Dry, itchy skin can be uncomfortable and difficult to manage. Learn what causes dry skin and how to soothe it with the three main types of moisturizers: creams, lotions and oils.
What is Xerosis?
The medical term for unusually dry skin is xerosis cutis. Symptoms include redness, itching, a tight feeling, flakes and fine cracks in the skin. Older people tend to have dry skin because sweat and sebaceous glands become less active as we age. Other causes of dry skin include sun exposure, bathing or showering in very hot water, cold weather, medical conditions like eczema and using skin products that contain alcohol like Purell sanitizer.
How to Treat Dry Skin
Lifestyle changes – staying out of the sun, bathing or showering in lukewarm water and drinking plenty of fluids – can help avoid dry skin. If dry skin gets worse despite treatment or is accompanied by oozing, ring-shaped rash or widespread peeling, a dermatologist should be consulted.
Mild to moderate dry skin can be effectively treated at home with moisturizers. These come in three main forms: creams, lotions and oils.
Creams and lotions are both composed of a ratio of water and oil. Creams contain a higher percentage of oil than lotions, so they tend to feel thicker and greasier. This heavier texture can feel soothing on chapped or very dry skin. Many cream options include extra emollients like dimethicone, jojoba oil, lanolin or urea to help seal moisture into the skin.
Lotions contain a higher percentage of water than creams, so they tend to feel lighter and absorb more quickly into the skin. Some are CHG compatible, meaning they will not inhibit the germ-killing effects of certain antimicrobials. These can alleviate dryness in areas where Dynarex antiseptic pads and other cleaning agents are used frequently. Find both scented and fragrance-free options that can be applied to wet or dry skin.
Body oils do not contain water and therefore, they are more like the skin’s natural lipids. They absorb quickly, especially on wet skin. Some body oils contain essential oils or other scents, but many are pure enough to use on infants.