Appointments

866.320.4573

Request an Appointment

Questions

800.223.2273

Contact us with Questions

Live Chat hours:  M-F 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. ET

Expand Content

Basic Skin Care Tips

Dry skin care

Dry skin is defined as flaking or scaling of the skin when there is no evidence of dermatitis (inflammation). It is most prominent on the shins, hands, and sides of the abdomen, and can be associated with itching. It is more common during the winter months, when humidity is low, and improves in the summer time. Some people also have a genetic tendency to develop dry skin. In addition, elderly people tend to have more trouble with dry skin due to the natural changes in skin that occur with age.

Treatment is important because extensively dry skin can lead to dermatitis or eczema. Dry skin may be prevented or treated by:

  • Taking lukewarm baths or showers
  • Limiting baths/showers to 5 to 10 minutes
  • Applying a moisturizer right after drying off from a shower or washing your hands
  • Using a moisturizing body soap and hand soap
  • Using heavier creams or ointments during the winter months and lighter lotions in the summer

If the above regimen does not improve the condition of the dry skin, it is possible that the flaking is a sign of underlying dermatitis (which is also called eczema). There are different types of dermatitis that may cause dry, itchy, flaking skin. They include:

  • Seborrheic dermatitis — a red, scaly, mildly itchy rash on the scalp, eyebrows, and sides of the nose in areas that contain many oil glands.
  • Allergic contact dermatitis — a rash that results when the skin comes in contact with a substance that causes an immune reaction, such as poison ivy. Allergic contact dermatitis of the hands often causes scaling on the palms or fingers.
  • Atopic dermatitis — long-lasting type of dermatitis usually starting in childhood that tends to run in families. It also may cause excessively dry, itchy skin on the face and body.
  • Athlete's foot — dry flaking skin on the soles and/or sides of the feet and between toes caused by a fungus.

Sun protection

Protecting your skin from the sun is important because the sun emits ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Over time, UVR exposure causes many changes in the skin, including wrinkles, discoloration, age spots, benign (non-cancerous) growths, and pre-cancerous, or cancerous growths. In fact, most skin cancers are related to sun exposure.

UVR consists of two main subtypes: UVB and UVA. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns and tanning. UVA rays are believed to be responsible for photoaging - the damage that occurs to the skin from many years of exposure to the sun. Both types have been implicated in promoting cancer. Most sunscreen products available prevent sunburns by blocking UVB rays. Newer sunscreen products are also successful in blocking UVA rays. For that reason, sun protection recommendations emphasize certain behaviors, as well as the use of sunscreens. The recommendations include:

  • Avoiding midday sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Wearing wide-brimmed hats, long long-sleeved shirts, and pants
  • Using a generous amount of sunscreen and reapplying it frequently (every 2 to 3 hours)
  • Using sunscreens that have a sun protection factor (SPF) greater than 30, and that have UVA and UVB coverage
  • Avoiding tanning beds

Protecting the skin from excessive sun exposure may decrease vitamin D levels. A higher dose of vitamin D intake may be necessary for individuals with known risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, such as dark skin, older age (elderly), photosensitivity, obesity, or those with fat malabsorbtion.

Facial skin care for acne-prone skin

If you are prone to acne, choose a cleanser specially formulated for acne. These products often contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which help to clear acne sores. Clean your face gently, as trauma to the acne breakouts may worsen the acne or cause scarring. Avoid harsh mechanical scrubbing of skin and picking lesions. If you need to use a moisturizer, use light, non-comedogenic moisturizers, which do not aggravate acne. Also, women should use an oil-free foundation, as heavy makeup or other cosmetic products that block pores may worsen acne.

Facial skin care for mature skin

Photoaging refers to the damage that is done to the skin from prolonged exposure to UV radiation, over a person's lifetime. Roughness, wrinkling, irregular pigmentation (coloration), inelasticity, enlarged sebaceous (oil) glands, precancerous and cancerous lesions are all examples of skin changes associated with photoaging. Sunscreens and sun protection are important to prevent further progression of photoaging. Furthermore, smoking has been shown to accelerate aging of skin, so stopping smoking is important for good skin health. In addition, a well-balanced diet allows the skin get the nutrition it needs to help repair ongoing damage from the sun and other environmental elements. Many topical non-prescription and prescription products are currently available for anti-aging purposes, including:

Tretinoin (Retin-A® and Renova®) — Retin-A is a prescription medication initially developed to treat acne. In addition, it was discovered that it also improved skin texture and color when used over an extended period of time. Tretinoin exfoliates the skin (removes a dead layer of skin cells), helps even out pigmentation, and minimizes fine lines. Many people can benefit from using Tretinoin or related products at bedtime. Side effects of Tretinoin include redness, peeling, tightness, and swelling. You may be able to minimize these side effects by initially using Tretinoin every other night and then gradually increasing the frequency to nightly as tolerated. Tretinoin also makes the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet rays from the sun, and therefore we recommend the use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen each morning.

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) — Alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic, lactic, tartaric, and citric acids) are found as ingredients of numerous skin products. In the United States alone, there are approximately 185 manufacturers of products containing AHAs. Creams and lotions with AHA may help with fine lines, irregular pigmentation, age spots, and may help decrease enlarged pores. Side effects of AHAs include mild irritation and sun sensitivity. For that reason, sunscreen should also be used every morning.

Beta hydroxy acid (salicylic acid) — Salicylic acid also has been studied for its effect on photoaged skin. It exfoliates skin, and can improve the texture and color of the skin. It penetrates oil-laden hair follicle openings and, as a result, also helps improve acne. There are many products available that contain salicylic acid. Some are available over-the-counter, and others require a doctor's prescription.

Hydroquinone — Hydroquinone is a bleaching agent that is used to remove hyperpigmentation (skin darkening), such as age spots and dark spots related to pregnancy, hormone therapy, or excessive sun exposure.

References

© Copyright 1995-2013 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.

Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/24/2013...#9982