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Skin Care and Aging

Dry Skin and Itching

Many older people suffer from dry skin, particularly on their lower legs, elbows, and forearms. The skin feels rough and scaly and often is accompanied by a distressing, intense itchiness. Low humidity ó caused by overheating during the winter and air conditioning during the summer ó contributes to dryness and itching. The loss of sweat and oil glands as you age also may worsen dry skin. Anything that further dries your skin ó such as overuse of soaps, antiperspirants, perfumes, or hot baths ó will make the problem worse. Dehydration, sun exposure, smoking, and stress also may cause dry skin.

Dry skin itches because it is irritated easily. If your skin is very dry and itchy, see a doctor. Dry skin and itching can affect your sleep, cause irritability, or be a symptom of a disease. For example, diabetes and kidney disease can cause itching. Some medicines make the itchiness worse.

The most common treatment for dry skin is the use of moisturizers to reduce water loss and soothe the skin. Moisturizers come in several forms ó ointments, creams, and lotions. Ointments are mixtures of water in oil, usually either lanolin or petrolatum. Creams are preparations of oil in water, which is the main ingredient. Creams must be applied more often than ointments to be most effective. Lotions contain powder crystals dissolved in water, again the main ingredient. Because of their high water content, they feel cool on the skin and donít leave the skin feeling greasy. Although they are easy to apply and may be more pleasing than ointments and creams, lotions donít have the same protective qualities. You may need to apply them frequently to relieve the signs and symptoms of dryness. Moisturizers should be used indefinitely to prevent recurrence of dry skin.

A humidifier can add moisture to the air. Bathing less often and using milder soaps also can help relieve dry skin. Warm water is less irritating to dry skin than hot water.

Wrinkles

Dry Skin and Itching

Age Spots

Skin Cancer

Keep Your Skin Healthy

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