Dry skin: self-care

by | Dermatology, Pharmacy Care

General Information

Dry skin is a very common problem, particularly as you get older.

The outer layers of your skin are made up of skin cells, oil and water. This outermost skin barrier can break down due to wear and tear from the environment, e.g. from the wind, sun, frequent washing or exposure to irritant substances.

When this happens, oil and water are lost from your skin, causing skin dryness and sometimes itching. Your skin may become rough or scaly and small flakes of dead skin may be visible. Your skin may also feel tight and uncomfortable.

Taking long baths or showers in hot water, using too much soap or spending a lot of time in dry air, such as in air-conditioned rooms, can make your skin dry.

Dry skin is usually more of a problem in winter; sitting in front of heaters or fires and using an electric blanket can also help cause it.

Some medications can cause the skin to dry out, so if you are taking these medications it is important to keep the skin moisturised.

See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional

  • if your skin is broken, very red and/or inflamed
  • if you have a rash
  • if you have thick skin patches or silvery scales on your skin
  • if the person with dry skin is a child
  • if the skin becomes blistered or oozes fluids
  • if the problem skin is near the face, lips or eyes
  • if you are taking medications

Treatment Tips

  • use a moisturiser or emollient frequently; moisturisers add moisture to skin and emollients soften it
  • bathe or shower less frequently (once a day is plenty) and use lukewarm water rather than hot water
  • after a bath or shower, pat your skin dry (do not rub it) then apply a moisturiser or emollient
  • use a barrier cream or gloves for protection if your hands are frequently wet or in water or harsh chemicals
  • choose a mild soap or soap substitute, even when your skin is in good condition; normal soap is very alkaline and can irritate or dry your skin
  • some people are also allergic to perfumes or lanolin, which are ingredients in some soaps, so it is best to avoid those types
  • try using hypoallergenic cosmetics and skin products, as they tend to be less irritating

Treatment Options

Soap substitutes

e.g. Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Body Wash, Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, DermaVeen Soap-Free Cleansing Bar, DermaVeen Soap Free Wash 5.5 (Cleanser), Dermeze Soap Free Wash, E45 Moisturising Shower Cream for Dry Skin, Hamilton Skin Therapy Gentle Wash, Oilatum Shower Gel, QV Bath Oil, QV Shower Milk, QV Bar, QV Body Wash, QV Gentle Wash, QV Intensive Moisturising Cleanser, aqueous cream, emulsifying ointment

  • use soap substitutes whenever you would use a normal soap
  • if you use aqueous cream or emulsifying ointment, put a small knob of it in a jar, add hot water and shake to create a liquid soap substitute

Moisturisers or emollients

e.g.  Alpha Keri Lotion, Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturising Lotion, Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturising Cream, Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Moisturising Lotion, Cetaphil Moisturising Cream, Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion, DermaDrate Cracked Heel Treatment, DermaDrate Dry Skin Treatment, DermaVeen Moisturising Lotion, DermaVeen Moisturising Cream, Dermeze Treatment Ointment, Dermeze Treatment Cream, Dermeze Moisturising Cream, Dermeze Moisturising Lotion, E45 Dermatological Cream for Dry Skin Conditions, E45 Moisturising Lotion for Dry and Sensitive Skin,  Eulactol Heel Balm, Eulactol Heel Balm Gold, Hamilton Skin Therapy Nourishing Lotion, Hamilton Skin Therapy Nourishing Cream, Hamilton Skin Therapy Urederm Cream, Hydraderm Moisturising Sorbolene Lotion, Hydraderm Moisturising Sorbolene Cream, Macro Natural Vitamin E Cream (lanolin-free), Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, Oilatum Cream, QV Moisturising Cream (lanolin-free), QV Skin Lotion (lanolin-free), QV Intensive Cream, QV Intensive Body Moisturiser, Rosken Skin Repair, aqueous cream, emulsifying ointment

  • moisturisers add moisture to skin and emollients soften it; many products do both
  • lotions feel lightest on your skin, are suitable for the scalp and other hairy areas, and they can also be used to treat mild dryness on other body areas
  • creams are the next lightest; they are usually easily absorbed into your skin and are pleasant to use
  • ointments feel much heavier on your skin and many people find them too greasy
  • ointments can be useful for thicker or more scaly areas of dry skin and for use overnight, or on your feet
  • products containing urea, such as Hamilton Skin Therapy Urederm Cream, can help loosen the top layer of dead skin and expose soft new skin underneath
  • products containing urea may sting if used on broken skin

Barrier creams

e.g. Silic 15, Sudocrem

  • barrier creams are useful if you frequently have your hands in water or you have contact dermatitis, but they may make your hands slippery

Bath and shower products

e.g. Alpha Keri Bath Oil, Aveeno Daily Moisturising Body Wash, Aveeno Skin Relief Shower Oil, DermaVeen Shower and Bath Oil, E45 Emollient Shower Cream for Dry and Sensitive Skin, QV Bath Oil (non-slip), QV Flare Up Bath Oil, Oilatum Shower Gel, QV Shower Milk, QV Bar, QV Body Wash, QV Gentle Wash, QV Intensive Moisturising Cleanser, aqueous cream, emulsifying ointment

  • these products leave a thin layer of oil on your skin, which helps to hold moisture in
  • use no more than the recommended amount
  • take care, as they can make your bath or shower slippery

Anti-itch (anti-pruritic) preparations

e.g. Eurax (cream), Pinetarsol Cleansing Bar, Pinetarsol Bath Oil, Q.V. Bath Oil

  • these products provide relief from itching
  • Pinetarsol Bath Oil can also be used in the shower, but can make your bath or shower slippery, so take care
  • Pinetarsol Cleansing Bar is a soap substitute which also contains anti-itching ingredients

More Information

Availability of medicines

  • GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
  • PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
  • PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.

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