AgingSkinNet Article
Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin
Changes in Skin Care Can Soothe Aging Skin

Following the same skin care routine that worked so well in our youth can take a toll on aging skin — especially when the humidity drops. Mature skin is thinner and drier. Without a change in skin care, dry air can make fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable. It can make skin flake, crack, and even bleed. To help alleviate these unwanted effects, dermatologists recommend:

  1. Bathe daily. A daily bath or shower can add much-needed moisture to the skin. To hydrate the skin with a daily bath or shower, follow these guidelines:

    • Keep it short. A 5- to 10-minute bath or shower adds moisture. Spend more time in the water and the skin begins to dry.

    • Use warm, not hot, water. Hot water removes natural oils from the skin more quickly
      than warm water. The more natural oils removed, the drier the skin becomes.

    • Close the bathroom door. This keeps the much-needed humidity in the room.

    • Use a mild cleanser. Deodorant bars, fragrance in soaps, and products containing alcohol strip natural oils from the skin, which dries the skin. Look for a mild, fragrance-free cleanser that moisturizes.

    • Gently pat the skin dry. Gently blotting the skin helps retain moisture and is less irritating to dry, sensitive skin.

    • Apply moisturizer within 3 minutes of getting out of the bath or shower. Contrary to popular belief, moisturizer does not add moisture to the skin. Moisturizer traps existing water in the skin, preventing the water from evaporating. To trap water from a bath or shower in the skin, moisturizer must be applied within 3 minutes of bathing. Applied regularly, this helps decrease dryness and itching.
       

  2. Moisturize, moisturize, moisture. Dry skin needs moisture. Applying moisturizer within 3 minutes of bathing seals in much-needed water. If skin is noticeably dry and uncomfortable, moisturizing more frequently throughout the day can help the skin heal. Consistent use of moisturizer will help prevent dry skin from returning.
     

  3. Select moisturizers best suited to relieve dry skin. Ointments and creams tend to be more effective than lotions. Creams and ointments also usually less irritating to dry, sensitive skin.

    Moisturizer does not need to be expensive to be effective. Look at the ingredients not the price. When selecting a moisturizer to soothe dry skin, look for products that contain lactic acid or urea. These help alleviate even severe dryness. Hyaluronic acid, which naturally occurs in the skin and diminishes with age, can help the skin hold water. Dimethicone and glycerin help draw water to the skin and keep it there. Lanolin, mineral oil, and petrolatum (also known as petroleum jelly) effectively trap water in the skin.
     

  4. Check the ingredients on anti-aging products. Some anti-aging products contain retinoids or an alpha-hydroxy acid, which can irritate dry, itchy skin. Switching to a more moisturizing formula can bring relief.
     

  5. Read the ingredients on other skin care products. Using mild, unscented skin care products can help reduce irritation and make skin feel more comfortable. Deodorant soaps, alcohol-based toners, and products that contain fragrance can irritate dry, sensitive skin. Some people with mature skin find using mild, unscented products year round helps their skin feel better.
     

  6. Plug in a humidifier. A humidifier can add much-needed moisture to the air.
     

  7. Avoid wearing wool and other rough materials next to the skin. These can irritate dry skin, making the condition worse.
     

  8. Give hands the extra attention they deserve. Hands often show the effects of a dry environment more than any other part of the body. These tips may help hands heal and prevent future problems:

    • When outdoors in winter, wear gloves. This helps protect the skin from the cold, dry air, which can zap moisture from the skin.

    • Apply hand cream after each hand washing. It is important not to skimp on hand washing, which can remove harmful bacteria and viruses. Applying hand cream after each hand washing helps hands retain much-needed moisture. This is especially important for people who frequently immerse their hands in water throughout the day. If more relief is needed, dab petroleum jelly on the hands before bed.

    • If hands are frequently immersed in water, wearing waterproof gloves can help protect the hands. Again, it is important not to skimp on hand washing.
       

  9. Wear sunscreen every day. This is probably one of the most important and difficult tips to remember. Even in the winter, exposure to the sun’s rays speeds up the aging process in the skin. This exposure increases the risk of developing dry skin, wrinkles, age spots, and spider veins. Daily use of a sunscreen can slow these sun-induced signs of aging and reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. Dermatologists recommend wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher on all skin that will be exposed.
     

  10. Apply lip balm often. Carrying a tube of lip balm and applying it frequently throughout the day helps heal dry, cracked lips. If lips are extremely dry, dab on petroleum jelly before bed. Continuing to use lip balm once the lips heal can keep lips soft and supple. Dermatologists recommend using a lip balm that has an SPF of at least 30. This can help reduce signs of premature aging and prevent skin cancer on the lips.

When to See a Dermatologist
If these changes do not bring relief, make an appointment to see a dermatologist. Very dry skin may require a prescription ointment or cream. Dry skin also can be a sign of an underlying medical condition such as eczema. A type of eczema called eczema craquelé or asteatotic eczema develops in older adults. A dermatologist can examine the skin and explain what will help alleviate the dryness and irritation.

References:
American Academy of Dermatology. How to Protect Your Skin When Jack Frost Bites. News release: 2004, October 13.

Bernhard,JD, Pruritus and Xerosis. American Academy of Dermatology Web site (available to members only).

Roberts WE. Geriatric Dermatology Update. Presented during a focus session (FOC 616) at the Summer Academy Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, August 2007; New York City.

All content solely developed by the American Academy of Dermatology


Different seasons can require different moisturizers. When the air is humid, a lotion may be all that is needed. A cream or ointment may be necessary when the air is dry.

 

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