount and apply it directly to the itchy area.
Apply an ice pack or a cold, wet cloth to the itchy area for 5-10 minutes. Products with cooling agents, such as calamine or menthol, may also help.
Topical anesthetics that contain pramoxine or hydrocortisone can numb the itchy area.
While it can be difficult to stop yourself, scratching can exacerbate the condition and can even lead to infections.
Not all moisturizers are suitable for dry skin. Use a fragrance-free, natural body oil or cream, so you don’t accidentally make the itching worse.
Redness is a common side effect of dry skin, especially for those with sensitive skin. The most important step is to try to figure out the root cause. For instance, frequent exfoliation or spending too much time in the sun are common causes. Use a powerful moisturizer with hydrating properties to strengthen your skin’s barrier.
Most symptoms of dry skin can be treated effectively with a powerful, natural, hydrating moisturizer. If that doesn’t work, you may want to try a gentle exfoliator to remove a possible build-up of dead skin cells. Products with lactic or salicylic acid may be helpful.
Scaling and flaking is often caused by an external factor, such as spending too much time in the sun, being exposed to harsh chemicals, allergic reactions, or taking certain medicines. It can also be caused by aging, in which case switching to a mature skincare regimen may help—products with antioxidants or alpha hydroxy acid may prove especially beneficial.
It’s very important that you seek treatments for cracked skin, as compromised skin can lead to infections. A hydrating repair cream (ideally with antifungal and antibacterial properties) can be quite effective. You may also want to consider applying a liquid bandage to hold the skin together while it heals.
If your cracked skin has not healed within two weeks of treatment, or if it seems to be getting worse (see infection symptoms below), it’s important that you seek professional treatment.
If your dry skin does become infected, antifungal and antibacterial products may help, but you should schedule an appointment with a doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible. While the symptoms of an infection may vary depending on the cause, the following are some of the most common symptoms:
- Increasing swelling
- Redness around the area
- Increasing pain
- Leaking pus or fluid
- Yellowish crust on top of the area
- Rashes, sores, or blisters
- A red streak that runs from the area to your heart
- A wound that hasn’t healed within 10 days
Not all of these symptoms mean your skin is infected. Some of them are just side effects of dry skin. However, when it comes to skin infections, it’s always better to be cautious.
As we age, it’s normal for wrinkles to form. However, dry skin can cause wrinkles to form earlier and faster. Besides finding a successful skincare routine, some lifestyle changes can go a long way in reducing wrinkles and fine lines. Too much sun exposure is one of the main causes of wrinkles associated with dry skin, so be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen.
Drinking plenty of water, following a healthy diet, and taking certain health supplements may also help to improve skin health and keep wrinkles at bay. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Selenium are all great for skin health.
8. Pain (Stinging/Burning)
If your dry skin is painful on a regular basis, there’s a high probability that it’s caused by a chronic condition such as eczema or psoriasis, in which case you should talk to a dermatologist who can provide a treatment plan. If you have a burning/stinging sensation that’s not chronic, try to determine if there’s a product causing it. For example, some soaps with chemicals can be too harsh for sensitive skin, and some people may even have mild allergies to some products.
Start With a Powerful Moisturizer
The majority of dry skin issues can be solved or at least relieved by applying the right moisturizing cream or oil. If you haven’t had any luck with moisturizers in the past, don’t give up! There are many, many different types of moisturizers out there, so you may need to go through some trial and error before you find the one that really works for you.
Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness, but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.