What's the largest organ in your body? If you didn't already know, it's your skin. That's right - skin is an organ with living cells. Your skin breathes, has a special function, sloughs and recreates. Your skin keeps the outside of you looking good while it covers and protects your muscles, blood vessels, and bones. Sadly, this wonderful organ is often neglected and abused.
Xerosis - Another Word for Dry Skin
Your skin is exposed to myriad conditions daily, some of which are damage causing and leave abrasions, rashes, and marks. The most common affliction of the skin is called "xerosis." Don't worry, it's not fatal, but it can be very uncomfortable and not very attractive. It has the power to shrivel plump cells and create fine lines and wrinkles. In layman's terms, it's dry skin.
Dry Skin: Blame It On The Environment
As a rule, most dry skin conditions result from environmental factors that can be controlled. Some of these factors are exposure to either hot or cold weather with low humidity levels, long-term use of air conditioning or central heating, and those long, lovely, hot baths you like to take. Yup, hot baths can actually dry your skin out. Sorry about that. Detergents, deodorants and anti-bacterial soaps can dry your skin out as well. To top it off, the symptoms of dry skin are contingent upon several other factors - like your age, health, where you live, the amount of time you spend outside, how much time you spend in the sun, and if the problem is caused by something other than environment.
You Know Your Skin Is Dry When...
Fortunately for you and the rest of us, xerosis is a temporary condition, maybe occurring only in the winter months. But it is something that is a lifelong issue. People are different and may experience dry skin on different parts of their bodies, but the most common places for it are on the arms, legs, and sides of the abdomen. If your skin is dry just because you're getting older, then there are some things you will probably experience, like feeling you're in a straight jacket after your shower, bath, or having a swim because your skin is so tight. You know your skin is dry when it looks dehydrated (ya think?) and feels rough rather than smooth. Often itching accompanies dry skin, and then there's that ashy look - you know the one, as if you rubbed your legs with white chalk when you scratched that itch.
When dryness becomes more serious, your skin may crack, peel, and flake. Fine lines and cracks may appear on your hands and your appendages will be red. If you have deep cracks from the cold or heat, they may bleed. None of these things is fun. It can be very painful. More serious skin conditions can result from dry skin that isn't moisturized and cared for properly. Sores and infections can develop in places that have been scratched or cracked open.
Be Nice To Your Skin: Moisturize Dry Skin
As long as you are not suffering with a serious skin condition, you can do some simple and easy things at home to nurture your skin back to health. Moisturize your skin in order to provide a seal to prevent water from escaping. Rather than a hot bath, try a warm bath and limit your bath time. Long hot showers or soaking in a tub that boils you red removes oils from your skin. Keep your bath to about 15 minutes in warm water - your skin will thank you. Cleanliness is great, but detergent type soaps that promise to kill everything in sight also kill your skin. Ease up and use a cream soap or gels with extra moisturizers. Your skin should feel soft after you wash it, not like a loofah. Pat yourself dry rather than rubbing a layer of skin off and leave some moisture on your skin.
Take care of your skin - it takes good care of you.