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How to Get Dry Skin to Stop Itching

Finding a powerful moisturizer and applying it after washing can help dry skin feel better and stop itching.

In the winter, when we turn on the heat and hot air blows through our houses, dry skin is common. That doesn’t make it any less bothersome. This reader is hoping for a way to manage it.

Itchy Dry Skin:

Q. My skin is so dry it itches. When I scratch it, I bleed. Moisturizers have not been helpful. What can I do?

A. The first step is to make sure that dry skin is not due to an underlying medical problem. People with underactive thyroid glands frequently suffer with dry skin, including splitting, cracked fingertips. Dry, coarse hair that is becoming sparse is another dermatologic symptom of too little thyroid hormone. So are brittle fingernails. (If you suspect this is your problem, you can learn more from our downloadable Guide to Thyroid Hormones.)

How to Clean Dry Skin Without Making It Dryer:

To treat your dry skin gently, avoid using super-hot water to bathe or shower. That can strip oils off the skin. After washing, pat the wet skin gently with a towel without scrubbing at it. Then apply the strongest moisturizer you can find.

Finding a Great Moisturizer:

An ordinary moisturizer might not be strong enough when the air is really dry due to indoor heating. You could try one with urea, which improves the barrier function of the skin (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, June, 2012).  Research has shown that urea can be an excellent skin moisturizer (Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, Nov., 2013).  We are partial to Udderly Smooth Extra Care 20 Cream from Redex. It contains 20 percent urea. (Redex is an underwriter of our radio show.)

The 8 oz tub is a great deal. Here is a link. You will also find reviews from people who have used it. The handy 2 oz. tube can go with you in your pocketbook. Guys like it too because there is no fragrance and it is not greasy like so many other moisturizers.

You can read more about moisturizers in our Guide to Skin Care & Treatment. Look for Udderly Smooth Body Cream, a great value, at CVS, Rite-Aid, WalMart First Aid and Walgreens.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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