Medical Dermatology

Dry or Rough Skin

Dry skin is a common problem in the winter months and year-round in arid climates. It can produce itchy, flaky patches and rashes, especially on the arms and legs. For general management, wash with a mild soap and avoid anti-bacterial soaps, which can strip skin of its natural moisture. Limit showers or baths to five minutes, and pat with a soft terry towel—don’t rub. Note that water can be dry skin’s worst enemy, since it paradoxically dehydrates the skin. So immediately apply a cream when stepping out of the bath, to hold in moisture. Also apply an emollient cream before bedtime, since that’s when your body takes time for repairs and rejuvenation. For persistently itchy, red, or rashy skin, visit a dermatologist, who may recommend a prescription cream.

Keratosis Pilaris is an inherited condition that produces small, rough, pink or skin-colored bumps on the arms and legs. Far from being an alarming ailment, these bumps are merely a harmless nuisance — clogged hair follicles. This condition occurs more frequently in people who also have eczema and asthma. To clear the bumps, try a moisturizing body lotion and gently exfoliate in the shower with a soft washcloth or loofah. If this is not effective, see a dermatologist, who can recommend prescription-strength lotion and perform a series of mild medical peels to smooth the bumps.