Derma Care help and information

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Information & Advice

Derma Care help and information

Need help with dry skin? Our Boots Pharmaceuticals skin care advisor tells us how to manage dry skin.

Published 04/10/2010

Nearly a quarter of UK adults suffer from very dry skin and skin care advisor Nicola Hill is one of them. Thus Nicola knows, all too well, the difficulty dry skin can cause.

"I have had dry skin, off and on, for 10 years," says Nicola, who has helped develop the Boots Pharmaceuticals Derma Care range for dry skin. "My skin is dry, flaky and feels really itchy and if I scratch it, it gets drier and splits. It can be a constant irritation, like a dripping tap."

What is dry skin?

Dry skin can, of course, cover a range of problems, and contributes to medical conditions like eczema and contact dermatitis. Indicators of dry skin can range from skin that feels parched, tight and sore to skin that is affected by a medical condition and is flaky, scaly, rough, red and sometimes itchy. Flare-ups of eczema and contact dermatitis can also be extremely itchy. Sometimes sufferers may have all of these symptoms at once.

Dry skin can be found anywhere on the body but, for some, it is localised in specific areas like hands, arms or legs. Some people will experience dry skin constantly; for others, it can be a cycle of dry skin flare-ups.

"Children are more likely to have eczema in the creases of their arms or behind their knees whereas adults are more likely to have eczema on their hands or as little discs on their skin," says Nicola. "If people are older, they tend to get dry skin on their lower legs."

A daily moisturising regime

Whatever your experience, Nicola says a moisturising regime is the single most important factor when it comes to managing dry skin.

"For most people who suffer from very dry skin, it's life-long and needs to be cared for everyday," she says. "An effective approach to manage and prevent dry skin is a daily moisturising regime - sometimes called 'complete emollient therapy'.

"There are many skin care emollients and moisturisers available and yet there are a lot of people with dry skin conditions who feel their needs are not being met. The important message is how you use these products."

A wall of protection

So why is a daily moisturising regime so important?

"The analogy I use is that healthy skin is like a brick wall, made up of bricks and mortar," says Nicola. "Dry skin is a wall where the mortar has fallen out and the weather has got in and the bricks get dry and crack. What you need is a substitute for the missing mortar."

That's why people with dry skin can find something as simple as cold winter weather might account for sudden outbreaks of dryness.

Central heating also dries the skin, as can air conditioning or a controlled environment such as on a plane.

"Contact with soaps or detergents, irritants or allergens can also cause dryness. So can dehydration or hormonal changes such as pregnancy. Medical conditions such as thyroid disorders or diabetes may also affect your skin," adds Nicola.

People may also find their skin becomes noticeably drier as they get older.

"As you age, your skin cells are not renewed as quickly and the skin produces less natural oil," says Nicola. "For some people it means they may have dry skin for the first time."

Keep moisturising - and avoid those triggers

You can help manage your dry skin by being aware of what triggers dryness - and avoiding those triggers.

"If you already have a dry skin problem, using products that contain soaps or detergents may make it worse," says Nicola.

She suggests cleansing with a soap-free, non-perfumed product, then using a non-perfumed emollient or moisturising product. It is important to use moisturisers throughout the day to help stop the skin drying out - perhaps keep your moisturiser on your desk at work or in your bag.

Finally, it's important to stick to a daily moisturising regime.

Hints and tips
If you have dry skin, you may wish to:
  • Stick to a daily moisturising regime. Find out more here.
  • Use cleansing products that are soap, detergent and perfume-free. Use warm rather than hot water to wash, bath or shower.
  • Drink plenty of water to help stop the skin drying out. Approximately 1.2 litres (6-8 glasses) of fluid every day.
  • Eat a healthy well balanced diet.
  • Wash clothes with non-biological detergents without perfume or colours.
  • Wear gloves when cleaning or washing-up.
  • Avoid hot, dry atmospheres and extremes of temperature.
  • Protect skin from the sun. Wear a good suncream.
  • When outside in winter, wear clothes that cover exposed skin, such as gloves and long sleeves.
  • Activities such as swimming dry the skin. Moisturise the skin before and after swimming to minimise drying effects.
  • Wool clothing may irritate the skin so wear cotton, silk or soft materials next to the skin.

Read more like this:
About Derma Care
How to apply Derma Care
Frequently asked questions about Derma Care

Related categories
Shop the Derma Care range

Find out more at Boots WebMD:
Visit our skin problems health information centre
What is eczema?
What is contact dermatitis?
The mind-skin connection

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