“Dry skin? Join the club”

Prairie Doc Perspective 


An exceedingly common question I get in clinic, especially in the heart of a South Dakota winter, is how to remedy dry skin. And the questions arent just in clinic; my own kids, family, friends, everyone seems to have an occasional problem with dry and irritated skin.

Dry skin is something we are all familiar with; if your dry spots come with a rash or anything else unusual, it may be worth showing it to your primary care provider, as it could be something else entirely. Eczema, a common inflammatory skin condition, often goes along with and is made worse by dryness.

Soothing your dry skin doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. There are a handful of tricks we can all use to help ourselves when it comes to dryness. The first advice is to avoid things that cause your skin to become drier. For many, that means to bathe less. That’s right; I said it: bathe less.

Every time you bathe or shower, it washes away natural oils on the skin. Often our instinct when our skin becomes irritated is to wash it more, but in this case more is not better. Of course, I’m not asking you to forego hygiene entirely. But most people can probably bathe every other or every third day. This is especially true of babies and kids who struggle with eczema – cut down the daily baths.

When we do bathe or shower, we can modify factors that will worsen dry skin. The hotter the water, the drier the skin afterward, so try lowering the temperature a bit. Less time spent in the bath or shower can help. And be mindful of the soap or cleanser you use – to reduce dryness, use less soap and a gentler soap. For kids who love the tub, skip the bubble bath and just put some gentle soap on a washcloth at the end of the bath when it is time to wash up.

After that bath or shower, how do you choose from the hundreds of creams or lotions out there claiming to soothe dry skin? The dermatologists I know love products with petroleum jelly (i.e. Vaseline®) for dry skin; remember, I said this didn’t need to be fancy! Stick with fragrance-free products and keep it simple. Whatever you choose, slather it on as soon as the skin is dry.

Dry skin affects many of us, but I hope these tips will help the next time you find yourself irritated with this common condition.

Kelly Evans-Hullinger, M.D. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices internal medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. Follow The Prairie Doc® at www.prairiedoc.org and on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show providing health information based on science, built on trust, streaming live on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.


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