General Information

Dry skin is a very common problem, particularly as you get older.

The outer layers of your skin are made up of skin cells, oil and water. This outermost skin barrier can break down due to wear and tear from the environment, e.g. from the wind, sun, frequent washing or exposure to irritant substances.

When this happens, oil and water are lost from your skin, causing skin dryness and sometimes itching. Your skin may become rough or scaly and small flakes of dead skin may be visible.

Taking long baths or showers in hot water, using too much soap or spending a lot of time in dry air, such as in air-conditioned rooms, can make your skin dry.

Dry skin is usually more of a problem in winter; sitting in front of heaters or fires and using an electric blanket can also help cause it.

See Your Pharmacist or Medical Professional

  • if your skin is broken, very red and/or inflamed
  • if you have a rash
  • if you have thick skin patches or silvery scales on your skin
  • if the person with dry skin is a child

Treatment Tips

  • use a moisturiser or emollient frequently; moisturisers add moisture to skin and emollients soften it
  • bathe or shower less frequently (once a day is plenty) and use lukewarm water
  • after a bath or shower, pat your skin dry (do not rub it) then apply a moisturiser or emollient
  • use a barrier cream or gloves for protection if your hands are frequently wet or in water
  • choose a mild soap or soap substitute, even when your skin is in good condition; normal soap is very alkaline and can irritate or dry your skin
  • some people are also allergic to perfumes or lanolin, which are ingredients in some soaps
  • try using hypoallergenic cosmetics and skin products, as they tend to be less irritating

Treatment Options

Soap substitutes

[GENERAL SALE]
e.g. Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Body Wash, Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Bar, Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, DermaVeen Soap-Free Cleansing Bar, DermaVeen Soap Free Wash 5.5 (Cleanser), Eulactol Soap-Free Cleansing Bar, Eulactol Soap-Free Wash for Dry Skin, Eulactol Soap-Free Wash for Normal to Oily Skin, Hamilton Dry Skin Treatment Mild Foam Wash, Hamilton Dry Skin Treatment Wash; aqueous cream, emulsifying ointment

  • use soap substitutes whenever you would use a normal soap
  • if you use aqueous cream or emulsifying ointment, put a small knob of it in a jar, add hot water and shake to create a liquid soap substitute

Moisturisers or emollients

[GENERAL SALE]
e.g.  Alpha Keri Lotion, Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturising Lotion, Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturising Cream, Aveeno Active Naturals Skin Relief Moisturising Lotion, Cetaphil Moisturising Cream, Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion, DermaDrate Cracked Heel Treatment, DermaDrate Dry Skin Treatment, DermaVeen Moisturising Lotion, DermaVeen Moisturising Cream, Eulactol Cream for Very Dry Skin, Eulactol Heel Balm, Eulactol Hypo-A Sensitive Skin Moisturiser, Eulactol Moisturising Lotion, Hamilton Dry Skin Treatment Cream, Hamilton Dry Skin Treatment Lip Balm, Hamilton Dry Skin Treatment Lotion, Hydraderm, Macro Natural Vitamin E Cream (lanolin-free), Neutraplus, Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, Oilatum Emollient, Q.V. Cream (lanolin-free), Q.V. Skin Lotion (lanolin-free), Rosken Skin Repair; aqueous cream, emulsifying ointment

  • moisturisers add moisture to skin and emollients soften it; many products do both
  • lotions feel lightest on your skin, are suitable for the scalp and other hairy areas, and they can also be used to treat mild dryness on other body areas
  • creams are the next lightest; they are usually easily absorbed into your skin and are pleasant to use
  • ointments feel much heavier on your skin and many people find them too greasy
  • ointments can be useful for thicker or more scaly areas of dry skin and for use overnight, or on your feet
  • products containing urea, such as Eulactol Cream for Very Dry Skin, can help loosen the top layer of dead skin and expose soft new skin underneath
  • products containing urea may sting if used on broken skin

Barrier creams

[GENERAL SALE]
e.g. Silic 15

  • barrier creams are useful if you frequently have your hands in water or you have contact dermatitis, but they may make your hands slippery

Bath and shower products

[GENERAL SALE]
e.g. Alpha Keri Bath Oil, Aveeno Daily Moisturising Body Wash, Aveeno Skin Relief Shower Oil, DermaVeen Colloidal Oatmeal Bath Powder, DermaVeen Shower and Bath Oil, Eulactol Soap-Free Wash for Dry Skin, Eulactol Soap-Free Wash for Normal to Oily Skin, Q.V. Bath Oil (non-slip), Q.V. Flare Up Bath Oil

  • these products leave a thin layer of oil on your skin, which helps to hold moisture in
  • use no more than the recommended amount
  • take care, as they can make your bath or shower slippery

Anti-itch (anti-pruritic) preparations

[GENERAL SALE]
e.g. Eurax (cream), Pinetarsol Cleansing Bar, Pinetarsol Bath Oil, Q.V. Bath Oil, Sarna Lotion

  • these products provide relief from itching
  • Pinetarsol Bath Oil can also be used in the shower, but can make your bath or shower slippery, so take care
  • Pinetarsol Cleansing Bar is a soap substitute which also contains anti-itching ingredients

More Information

Availability of medicines

  • GENERAL SALE available through pharmacies and possibly other retail outlets.
  • PHARMACY ONLY available for sale through pharmacies only.
  • PHARMACIST ONLY may only be sold by a pharmacist.

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Last Reviewed: 06/05/2009

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