Why is oiling important for your skin?
How do you feel if you have dry skin?
What causes/aggravates dry skin?
How to look after your skin?
Which moisturizers to use?
Which soaps are best for your skin?
Which soaps are harmful to your skin?
How frequently one should take a bath/shower?
Which type of fabric is good for your skin?
Which detergent to use for washing your clothes?


In our daily life, we never store any liquid in a container having holes in its base/floor for obvious reasons. Over 70% of our body is made up of water and it might look strange that this huge amount of water is retained in a container (skin) which has millions of holes (pores) in it. The question arises why don’t we get dehydrated by loosing water through our highly porous skin? Allah Almighty with His Great Hikmat (wisdom) has placed a thin layer of oil in the top layers of the skin. The water inside our body is unable to pass through this layer of oil and therefore we don’t loose any significant water through our skin. One can well imagine, what will happen if we loose this all important layer of the oil from our skin?
If you have dry skin, you're likely to experience one or more of the following:
1. In newborn babies, thick scales/crusts on scalp and redness on cheeks/other parts.
2. White patches on face of young children. Please note, these are not due to calcium deficiency.
3. A feeling of tightness or tautness, especially after showering, bathing or swimming.
4. A loss of plumpness, skin appears shrunken or dehydrated, feels and looks rough rather than smooth.
5. Itching that sometimes may be intense.
6. Slight to severe flaking or scaling, fine lines or cracks, severe redness & deep fissures especially on soles/palms which may bleed. The toe webs become itchy, dry & rough due to deposits of chemicals in soaps/shampoos used for bathing.
The nail cuticle is lost and skin around the nail becomes red swollen and painful due to chemicals in soaps and detergents.

In the following paragraphs, the factors which decrease the oil layer from our skin thus predisposing us to problems related to dry skin shall be described along with the measures for prevention and care of dry skin.
1. Familial/genetically determined dry skin: The dry skin may run in families/genes.
Such people may have problems related to dryness round the year but get worse when exposed to the adverse environmental conditions. If you or a close relative suffer from asthma or nasal allergy, your skin is likely to be more sensitive & dry.
2. Newborn babies: In a significant proportion of newborn babies, the oil producing glands are immature and don’t produce enough oil to meet the requirements of the body. The result is thick scales/crusts on the scalp and red patches on face/body. The solution is regular & frequent (many times a day) oiling of the scalp and skin till the endogenous oil production improves with age reaching to optimum level at puberty.
Use of bubble baths in babies is harmful and results in dry patches on back at a site with maximum contact with chemicals absorbed in the foam layer of bath tub.
3. Old Age: Oil production in the skin decreases in old age. In women the skin gets dry sooner, around menopause but in most men with normal skin, significant dryness is apparent around 60 years of age.
4. Environment/weather: Cold, dry, windy weather conditions as during winters and high altitudes aggravate dryness of the skin. Direct air from the air conditioners/heaters has the same effect. Heating in the homes, absorbs moisture from the room air and causes loss of water from the skin. A general rule is to keep the room temperature between 68F to 75 F and maintain humidity levels between 40-50% by using artificial humidifier. Most people show up the effects of dry skin in winters.
In summers, when the sweat dries out, it leaves behind sweat chemicals on the skin.
This has an irritating and drying effect on the skin. Sitting in the sun for prolonged hours dries out the skin as well.
5. The hands, feet, legs and arms are the most vulnerable parts of the body to suffer from dry skin problems because normally, the skin on these areas has least amount of oil & is subjected to repeated washing and adverse environmental conditions. These parts need more frequent use of moisturizers.
6. Too much 'cleanliness is counterproductive: Frequent washing/showering or bathing, especially if you like your showers hot and your baths long, breaks down the oil barriers in your skin. So does frequent swimming, particularly in heavily chlorinated pools.
7. Repeatedly scratching or rubbing of a body part brings more itching and scratching leading to never ending itch scratch cycle most of the times at subconscious level. The area being repeatedly scratched becomes rough, thick, fissured and may bleed. Such problems happen on easily accessible body parts like legs, hands, arms and neck.
8. The much advertised antiseptic soaps/antibacterial soaps/anti germ soaps are most damaging to the skin & should not be used unless prescribed by a skin specialist. DON’T USE DETTOL SOAP, LIFEBOUY AND SAFEGUARD. In fact, normal skin does not require any antiseptic soap. Perfumed soaps and the ones containing lauryl sulphate are also harmful to the skin. Adding antiseptic lotions to the bathing water or directly applying such stuff on skin should be avoided. Harsh detergents like washing powders, surf, hard soaps for washing clothes should not be applied on the skin. Contact of such agents with the hands especially in housewives results in dryness, itching, chapping and cracking of the skin of the hands. The cuticle of the nails gets damaged and the strong chemicals of the detergents get trapped under the nail fold resulting in pain and swelling of the nail folds. Once the cuticle is damaged, it will take many months for repair that too if further damage from detergents is completely avoided.

9. Always wear rubber gloves up to the elbows or mid forearms while working with detergents and ordinary soaps. At times due to occlusive nature of rubber gloves, the hands sweat and itching increases on wearing gloves. If this is the case, wear a pair of thin cotton gloves under the rubber gloves.
10. Shampoos are harmful to the skin: In people with dry skin, contact of the hands with shampoos is harmful and gloves should be worn while applying shampoo on the scalp. Wash away the shampoo with head leaned forward so that its chemicals don’t run through the rest of the body. Use mild & gentle shampoos 1-2 times weekly so that the skin of your scalp does not dry out.
11. Daily, repeated use of ordinary bathing soaps may also increase dryness of the skin. For dry skin use a gentle, milder, oily soap preferably on alternate days. A general rule of thumb in choosing a suitable soap & Shampoo for your skin/scalp is that the skin should feel soft and smooth instead of being dry, rough & tight after using the soap/shampoo.
12. The best soaps to use: Oily chemical free soaps are the best to use if your skin is extremely dry or people with dry skin want to take bath on daily basis with soaps.
These include: 1) Baby-Aid soap 2) Oilatum soap 3) Dermacare soap. These are available from medical stores only. The baby aid soap casts about Rs 40/- while others are a bit more expensive.
13. Taking bath with too warm/hot water for longer than 10 minutes washes away the natural oil from the skin. Therefore, take a bath/shower with like warm water and that too for 5-10 minutes and never for more than 15 minutes. Taking bath with very cold water especially in winters is not helpful at all.
14. Apply a little oil on wet skin after a bath/shower, followed by gently pat drying the skin with a towel to wipe away excess oil.
15. Choose fabrics your skin loves. Natural fibers such as cotton and silk feel wonderful and allow your skin to breathe, therefore prefer wearing clothes made from these fabrics. The wool, pashmina and cashmere may irritate your skin, however, wearing a cotton underlay with such clothes might be helpful.
16. Washing your clothes: Try to use detergents without dyes or perfumes, both of which can irritate your skin.
17. Keeping the skin well moisturized with regular, frequent and liberal use of moisturizers is the key to prevent and treat dry skin related problems.
18. Which moisturizers to use: There are three types of moisturizers.
a. Oils/Ointments like olive oil, coconut oil, sarsoon oil, Vaseline and petroleum jelly. These are the most effective moisturizers and once applied on the skin, their effect lasts for nearly 8-12 hours depending upon the amount applied. However, these are greasy and many people may not like to use them during the day time.
b. Creams: These have less moisturizing capability than the oils and ointments.
However, these are less greasy and have better cosmetic acceptance. In people with very dry skin, cream based moisturizers may not be sufficient alone and have to be applied once every few hours to be effective.
c. Lotions: Although cosmetically best, the lotions have least moisturizing effects but might be helpful in people with mildly dry skin or in summers when it is difficult to apply oily stuff on the skin. However, Cutawet lotion, Physiogel body lotion and lacticare lotion have better moisturizing capability and can be used if you don’t like greasy stuff on your skin.
d. The best practice is to use an oily/ointment based moisturizer at night time and a cream/lotion based moisturizer applied frequently during the day time.
25. How frequently one should apply the moisturizers: This may range from twice daily to many times in a day depending upon the intensity of the dryness of the skin.
The golden rule is that apply as many times as is required. Whenever, one feels the skin getting tight, rough and itchy, reapply the moisturizer.
26. Diet: Taking oily foods does not help in improving the oiling of the skin.
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