Dry Skin 101 with Michael Huff, MD
When one realizes that we live in a semi-arid desert it is easy to understand why dry skin is one of the commonest things seen in a primary care doctor’s office. This complaint is more common in the winter when the air is even drier.
When a patient suffers from dry skin the most common complaint is “I itch!”, but there is no rash. It is also usual that the itch is worse at night. Commonly there is no visible sign that there is anything wrong with the skin. Occasionally there will be some scales or other signs of dry skin, but these findings are less common than normal appearing skin. If the patient is scratching the itch there are frequently some small scabs on the problem area. These areas are commonly the lower legs.
In addition to our dry climate, other causes of dry skin are the things that we do to our skin in the name of cleanliness. Many people shower or bathe daily. When they do this they usually lather up the entire body. This use of soap depletes the natural oils in the skin and makes it dry. When it is dry it tends to itch.
The treatment for this uncomfortable itch is to correct the things that cause the dry skin. We can’t do much about the climate. It is what it is. What we can do however is ameliorate some of the other causes of dry skin.
One thing that will help is to decrease the frequency of the showers. Many people will cringe at the thought of not showering every day, but for severe cases of dry skin that is exactly what is needed.
The next thing to do is use the correct soap. The correct soap is one that is not very drying. There are 2 soaps that have been tested and found to be mild. Those 2 are Dove (original) and Lux. They are mild and will not dry out the skin when used correctly.
The correct use of soap is to use it in only the areas that get sweaty. These areas are the face, armpits, and crotch. Some women may also want to include under the breasts. The rest of the body does not need any soap. Simple rinsing in the shower is all that is needed, unless you are covered in mud!
Finally, you need to lubricate the skin and replace the oils that the water and the dry air have washed out. The product that I recommend is Aquaphor . Your first thought when you see this product is “Its too greasy!”. It may seem greasy in the jar but when you put it on your skin and RUB IT IN it doesn’t leave the skin greasy at all.
It may take a few days of this treatment (minimal use of soap followed by Aquaphor rubbed in over the whole body immediately after a shower) to make the itch go away but it will. Thereafter one should use this routine after every shower. If one follows this routine daily, it will prevent the itch caused by dry skin.
Article Written By Dr. Michael Huff
Dr. Huff is a third generation family practitioner. He practices family medicine in Oxnard where he was born and raised. He has been in practice for over 25 years. His special interests are pediatrics, gynecology and sports medicine.