Facing the enemy

By Mubashir Ahmed
Tue, 02, 18

During winter, dry skin is a very common skin condition characterised by a lack of the appropriate amount of water in skin. You! takes a look...


During winter, dry skin is a very common skin condition characterised by a lack of the appropriate amount of water in skin. You! takes a look...

As temperatures drop and the wind whips up, the battle for healthy skin begins. Dry air takes away the thin layer of oil that traps moisture in the skin, flaring itchy and painful conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and severe dry skin. But you can minimise the toll of the present winter season takes on your skin by taking good care and maintaining a proper skin regime. This week, You! shares its action plan for dry skin problems to keep it smooth and flare-free.

Signs & Symptoms

The key symptom of dry skin is itching. People who have dry skin can often find rough, dry, red patches on their skin, and these patches are often itchy. Typical skin areas affected include arms, hands, lower legs, abdomen, and areas of friction such as ankles and soles. As skin dryness becomes more severe, cracks and fissures may evolve.

The itchy feeling may worsen the severity of dry skin. Itching can lead to the development of the ‘itch-scratch’ cycle. That is, as a person feels itchy, he or she scratches in response, which exacerbates the itch, and so on. The itch-scratch cycle is often seen when conscious control of scratching is low or absent, for instance during sleep. Constantly scratching and rubbing the skin may cause the skin to become thick and leathery. For others, small, red, raised bumps may appear on their skin, and these bumpy spots can be irritated, opened, and infected if scratched.


There is no single cause of dry skin. Dry skin causes can be classified as external and internal. External factors are the most common underlying cause and are the easiest to address. External factors include cold temperatures, low humidity, over-washing with harsh soaps and overuse of sanitisers and cleaning agents. Internal factors include overall health, age, genetics, family history, and a personal history of other medical conditions like eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and malnutrition. In particular, those with certain thyroid diseases are more prone to developing dry skin. Also, a dry skin problem can be a sign of an internal medical condition. For instance, aging may inherently make people more prone to developing dry skin.

Moreover, dry skin may persist or worsen if using moisturisers improperly or choosing an inadequate moisturiser. Sometimes, the material of different clothing can also affect dry skin. Some materials such as wool or synthetic fibres tend to irritate the skin and worsen dry skin. Dry skin condition may be caused by taking some medicines as well. Some examples are drugs for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, allergies, and acne.

Treat it well...

Bathe briefly

When it’s cold outside, some of us prolong our hot showers and baths, which is a recipe for dry, irritated skin. But make sure you follow these:

Be quick: Keep the shower as brief as possible and use lukewarm, not hot, water.

Nice & gentle: Switch to less aggressive, moisture-rich soaps made for sensitive skin.

Don’t over dry: Gently pat yourself dry to avoid traumatising or over drying the skin.

New technique: Apply moisturiser while your skin is still slightly damp.

Tip: Therapeutic baths, such as oatmeal baths or sea salt baths may help some patients, but they tend to take time, and some salt treatments can be drying, so it’s important to moisturise afterward.

Moisturise, moisturise

Whether you have eczema, psoriasis, or severe dry skin (known as xerosis), you need to replace any moisture the dry air steals away. It is general observation that as soon as the weather gets dry, dermatologists tell patients to start a regular regime of moisturising. The best time to do it is right after they bathe.

Get comfortable

Dress for less irritation: If your skin does flare up, choose soft, breathable fabrics, like cotton, instead of itchy woollens or polyester. Loose-fitting clothing will also help to keep your skin from chafing and becoming irritated by perspiration.

Stay healthy: Because psoriasis and eczema involve immune system responses, experts believe that many bacterial, viral, or fungal infections can make them worse. So make sure to follow a diet plan that can increase your immunity to avoid severe skin diseases.

Reduce your stress levels: Winter means the holidays and the stress that they inevitably bring. Emotional stress, being under pressure and trying to get things done before the holidays end certainly can trigger psoriasis and, to a lesser degree, eczema. A 2001 report in Archives of Dermatology measured stress levels and water loss in students without any skin disease after winter vacation, during final exams, and during spring break. The researchers found that during periods of stress, the skin’s ability to retain water was reduced. Look for ways-such as exercise, meditation, yoga, or biofeedback-to relieve holiday-related stress.