A: Dry skin worsens in the winter due to cold, dry air outside and hot, dry air used in heating buildings. Dry skin can lead to itching and painful cracks in the skin, which can cause infection. You should contact your doctor if you notice signs of infection such as yellow crusts, pus, redness, or tenderness.
The outer layer of skin has natural oils that keep water in the skin so it can work properly as a protective barrier for the body. These oils wash away when you bathe, so changing bathing habits can help preserve these oils. Hot water washes away oils faster, so showers should be warm (not hot) and short (no more than 10 minutes). Use unscented, mild soap for sensitive skin to reduce risk of irritation. Gently pat skin dry. Rubbing can cause irritation.
You should moisturize several times daily, and the most important time to moisturize is within three minutes of bathing. Moisturizers form a barrier to trap water in the skin. Look for hypoallergenic moisturizers that are fragrance and dye free to reduce the risk of irritation. Ointments are the most effective but are also the greasiest. Creams are less greasy but still quite effective. Lotions are the least greasy, but they are water based and often contain alcohol, which can be drying to the skin with repeated use. It may also be beneficial to have a humidifier in your bedroom to add moisture to the air.Written by Laura Jerome, Drake University PharmD Candidate 2012, provided by Hammer Pharmacy, 600 E. Grand Ave., East Village, 243-4177.