Normal skin has a smooth and glowing appearance; dry skin is dull in appearance, and may be rough, scaly and prone to form open cracks. The extreme, most severe form of dry skin is called ichthyosis, also known as fish-scale disease. The human skin begins to lose moisture from the moment we are born. The natural process of growing older or an inherited tendency are both important causes of dry skin.
In the elderly, hormonal changes in the body decrease the flow of sebum secreted by the sebaceous glands of the dermis leading to greater water loss. The degree of dryness of the skin varies with age and genetic make-up. Other factors causing dryness are exposure to the sun and wind (both hot and cold winds), air-conditioning, soaps and strong detergents, hot spas, hot baths and hot showers.
Dry skin may cause itching and be a precursor to skin conditions such as dermatitis and eczema. Many systemic medications will provoke dry skin. These include diuretics, nicotinic acid, antithyroid medications, clofazimine, retinol (vitamin A) and its analogues e.g. isotretinoin, somatomedin, corticosteroids and cholesterol-lowering agents.
The main aim of treatment is to bring moisture to the skin by providing a lipid layer. This will provide relief for the patient, restore plumpness to the skin and improve its appearance.
Advice for the Patient
1. When possible, decrease exposure to hot or cold drying winds, air conditioning, hot water, soap and strong detergents. Heated air in the home may need humidifying. Radiators should not be directed at the skin.
2. Wool and synthetic materials may cause increased irritation.
3. Use a bath oil, either in the bath or under the shower.
4. Do not use soap. Use an emollient cleansing bar or liquid wash with a pH 6 to match the skin. Most soaps have a pH from 9 - 11, and can dry or irritate sensitive skin.
5. Use a hydrating lotion after the shower or bath, and a cream for less extensive or very dry areas.
6. Use a moisturising sunscreen everyday to help prevent the sun penetrating and drying the skin. The face and the back of the hands are particularly important as they are permanently exposed to the weather.
7. For dry lips protect them with a moisturising lip balm with a sunscreen for extra protection.
Products to Help (Moisturising Soap Alternatives)
A gentle yet effective alternative to soap. QV Wash lathers, cleanses and leaves your skin feeling clean and fresh. It is mild enough for your face and suitable for your entire body. It is ideal for daily use in the shower or on the hand basin.
If you prefer a cleanser that you can hold in your hand like normal soap, then the QV Bar is for you. It’s a soap free cleanser that contains over one third moisturisers. QV Bar moisturises as it cleans and leaves your skin feeling soft and smooth (not supple).
QV BATH OIL
This water dispersible oil is the most effective way to revive large areas of dry or sensitive skin. Treat and protect your skin while relaxing in a bath. For adults add 2 capfuls (20 mL) to a 20 cm bath and soak in the bath for 10 to 15 minutes. Do not use soap. QV Bath Oil is also available in a handy shower pack, as most people do not have time to luxuriate in a bathtub every day. QV Bath Oil leaves the skin feeling soft and smooth with a healthy glow.