The ‘dry and itchy skin’ problem is a very interesting one because it affects so many of us, across a widely varied scale, and yet information about the importance of treating and preventing dry and itchy skin seems to be much less well-spread. For example, while it’s true that the environmental conditions of colder months are a major contributor towards dry, itchy skin issues, exposure to water can be equally influential, and dehydrated skin is often a fluctuating, but year-round problem. Depending on skin tone and texture, some people may not even be able to truly tell that their skin is dry until they have felt and seen it properly hydrated; for others, eczema patches and psoriasis have called full attention to what intense, dry and itchy skin can look and feel like.
For everyone, however, it seems like skin care information falls short. I happen to have experienced both sides, as someone who has had eczema since infancy and deals with sporadic, itchy patches—but who also only recently learned that the majority of my skin is much drier than I thought! Even when educating yourself with online and text resources, showing up for annual dermatology check-ups, and using a fancy facial moisturizer, you may not be hydrating your skin well enough on a regular basis.
Why It Matters
You may be thinking that this isn’t a big deal, but even mildly dry skin can cause cycles of acne, unsightly flaking on the scalp, face, and lips, and a dull look to general skin tone. In time, this dryness can also contribute to deeper wrinkles, both on the face and in the neck area. So, everyone should be equipped with at least one great dry skin lotion! The need to apply it may vary, and you may need to change up your routine as you notice your skin becoming more or less dry. For some, daily application is going to bring ideal glow and vibrancy, while others may only need to apply every other or every few days.
As mentioned briefly above, bathing routines and exposure to water for a job, hobby, or other reason has a major impact on how hydrated your skin is. While we may grow up thinking that we can be watered like flowers, the process of being exposed to hot water and then drying off is actually very drying to skin, rather than hydrating or nourishing. Taking tepid showers instead of scorching ones, shorter bathing sessions instead of karaoke championship ones, and patting dry instead of shimmying and waxing with the towel are all much easier on the skin. If you’re really suffering from dry and itchy skin, you may want to pretty stringently adapt to these changes and find other ways to lessen exposure to water, if needed (i.e. wearing gloves).
Still, for a lot of people, the dryness and itchiness may be subtle enough that sacrificing some little pleasures like a long, hot bath may not seem worth it. I certainly can’t argue with that, but it is another very important reason to find a great body lotion that works for you and use it as often as necessary to maintain your skin’s youthful appearance and restore the hydration that protects your skin from harmful irritants.
Not All Lotions Are Equal
It’s important to note that while most of the dermal layer on our bodies is a bit thicker, the skin on our face and neck is thinner and more fragile; this skin actually requires a different formula of lotion, often called a face moisturizer. These moisturizers are created to be better absorbed by this different texture of skin, and they are also often formulated to avoid clogging pores, which is critical, as body lotions will typically cause acne when applied to the neck and face.
Finding the right moisturizer is also essential. Even with all of the tools in my arsenal, I only recently learned that my facial skin was so much drier than I thought! (Pro tip: Go talk to the friendly people at your local Sephora to get great, free tips and samples of face moisturizers and eye creams before you buy.) The facial moisturizer that kept me protected in my early 20s just wasn’t doing it for me anymore, and trying a thicker, more powerful facial cream transformed my skin almost immediately into a glowing, dewy canvas that I barely recognize as my own.
This surfaces another important point: A lotion is not going to be enough for everyone, especially not all-year-round. Body lotions may be popular and addictively scented, but a really healthy skin care routine skips the fragrance and focuses on hydrating our bodies all over, giving us the opportunity to have bright, bouncy, youthful skin for longer. For those of us who have drier skin, itchy patches that can’t be ignored, sandpaper elbows, roughed up knees, cracking feet, chapped lips, and patches of come-and-go eczema, ointments and creams are the name of the game.
Just as the formula for a facial moisturizer differs from that of a lotion, the formula of a lotion is inadequate for moderate to severe dryness because it is lighter, faster to evaporate, and not going to be powerful enough to lock in the moisture that the skin needs. Ointments are the most extreme over-the-counter options, but they are often grease-based, so they may leave an unwanted residue on the skin even after drying and settling. Consider using something like this just before bed or when planning to be stationary for a longer period of time if the texture bothers you but you need the relief.
Creams are a mid-ground between lotions and ointments, and may be the perfect match for combating itchy, dry symptoms without leaving a residue, if the protection level is high enough for your needs. Ideally, applying your moisturizer after showering, bathing, and washing your hands or face will help lock in the most moisture and keep skin the most protected.
Of course, if you are experiencing painful, long-lasting skin irritation of any kind, it’s best to consult with a physician. Some more extreme cases of dryness, itchiness, eczema, and psoriasis require medical attention for relief.
However, remember that even if you aren’t having any screaming symptoms, your skin may not be protected or nourished to its fullest potential. Even if this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, taking care of our skin now greatly affects how it changes (or doesn’t) as we grow older. Aside from being anti-aging, making us look glowy and gorgeous, and combating issues like dryness and itchiness, keeping up with a great skin care routine also helps to treat and prevent acne. Overall, moisturizing is the single most important thing you can do for dry and itchy skin.
Resources— WebMD, American Academy of Dermatology Association