Truths and myths about dry, winter skin
March 6, 2013 · 9:16 AM
It’s not life-threatening, but can cause serious discomfort and self-consciousness. Whether you suffer from dry patches on your elbows or have white flakes dusting your shoulders, dry skin can be irritating. Here’s how showering less, apple-cider vinegar and a little bit of sun could come to your rescue.
Dr. Frank James, San Juan County health officer said “dry skin” is a garbage can word, meaning it’s not an official medical term and could fall under many different categories.
Run of the mill dry skin, which is usually genetic, he said, can be treated with emollients in moisturizer or by limiting your skin’s contact with water, which can cause dryness.
“People think if you put water on skin it will moisturize it, but water evaporates and skin becomes drier in the long run,” James said.
His wife’s hands have a tendency to get dry so she uses simple techniques of washing dishes with gloves and using moisturizers.
According to the Mayo Clinic, limiting your bath or shower time to about 15 minutes or less, and using warm, rather than hot water can also help to reduce drying out. Immediately moisturize your skin after a shower with an oil or cream to help trap water in the surface cells.
It’s a common assumption that the changing seasons are responsible for dry skin, but James said that is not the case.
In the winter there is more humidity outside, according to James, but inside where wood stoves or electric heat blast the moisture content is lowered.
Get a humidifier or buy a “steamer” for your wood stove, both add moisture to the air and can help prevent your skin from drying out.
A common myth is that drinking water helps your skin stay young looking, Mayo Clinic staff say this is not true – though drinking lots of water can never hurt.
Other common skin issues are eczema, dandruff and psoriasis.
Eczema symptoms include patches of dry flaky skin and can be treated with mild steroid creams.
Psoriasis causes flaky, dry skin on elbows or knees and sometimes all over the body. It’s not caused by the dark days of winter, but sunshine can help with symptoms.
“It’s one that responds positively to sunlight,” said James.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, over the counter topical treatments – medications applied to the skin – are usually the first line of defense in treating this skin condition.
Dandruff, also known as seborrhoeic dermatitis, or called cradle crap when found in children, is an inflammatory skin condition that causes flaky, white to yellowish scales to form. Its caused be an overproduction of the oil gland and sometimes yeast taking up residence.
James said there is a difference between dandruff and dry skin on the scalp. James recommends selenium sulfide shampoos, such as Selsun Blue or antifungal treatments for dandruff.
Mayo Clinic staff suggest a diet that provides enough zinc, B vitamins and certain types of fats may help prevent dandruff.
According to the famed Dr. Oz Show apple cider vinegar is one homeopathic cure for dandruff or dry scalp to avoid harsh chemicals that are found in anti-dandruff shampoos. Mix a quarter-cup apple cider vinegar with a quarter-cup water. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and spritz it on to your hair and scalp. Wrap your head in a towel and leave on for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, then remove the towel and wash your hair.
Rubbing tea tree oil into your scalp is also a popular alternative treatment for a dry, itchy scalp. According to the Mayo Clinic, this solution has been used for hundreds of years as an antiseptic, antibiotic and anti-fungal treatment, and it’s a natural alternative for treating scalp problems.
It’s time to seek medical attention when you have tried all the common sense approaches to healing dry skin, said James, as the symptoms could point to another condition.