Dry Skin - Causes and Solutions For Great Looking and Feeling Skin
Dry skin, also referred to as xerosis or eczema or asteatosis, and erroneously as icthyosis, is a multi-faceted condition which periodically afflicts most of the population regardless of race or sex at one time or another, and through a wide age range. Dry skin may become more pronounced with aging if not treated when young. The symptoms of dry skin range from mild to severe, and may afflict virtually any part of the body. Arms, hands and legs are most frequently involved. Most dry skin conditions arise from conditions which can be modified or prevented and treated without medical intervention.. People residing in areas where climatic conditions include cold dry air accompanied by strong winds are most often affected during the winter months. Dry skin results from lack of water in the outer layer of skin cells known as the stratum corneum. When this layer becomes dehydrated it loses its flexibility and becomes cracked, scaly and sometimes itchy. The stratum corneum contains natural water-holding substances, including urea, which retain water seeping up from the deeper layers of the skin. Water is also normally retained in the stratum corneum by a surface film of natural oil (sebum) and broken-down skin cells, which slow down evaporation of water from the skin surface.
The skin dries out when too much water evaporates from its surface. This increases as we get older, and is made worse by washing, because hot water and soap remove the layer of natural oil on the skin surface. When urea is applied to the skin it penetrates the stratum corneum, where it readily absorbs and retains water. This increases the capacity of the skin to hold moisture, and the skin therefore becomes rehydrated. The moisturizing base that the urea is mixed in, especially when it contains Shea Butter or Jojoba Oil, also provides a layer of oil on the surface of the skin, which helps prevent water from evaporating from the skin surface. Both actions soothe and soften the skin, and reduce the scaling and itching of dry skin conditions such as eczema and ichthyosis.
Common dry skin should be treated by:
1. Decrease the frequency of bathing/showering; maintain tepid water; and limit the duration to 5 minutes or less.
2. Use a mild bar soap. Liquid soaps are more drying. Avoid glycerin soaps and those which contain deodorants.
3. Always apply a good moisturizing lotion after bathing/showering. Eucerin lotion is a moisturizer that contains urea as the active ingredient. Urea is a substance that is found naturally in the skin, which by its nature is very attracted to water. It is used to help rehydrate dry, scaly skin. Lotions and creams which contain urea, Shea Butter and/or Jojoba Oil are effective in mild to moderate cases of dry skin, whereas lighter petrolatum-containing lotions should be applied for less severe conditions. Petrolatum is the chemical name for "Vaseline".
4. Operating a humidifier in your home during cold climates, especially in the bedroom, may add moisture to the air and protect the skin when the heat is on.
5. Apply a moisturizer-sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater to all areas of the body exposed to the sun.
6. Finally, and very important, drink plenty of water and liquids to keep the skin moist from the inside.
We can't rule out other pathology. Dry skin may be a symptom of a more complex problem, i.e.Ichthyosis commonly referred to as "fish-scale skin". This is a medical problem and must be treated by a physician specializing in dermatology. The origin of this condition is frequently hereditary with associated metabolic factors, i.e. under active thyroid. In addition to those precautionary measures indicated for the treatment of dry skin, your physician may prescribe a topical steroid and various emollient creams and lotions.
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Kaaryn Walker is the creater of KidsHygieneAndHealth.com Offering free advice for hygiene and health related issues for youth and teenagers. Kid's Hygiene and Health has an "Ask the Expert" section which covers such topics as body odor, skin conditions, oral hygiene, etc.
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