Skin is the largest organ of our body. It is also the organ that represents us. The most superficial layer of our skin is known as epidermis. It contains protein and lipid (fat) . It is the lipid portion of our skin that protects us from dehydration. Dry skin also known as Xeroderma, results when this protection is lost.
Dry skin is a very common skin condition. It occurs due to lack of the appropriate amount of water in the most superficial layer of the skin, the epidermis. This condition is quite common to both males and females but older individuals are typically much more prone to develop dry skin. This is because elderly individuals tend to have diminished amount of natural skin oils and lubricants.
Dry skin is usually a mild, temporary condition that last a few days to weeks.
Dry skin presents with mild discomfort, skin tightness and itching. Sometimes, weather can affect the severity of skin dryness. Winter season usually worsens dry skin condition. It's important to remember that dry skin may also be a side effect of some medications (diuretics, cholesterol lowering drugs, acne medications like retinoic acid etc) or a symptom of an underlying medical disorder. Most commonly involved areas of dry skin condition are lower legs, hands and forearms.
Cold temperatures and low humidity
Personal history of asthma, atopic dermatitis, thyroid disorder (usually hypothyroidism) , malnutrition, psoriasis, diabetes
Over-washing with harsh soap
Overuseof cleaning agents
Simple lifestyle changes and small measures are very effective in the treatment of dry skin. Basic prevention steps include avoidance of harsh soaps and chemical cleaning agents. We can use emollients, topical steroid (hydrocortison, triamcinolone creams) , anti histamine like medications (loratidine, cetirizine, desloratidine, fexofenadine etc) for itching. Of them, emollients are essentially the cornerstone of recent treatment strategy. They are applied directly to the skin. In very dry skin conditions emollients helps us by :
a.moisturizing our skin
b.helping our skin retaining water
Once applied to the skin, the emollients may stay on the surface, be metabolized, or disappear from the surface by evaporation. In addition to substances considered as actives like fats and humectants, emollients contain many substances conventionally known as(e.g. emulsifiers, antioxidants, preservatives). These have more pronounced effects in the skin. They improve the clinical appearance and skin barrier function. Emollients can be used to replace lost moisture whenever our skin feels dry or tight. They are very safe and we can't overuse them because they don't get absorbed through our skin into our body. That's why, they are are the mainstay of treatment.
If you have dry skin, consult your physician today and choose the type of emollient suitable for your skin.