Dry skin is very common and can occur at any age, however it tends to worsen as we age. By the time we are 40, many people need to use a good moisturizer every day. Extremely dry skin that does not improve with moisturizer may develop into a rash called dermatitis that can require prescription topical medication. Our very dry climate in Colorado significantly increases the chance for frequent and severely dry skin and can make it much harder to stay moisturized. Very dry skin often becomes very itchy and can be a source of significant discomfort. Frequent scratching will only worsen this condition and should be avoided.
Moisturizers come as creams or lotions for the face and as ointments, creams, lotions, or oils for the body. Sometimes a topical steroid or an alternative topical prescription medication may be required in addition to a good moisturizer. These medications would be prescribed by your dermatologist to help relieve itch, redness, and any swelling or thickening of dry skin. Frequent hand washing or the use of antibiotic soaps may dry out the skin even more, and only gentle moisturizing soaps should be used.
It is recommended not to use hot water for bathing as this will remove your skin’s natural oils more quickly. Use warm or lukewarm water instead and limit time in the bathtub or shower to about 5 minutes or less. Using a moisturizer immediately after bathing is recommended, and an ointment will be more effective when the skin is still damp. A lotion or cream should be used later in the day when the skin is very dry. A humidifier at home can help, and applying cool cloths may soothe itchy dry skin.
We encourage you to refer to our handout with instructions for taking care of dry skin. It contains many helpful tips for taking care of your skin in our dry climate. You can find other helpful information handouts on our patient resources page.