Dry Skin & Keratosis Pilaris

Dry skin can occur at any age and for many reasons. In general, skin becomes drier with age, during the winter months, and in low humidity climates such as Arizona. Skin is dry because it lacks the water or oil it needs. All treatments aim to replace water in the skin. Below are some helpful tips that can be added to your daily routine to prevent and treat the bothersome aspects of dry skin.

Dry Skin Care Tips

Sharpen up on shaving - To minimize the irritating effects of shaving (face or legs) on already dry skin, make sure to use a lubricating agent like shaving cream before starting, change blades often, and shave in the direction that the hair grows.

Take brief baths and showers - Prolonged showers or baths hydrate the skin, but the evaporation process and towel drying of the skin after a shower or bath can leave the skin less hydrated than before. Therefore, bathing and showering should be kept brief, between 5 and 10 minutes.

Avoid hot water - Hot water removes natural skin oils more quickly so warm water is best for bathing.

Use a mild soap - Soaps can dry the skin. Try to use a mild, superfatted soap or non-soap cleanser.

Moisturize immediately after bathing - Ointments and creams are most effective for trapping water in the skin. It is best to apply one of these emollients right after bathing while the skin is still moist. This will make bathing a moisturizing experience, rather than a drying experience. When the skin becomes completely dry after washing, some of its natural moisture is lost through evaporation. To keep skin moist, apply emollient throughout the day as needed.

For more severe dryness, a prescription or over-the-counter urea or lactic acid-based product may be used since both of these agents help the surface of the skin hold water.

Keeping the skin well moisturized should improve dry skin. If the skin worsens despite using the above self-care measures, contact a dermatologist.

Consequences of Dry Skin

In some people, areas of seriously dry skin can lead to a condition called dermatitis. Dermatitis refers to an inflammation of the skin. When present, a dermatologist may prescribe a topical corticosteroid (cortisone) cream or ointment, a topical calcineurin inhibitor, or an immunomodulator. All are applied to the affected areas to treat the problem. The use of a moisturizing lotion or cream should be continued to help avoid recurrences.

Keratosis Pilaris

Characterized by tiny, flesh-colored to slightly red bumps that give the skin a sandpaper-like texture, keratosis pilaris develops on the outer areas of the upper arms. It also frequently occurs on the thighs and cheeks. Each tiny bump is a plug of dead skin cells that forms at the site of a hair follicle.

Keratosis pilaris occasionally itches, especially during the winter months and in low-humidity climates. When humidity increases during the summer it leaves skin less dry, and the red coloration becomes somewhat camouflaged.

Since keratosis pilaris is a benign condition, people usually seek treatment due to the itch or for cosmetic reasons. Moisturizers may help with the dryness and associated itch. Urea preparations and lactic acid creams are often effective moisturizers; however, moisturizers do not tend to clear up the bumps. Mild peeling agents are most effective in opening the plugged hair follicles and work by removing the excess dead skin cells. Topical retinoids are also commonly used to treat keratosis pilaris.

While keratosis pilaris can be effectively treated, treatment only works temporarily. Therapy must be continued on a regular basis, or the keratosis pilaris recurs. Some patients respond better than others to treatment.

To learn more about dry skin and keratosis pilaris, please call 782-2930 and speak with Dr. Adam D. Wray, D.O. our dermatologist at Bingham Memorial.

*Information provided by the American Academy of Dermatology Copyright 2006