Dry skin, from nightmare to manageable

By Ivana Susic

With winter come hats, scarves and snow boots. Students trudge through the hallways, barely able to pass one another because of all the thick clothing. But underneath all those layers are more than skinny jeans and a T-shirt; there is also dry skin.

Dry skin is synonymous with the winter months. Tight, scaly skin feels paper-dry no matter how much moisture is applied. Most people will scratch at their skin and wonder why the jarfuls of cheap body lotion aren’t helping. Healing dry skin involves more than basic moisturizing; taking the right steps can not only cure dry skin, but prevent it as well.

Cathy M. Pool, medical expert for GrannyMed.com, said the first step is proper fluid intake. Drinking water nourishes not just your body, but your skin as well, she explained.  Once the body is hydrated, repair work on the skin can begin.

One common mistake is to wash the face with hot water, Pool said.  It strips moisture away, leaving the skin open to dirt.

“It becomes a breeding ground for bacteria,” she said.

Instead, lukewarm water should always be used, according to Pool.

Soap is not good to use on the face  either. The soap will leave a film, not

allowing pores to breathe. This does not mean there is a need for costly cleansers, she explained. One of the best products to use is well within a college student’s budget.

“You don’t need expensive soap. Use glycerin,” Pool said. “You can find this at a

dollar store.”

Glycerin is a natural by-product of the soap-making process. It naturally attracts moisture to the skin while being gentle, making it an ideal product.

“Skin is an organ, a huge organ,” Pool said. “It’s our No. 1 defense against anything.  The last thing you want to do is get a crack or break.”

Dr. Rajesh Vyas, a naturopathic doctor in Morgan Hill, Calif., also recommended using Vitamin E oil. One easy method is to buy Vitamin E capsules, squeeze out the oil and apply directly to the skin.  Its availability makes a very accessible choice for college students.

“You have to use it more often, but it’s healthier than all the chemicals,” Vyas said.

With any cream or lotion, he said, you must see how your skin is reacting. If you don’t see any improvement in two or three days, you will not see any results.

Judy Valkenburg, a physician’s assistant at Southwest Dermatology in Orland

Park, Ill., said that the combination of low humidity in the cold winter air and the dry air from heaters pull moisture from the skin, drying it out.

Taking frequent hot showers, as many students do during winter to stay warm, pulls even more moisture out of the skin. Hot water breaks down the lipid barrier, which protects and replenishes the skin. Another common error, Valkenburg said, is using both exfoliating cloths and harsh soaps. Instead, use an exfoliator once

a week.

“Don’t scrub; you don’t need a washcloth,” she said. “You don’t need to use soap

everyday on your whole body. Just focus on skin folds, like the armpits.”

Antibacterial and heavily-fragranced soaps should also be avoided, Valkenburg said, as these will also dry out the skin.

“The key is, your skin should feel soft and smooth, not tight. Tight doesn’t mean clean,” she said.

When the skin feels tight, this indicates lack of moisture, Valkenburg explained.

However, expensive lotions are unnecessary. Many stores sell lotions that smell good and do little else. Check the ingredient list of lotions and look for water and glycerin or ceramide as some of the first few ingredients, as these will provide the moisture skin needs.

“Any of those [lotions] feel good on your skin, but how long will it last? You’re just looking at products that will sit on the skin,” Valkenburg said. “They’ll smell good but they won’t replenish.”

Dry skin is not just a problem women have. The deodorant soaps many men use dry out the skin. While lotions seem primarily targeted to women, this does not mean men should avoid them.

“Guys, you don’t have to use [lotions] with fragrance, so you have no excuse,” Valkenburg said.