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7 Tips to Soothe Your Dry, Itchy Skin

After facing demanding bosses, traffic, and other aggravations, most people can’t wait to get home and relax. However, the place you go to put your feet up and relax may harbor its own kind of annoyances: things that can cause dry, itchy skin.

When it comes to household skin irritants, the list is practically endless. It includes cleaning products, floor polishes, air fresheners, and laundry detergent, just to name a few. These products strip skin of essential water and oils, leading to dryness and irritation. In some people, dry skin can progress to more severe skin conditions such as eczema or dermatitis.

To fight household irritants and make your home environment more soothing to your skin, try these practical tips:

Dry Skin Fix # 1: Gloves

You may have heard that if you want to keep your age a secret, you should take care of your hands. This means protecting them from harsh household cleaners and dish detergents, which are proven skin irritants.

To keep your dry skin soft and supple, cover them with non-latex rubber gloves when it’s time to scrub. Or better yet, create a double barrier of protection: Wear a pair of rubber gloves overtop a layer of thin, soft cotton ones before you touch a bucket or sponge.

Dry Skin Fix # 2: Post-Swim Shower and Moisture

One cause of dry, itchy skin isn’t in your home but lurking right outside in the pool: chlorine. The best dry skin treatment when it comes to chlorine-ravaged skin? Chemical-free water.

As soon as you or your children step out of the pool, head inside to rinse off with water and mild soap. Then follow up with a moisturizer that lists glycerin as the first ingredient. The glycerin will help your skin hold on to moisture more efficiently, preventing future dryness.

Dry Skin Fix # 3: Fish and Flaxseed Oil

If you have dry skin, you already know that your age, the environment, and even the time of year can take its toll on your skin. But did you know that fish and flaxseed oil that contain EFAs -- essential fatty acids -- can help keep your skin hydrated by protecting it from the damaging effects of the environment? Ask your health care provider about adding fish and flaxseed oil to your diet to help keep your skin moisturized. Flaxseed should be ground in order to maximize its health benefits.

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Dry Skin Fix # 4: Petroleum Jelly

For people with sensitive skin that is easily ravaged by household skin irritants, the best dry skin treatments contain the fewest ingredients. One such treatment is pure petroleum jelly. When abrasive household products touch skin, they break down the skin’s protective barrier. Then, when you apply a chemical-laden moisturizer on top of an already weakened area, it leads to skin irritation overload -- burning, stinging, itching, and redness.

Because it contains only one ingredient, petroleum jelly is very gentle on the skin. As a result, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends it as a dry skin soother for all areas of the body, from your lips to your hands to your feet. And because it is so safe and inexpensive, you can apply petroleum jelly as often as you like.

Dry Skin Fix # 5: Oats

If exposure to a household cleaning product has left your skin rough and itchy, simply open your kitchen cabinet for a proven dry skin treatment: oatmeal. Oats have been used to treat dry skin for centuries. But only recently have researchers discovered what eases the itch: chemicals called avenanthramides that fight inflammation and redness.

To maximize the grain’s itch-fighting power, take an oatmeal bath. Grind either quick or old-fashioned oatmeal in a blender or food processor and slowly sprinkle it into the tub as the water runs. Then soak for at least 15 minutes.

Dry Skin Fix # 6: A Mite-Free Zone

As gross as it may sound, one common household skin irritant lives and breathes in most homes. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reported that exposure to microscopic dust mites promotes inflamed, irritated skin.

To prevent mite-related itch, regularly vacuum floors and carpets and wash your bedding in water that is 130 degrees F or hotter at least once a week.

Dry Skin Fix # 7: Hydrating Hand Sanitizer

You can’t check out at a convenience store or walk into a doctor’s office without seeing a dispenser of hand sanitizer these days. And many families also keep sanitizer dispensers all over the house for quick and easy hand cleansing.

With the threat of flu and other illnesses, hand sanitizer is surely a good thing, both inside your home and out. What’s not so good is the drying effect these alcohol-based sanitizers have on your hands. To keep your hands smooth, look for hydrating versions that are dermatologist-recommended.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on June 11, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

American Academy of Dermatology: “Dry Skin & Keratosis Pilaris.”

Francesca Fusco, MD, dermatologist, New York City.

American Academy of Dermatology: “Dermatologists’ Top Tips for Skin Care on a Budget."

American Academy of Dermatology: “Cosmeceutical Facts and Your Skin.”

Sur, R. Archives of Dermatological Research, November 2008.

The Mayo Clinic: “Some Home Remedies Are Good Options.”

Jeong, S. Journal of Investigational Dermatology, August 2008.

Sarah L. Stein, MD, pediatric dermatologist, Comer Children’s Hospital, University of Chicago.

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