I’ve dealt with dry, sensitive skin for most of my life. Depending on which doctor I spoke to, it has also sometimes been called eczema. Whatever it is, it can be a royal pain in the bum at times. I’ve tried all manner of lotions and potions; most were just greasy and irritating. S suffers with more of the same from time to time, and between us I think we’ve exhausted most of the chemist’s shelf of “non life threatening irritation.” These days, we do what we can to avoid the doctor’s waiting room. Here are some things that help us to avoid the mind numbing irritation of dry, sensitive skin:
1. Minimise Bath/Shower Products. I never use soap on S’s skin any more, and I only use shampoo in her hair once a week – if she’ll let me! Toddlers don’t sweat like adults do, and if you make sure all the pens in the house are washable, you can usually get away without soap. S will happily play in the shower until the water runs cold, after which 99% of any dirt has rinsed off. If you’re a teen or adult, an unscented product will be less likely to irritate. Use enough to get you clean, but not so much that you see a thick lather.
2. Porridge. What? Yeah, I know. There’s something in it that just works magic for sensitive skin. You put normal porridge oats in a flannel and tie the ends so the oats can’t escape, then use it as a sort of tea bag in the bath. If you have a shower, soak the flannel and oats under the water, and use it like a sponge over the body. Instant relief for all sorts of itchiness.
3. Don’t Get Too Hot. In the Summer, spending too much time in the sun can dry your skin out and cause irritation. In the winter, try to stay warm by wearing several thin layers rather than by sitting close to a fire or radiator. This dry heat will dry sensitive skin and cause horrible itchiness. When the heating is on for long periods, try not to let the heat get too dry; a bowl of water under a radiator can help to keep the air more humid – though make sure you don’t end up with damp! When you have a bath or shower, keep the door closed so that the room gets steamy – but don’t have the water scaldingly hot!
4. Don’t Get Too Cold. – I know, with sensitive skin you really can’t win! When you get too cold, skin can feel like it’s drying and cracking; it can be torturous! Try to stay warm by always wearing plenty of layers, and invest in a decent coat for the cold Winter months.
5. Dry Skin Cream. There are loads of different ones on the market. When we were really struggling with S’s skin we were prescribed approximately eleventy million different lotions and potions. So far the only one that’s worked for us without fail is Aveeno (it’s made with magical porridgey goodness).The other ones didn’t make it any worse; they just didn’t fix anything either.
6. Stay Hydrated. Drinking a glass of water won’t immediately solve anything, but in the longer term, making sure you are well hydrated can help to keep your skin from drying out.
7. Invest in Some Gloves. I never wash up or use any type of cleaning product without first putting on my lovely purple rubber gloves! If your hands are feeling dry, try slathering them with hand cream before doing the washing up – the heat on your rubber gloves can work magic with the cream! When going out in cold weather, gloves can help to protect your skin too. Not marigolds though; get some nice fleecy ones!
8. Switch to Non-Bio. Biological washing powder uses enzymes to break down fats and proteins from stains in our clothes. They’re really good at getting the muck out, but they can be a bit harsh and if you have sensitive skin then clothes washed in biological washing powder can irritate. Non-biological washing powder is gentler, but not as effective with stains at lower temperatures. But if you’re not prone to flinging your dinner down your front, it shouldn’t really be a problem and can save you a lot of scratching and itching!
9. Know Your Skin. Everyone is different. What irritates my skin might be fine for yours, and vice versa. If you suffer badly with dry skin or eczema, your GP may offer you a skin sensitivity test, where they put several little drops of potential allergens on your forearm, and see which comes up. Otherwise, it’s a case of trial and error. As a general rule, itchy materials and scented products are a no-no.
10. Don’t Scratch. I know, I know, this one is so much easier said than done – but scratching rarely makes a skin irritation feel better. Instead of scratching, rub some moisturiser in each time you feel itchy. This should help to soothe it. I know some people who keep a tub of cream in the fridge so that the coolness of the cream will help to take the edge off. If it’s really really bad, you could use an antihistamine to take the edge off – but it’s probably best to avoid going down the medication route, if you possibly can.
Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear how you keep your dry skin from driving you bonkers!