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Dry Skin Care Tips

Cold, wintry weather can also mean dry, itchy skin. Ordinary dry skin is called xerosis. This condition usually isn't serious, but it can be uncomfortable and cause premature aging, turning plump cells into shriveled ones and creating fine lines and wrinkles long before you're due.

More serious dry skin conditions, such as the inherited group of disorders called ichthyosis, can sometimes be very disfiguring.

Dry skin symptoms include a feeling of tightness or tautness, especially after showering, bathing or swimming; a loss of plumpness when your skin appears shrunken or dehydrated; itching, flaking or scaling, and redness as a result.

Usually dry skin occures in winter, when windy and cold weather is combined with central air conditioning, wood stoves and heating devices drawing moisture off the air and your skin.

Amy Theos, M.D., a UAB dermatologist, has these tips for avoiding flaky dry skin:
Dry skin doesn't like extremely hot showers. Use a minimal amount of a mild soap. Many dermatologists recommend Cetaphil and Aveeno cleansers, for instance, which are reasonably priced and available in most drugstores. "If your skin is really dry, you can try only washing parts of your body that need it, like your armpits and groin areas," Dr. Theos recommends. Avoid deodorant and antibacterial detergents if you have dry skin. Your skin should feel soft and smooth after cleansing, never tight or dry.

If you have dry skin, use a cream-based moisturizer like Cetaphil or an equivalent drugstore brand and moisturize while your skin is still damp. After washing, pat or blot your skin until it's just barely dry, then moisturize immediately to help trap water in the surface cells. Many moisturizers today contain ingredients boost your body's production of collagen and elastin,unblock pores, and exfoliate dead skin cells.

"We like to tell people to moisturize within three minutes of getting out of the shower or bath," Dr. Theos says.

Theos says if redness or persistent itching occurs, a dermatologist can help treat extreme dry skin with a prescription cortisone cream.