Condition Spotlight: Dry Skin

Simple home remedies can treat (and prevent) dry skin.

Xeroderma, commonly known as dry skin, is a manageable condition that affects nearly everyone at some point throughout his or her life. Thankfully, skin typically heals itself. Yet the weather and our environment can affect how skin heals—you may need to take steps to prevent and treat dry skin.

There are several causes for dry skin, all of which stem from the issue of moisture retention. For example, dry skin is common in climates with cold, dry winters. Even indoor humidity plummets with the drop in temperature. When the body is constantly surrounded by dry air, the skin loses moisture. To avoid dry indoor air, use a humidifier in your bedroom or the room you spend the most time in. The more moisture that is in the air, the more moisture your skin will retain.

Hand washing with harsh soap can significantly dry out your skin, as well. While these hygiene practices are essential for keeping illness at bay, they can strip your skin of natural oils that seal in moisture. Oftentimes, a simple change to a more gentle soap or body wash can keep skin moist. Goat milk soap has the same pH level as human skin, which makes it ideal for sensitive or dry skin. If dry hands are your problem area, avoiding water (except for regular hand washing) is ideal; wear rubber gloves while washing dishes or cleaning.

While personal hygiene can be a touchy subject, bathing too frequently or with too hot water also strips the skin of its natural oils. In the winter, if you do not sweat frequently, bathe every other day, use less soap, or take shorter showers with a lower water temperature to prevent and manage dry skin. Patting your body dry gently with a towel also helps skin maintain appropriate moisture. Shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and other moisturizers can help repair skin and relieve the itchiness of dry skin.

There are causes not related to humidity that affect skin. Lack of vitamin A is known to affect skin moisture because it is an antioxidant that keeps skin cells plump; if your vitamin A levels are too low, a dry, scaly complexion can occur. Replenish your vitamin A levels with sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, kale, and collard greens.

Adequate hydration is important for prevention and treatment of dry skin, also. The skin absorbs water from within the body; if there is a lack of water internally, your skin is more apt to become dry.

Allergies or sensitivities to chemicals in detergent, soap, perfume, and body spray can trigger dry skin. If your dry skin does not improve following the aforementioned tips, it might be a symptom of an allergy. Opt for household products and cosmetics that do not contain artificial colors or scents.

If your dry skin persists, it may be time to seek out a dermatologist, depending on the severity of the condition.