Dry Skin Solutions
November 14, 2012 8:49 AM   Subscribe

My skin is really dry due to aging. What can I do?

My skin is really, really dry. I have red patches on my lower legs and peeling patches on my palms.

I am currently taking shorter, cooler showers and using CeraVe cream twice a day. I do not scratch even though my skin is itchy (legs, scalp). I take a multivitamin and fish oil. I drink a lot of water. I have radiator heat, not forced air, and it's on very low - my apartment is quite cold.

My legs still have lotion on them when I shower and if I don't scrub, it doesn't get completely washed off. Is it better to actively wash the lotion off or leave it on? My legs aren't particularly dirty or anything and I feel like the lotion is protecting my skin from the water, but maybe I'm exacerbating the problem by not allowing the skin to breathe or absorb the water or something?

Yes, I have seen a doctor. My dermatologist said that it's simply a matter of getting older. Also, I am taking synthetic thyroid hormone to treat hypothyroidism (which can cause dry skin).

I am worried because this problem tends to get much worse in winter and it's already pretty bad. What else can I do?
posted by valeries to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Humidifier! I love my humidifier. Leave it on overnight, it made a huge difference to my dry skin. I have this one, which I like, but there are many options.
posted by brainmouse at 8:53 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

You could swap out your sheets; cotton dries you out.
posted by spunweb at 8:56 AM on November 14, 2012

I have a similar problem, down to the itchiness on my legs and scalp, and my dermatologist prescribed a mild steroid lotion that I can use up to four times a day as needed. I've found it's much more effective than CeraVe for stopping itching when it gets severe. I also use tea tree shampoo a few times a week, which helps calm my scalp.
posted by commander biscuit at 9:02 AM on November 14, 2012

Do make sure your thyroid medication is titrated properly. I'm "of a certain age" and when I had skin that was as dry as the Sahara and itched like crazy (and was worst at night - arrgh! I woke up scratching!) it turned out that my thyroid medication needed to be increased. Since you are already on thyroid hormone, how long have you been on it? It took about a month post-increased-Synthroid for my skin to settle down.

It's normal to have dry skin in the winter but if you are crazy scaly and itchy, and you are a woman, it's often your thyroid.

In the meantime, using the richest, thickest body butters imaginable and applying them liberally really helped a lot. I used Bath and Body Works shea butter cream, Lush Sympathy For the Skin, and good old Trader Joe's coconut body butter - all were excellent.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:09 AM on November 14, 2012

FYI: Lotion works by wicking moisture from wet air into dry skin. So it is only effective in humid climates. In dry climates, it makes dry skin worse. Desert cultures use oil to seal in moisture.

My proneness to dry skin resolved by getting enough healthy oils and electrolytes. I used to suffer horribly. I don't have that issue anymore. Given your thyroid issue, I would bet that approach would help you.

Here is why I think that:

A former RN told me long term adrenal stress leads to thyroid stress, and I have found that whenever I need support for one, I need support for the other. The main thing I take for adrenal support is sea salt. The main thing I take for thyroid support is coconut oil. Sea salt and coconut oil is also the main thing I took which resolved my hydration issues and my dry skin issues.
posted by Michele in California at 9:24 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

+1 humidifier

Lac-Hydrin makes a huge difference here. If you are in the US the stronger version is, quite inexplicably, prescription only, but I think you can order it without fuss from well.ca. To me it feels like the acidic extra in it sloughs off the very outer layer and keeps me...without the customary winter skin layer of tight flaky crusty scratchy yecch. I'm sure there's a better explanation for why it works, but. Glycolic and alpha-hydroxy acid lotions are also very useful.
posted by kmennie at 9:37 AM on November 14, 2012

SAME! I have super eczematic skin which gets scaly and flakes (perhaps not to your extreme) but I have done my research on drugstore products which have really helped me. Here is what works for me:

1)Dove nutrium body wash (works even better than aqueous cream BP) with exfoliating gloves (use them gently)
2)Aveeno or Cetaphil body moisturizer, apply generously
3)Shower with lukewarm rather than hot water

If you have issues with your scalp try Body Shop Ginger Shampoo!
If you have issues with your facial skin put one or two drops of argan/rosehip oil into your face cream at night and smooth it on to your face.
Be gentle with your skin and wear softer looser fabrics!

Hope this was helpful! Good luck
posted by dinosaurprincess at 9:40 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

My skin gets really dry in the winter, and the single biggest help for me has been keeping a humidifier running in my room all through the winter. I have the same one brainmouse linked to, and now that the air is really getting dry I go through about 2/3 of the tank in a single day. I keep a humidity gauge out in my room (mine is just a paper thing, looks like a PH strip, but you can get electronic ones on Amazon for about $10) so I have a year-round visual reminder of how dry the air is and know when to break out the humidifier (or turn it up higher).

This has already been mentioned too, but consider switching from a lotion to using oil on your skin during the winter. When my skin is really dry, it soaks the oil right in - I've never had a problem with getting oil stains on clothing. I like Desert Essence jojoba oil (I've bought it at Trader Joe's in the past) and Burt's Bees baby oil (you can probably find this at most drugstores) but there are lots of options out there for oils that are designed for your skin.
posted by jessypie at 10:12 AM on November 14, 2012

This is radical, subversive, unPatriotic, weird and gross-sounding: wash less. Only you and those very close to you know if this can work for you, but it's worth thinking about. Many people take daily showers who don't really need them. Use a washcloth to wash the parts that actually need it, when they need it, and not more. The less frequently you put your entire body under running water, and the less often you use soap, the less problem you will have with dryness. My skin is much more comfortable to live in since I gave up showering so often. If you pretty much leave your skin alone, it knows how to take care of itself. (Of course, if your work or other daily activities get you actually dirty and sweaty, this may not apply.)
posted by Corvid at 10:26 AM on November 14, 2012

Speaking of bathing:

I used to take very hot baths for my medical condition. This dried my skin out horribly. I tried adding all kinds of things to the water to help with that. The most effective thing I found: Adding salt to the water, especially sea salt. Nothing else came close.
posted by Michele in California at 10:30 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

What you need is oils not lotions. I have severe eczema, during the worst outbreak of my life it was recommended to me (by the best dermatologist i've ever had) to take a bath and while still wet rub down with mineral or baby oil. what you want to do is seal in the moisture. Also make sure you're not allergic to anything in your topicals, organic ingredients can easily irritate skin. I now use a topical steroid.
posted by FatRabbit at 10:30 AM on November 14, 2012

Humidifier, tepid quick showers or even "birdbaths" where you just wash armpits, vulva, bum, and feet, taking oil by mouth (coconut oil, fish oil, flax oil, and borage oil are all good options), and using oil on your skin. Sweet almond oil is my current skin favorite.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:37 AM on November 14, 2012

I'm going to agree with many of those who've posted above me. Dry, itchy winter me says: humidifier, oil and wash less. Change your timing around for some things.

In the winter I shower only every other night (and wash my hair in the sink so my showers are shorter and shampoo doesn't irritate my skin.) While in the shower I'll often use a body brush to really exfoliate and then use Neutrogena body oil, because it really sinks in and doesn't feel oily; I put the oil all over while I'm still damp (and use that time to oil and push back my cuticles, which really take a hit in winter) and pat dry. I also use Heeltastic on my hands and feet and elbows before bed, sleeping in gloves and socks when it's really bad. I've also used lanolin in the same way. In the morning I have a "birdbath" (though I inelegantly call it "pits, tits and bits") and haven't received any complaints.

My only other issue is that in winter, synthetic socks and tights make me all crikkkgaagaghhaaaccckkkkkk - I can only do wool, and when I'm flush or find it secondhand, cashmere. Cotton ends up feeling damp and squicky, and any other fibre gives me agita. So I sleep in old cashmere sweaters as pajama tops, with flannel bottoms on cotton flannel sheets, and that really helps. I wear wool socks and put sheepskin liners in my shoes and boots, and they keep me warm without wearing synthetic-lined boots. I have no idea if rejecting synthetic fibres in winter is a weird thing my body does - but my skin seems to hate them.
posted by peagood at 11:43 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding kmennie's answer, lactic acid containing lotions work great on dry skin for me. There are several different brand names including Lac-Hydrin and AmLactin and you can get the 12% concentration over the counter in the US (Amazon).
posted by tangaroo at 2:01 PM on November 14, 2012

I have mild eczema, moderate psoriasis and live in a cold, dry climate.

I nth the calls for keeping your environment moist, and I would add getting enough sunshine (there's a reason why these conditions disappear in more tropical areas).

I also second the suggestion of switching lotion for oils. I've recently got rid of my 6+ brands of moisturiser and cleansers and now solely use coconut oil. It takes some rubbing in, but it moisturises without aggravating with allergens, it smells nice and it doubles as a cooking fat. Also, it makes for a really good make up remover.

Talk to your doc about topical steroids, too, and check your levels of thyroid hormone.

Get 8 hours of sleep a night, practice stress management techniques, exercise and eat well.
posted by dumdidumdum at 5:27 PM on November 14, 2012

Seconding the oil treatments here - my skin gets so raw I finally started making my own oil-based lotions to deal with it. Coconut oil is awesome, as is jojoba and neem oil. You might also look at meadowfoam oil as I hear it has amazing moisturizing qualities.

It might be fun for you to get into lotion-body butter making on your own - it's inexpensive, fun and only takes about an hour all-in to make enough product to last several weeks. PLUS - no weirdo chemicals, etc. to subject your already-freaked out skin to.

Aloe vera gel might also be a nice addition to your regimen, it will definitely hydrate your skin and cool the itching down a ton. Plus it smells amazing.

If you like, memail me and I'll walk you through the basics of how to make your own stuff.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:48 PM on November 14, 2012

In the shower I use a mix of sugar and olive oil to gently scrub my skin then rinse thoroughly. My skin feels and looks great after this treatment.

You may want to increase your omega-3 supplement past the recommended dosage - when I had eye surgery my doctor prescribed both flax and fish oils at about double the bottle's dosage to help the quality and quantity of moisture in my eyes and it makes sense to me that that could correlate to skin.
posted by kimmae at 6:20 AM on November 15, 2012

Very helpful, all!

I just purchased a humidifier. It didn't occur to me that this could help - I think of them as being for sick kids.

I will get my thyroid checked to see if I'm at the right dosage. I will wash less and start using oils in addition to lotions. And I will try to find those lotions with lactic acid. I had never heard of them!

I wanted to mark them all best answer. My skin thanks you!
posted by valeries at 1:31 PM on November 15, 2012

Rub baby oil into your skin after you shower while your skin is still damp, this will help trap the moisture against your skin. You will feel oily for a few minutes but it soaks in pretty quickly. Also having a bath with baby oil in can help too but it will make your bath slippery.

Take fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements too.
posted by wwax at 9:01 AM on January 3, 2013

« Older Why can't I accurately predict my feelings ten...   |   Start the day off right! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.