Dry Skin

Dec 29, 2018

By Trevor Shewfelt, Pharmacist at the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

One hundred and four years ago, war raged across Europe. It was a fantastically violent and tragic affair. The time-honored battle tactic of lining up and charging an enemy's position was met with the newly perfected machine gun. Industrialization now meant armies could have almost limitless ammunition for enormous artillery guns. Those guns could pound an enemy for days on end. Along the Western Front, both sides dug trenches. They fought to a bloody draw over inches and yards of no-man's land. But along that Western Front on Christmas Eve 1914, this carnage paused. There was an informal truce that sporadically and spontaneously broke out between the Germans and the British. Opposing soldiers were even reported to being singing Christmas Carols, playing soccer and exchanging gifts. A little Peace and Joy in a hostile land.

Season's greetings! Hopefully your belly is full. I hope some loved ones have said a few nice words to you. But despite what the Hallmark Christmas movies would have you believe, not every Christmas in the good old days was merry. They weren't all as horrific as World War 1, but they weren't all Miracle on 34th Street either. How about today? Is anything scratching at the veneer of your holiday cheer? Maybe it is you literally scratching. Is your skin a little itchy? A little dry? A lot dry? Tis the season for Peace, Joy and dry itchy skin in the Parkland.

Winter in Dauphin means dry skin. Baby it's cold outside. Cold air can't hold very much moisture. When the cold air comes into our houses and places of business, it is warmed up. Now the warm air can hold lots of water, but there isn't much in it. We say it has low relative humidity. And this warmed up cold air sucks the moisture out of your skin.

What can you do about dry skin in the winter? Skip long baths and showers. Ideally, have brief 3- to 5-minute baths or showers 2-3 times per week. Sponge baths using warm water are better than soaking in a tub. Use luke warm water rather than hot water while bathing or showering. Avoid harsh or perfumed soaps. In fact, the less soap the better. Consider a mild non-soap cleanser. Pat the skin dry rather than rubbing vigorously after bathing or showering. Apply a moisturizer after within 3 minutes after bathing while the skin is still damp. Then keep applying the moisturizer 3-4 times a day. Cool mist humidifiers can increase the humidity indoors and will minimize water evaporation from the skin. Humidity should be between 40% and 50% in winter. Finally, drink lots of water.

Which moisturizes should you apply after your bath or shower? There are different types. The thicker, greasier ones work the best. Vaseline and lanolin are sometimes called occlusive moisturizes. They hold moisture in the skin really well, but they aren't cosmetically appealing because they are so greasy. Creams with oils like castor oil, cocoa butter, and coconut oil are less greasy than Vaseline, but still hold in moisture fairly well. Thin lotions are the most cosmetically appealing, but don't hold water in as well and will have to be reapplied several times per day.

When should you see your doctor about your dry itchy skin? See your doctor if the itching is very severe and the skin is red and inflamed. If the itchy skin is in the folds on the front of the elbows or behind the knees or on the neck or feet - see the doctor. If the patient is under 2 years old see the doctor. If there are other signs of infection like a fever, blisters, very red area or pus, see the doctor. Finally, if regular dry skin doesn't get better after treating with moisturizers for about 10 days, see the doctor.

Even if your Christmas didn't go as you would have liked it, don't despair. You aren't in a mud filled trench in World War 1 wondering if the next shell is going to end it all. And even if things are going really badly this year, think back to the Christmas Eve Truce of 1914. It happened because regular soldiers saw the guys in the other trench as humans, not the enemy. They enjoyed a little Peace and Joy and kindness together. If that can happen in the fog of war, it can happen anywhere.

As always if you have any questions or concerns about these or other products, ask your pharmacist.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist or other health care professional.

We now have this and most other articles published in the Parkland Shopper on our Website. Please visit us at www.dcp.ca


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