Medical Monday: Managing your dry skin and scalp this fall and beyond

Posted at 7:31 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-17 20:31:56-04
Nick Grimm, a physician assistant, provides dermatology services for BayCare Clinic. He joined us on Wisconsin Tonight to talk about dry skin and scalp. 
Why do many of us experience dry skin and scalp during fall and winter?
The fall and winter months usher in cold, dry air which can affect our skin. Cold air holds less moisture than warm spring and summer air. That means the water in our skin evaporates more quickly in fall and winter, subjecting our skin to the drying-out effect or xerosis, commonly experienced during the colder months. Indoor heating (dry indoor air), long hot showers, lack of body lotion, harsh soaps and detergents and general dehydration are all culprits in creating dry skin in fall and winter. This also applies to your scalp which is, of course, part of our skin.
Are there any health conditions spawned by dry skin or scalp?
There are health conditions that can exacerbate dry skin and scalp conditions. Some common conditions include:
* Allergic eczema: A skin rash that develops when you come into contact with an allergen
* Psoriasis: Itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales
* General dehydration: Losing more bodily fluids than your body can replace
* Hypothyroidism: The result of an underactive thyroid
* Diabetes (type 1 and type 2): A disease impacting how your body handles glucose
What can we do to manage dry skin?
There are many things we can do to manage dry skin. They include:
* Take short showers. Long, hot baths or showers can mean a loss of natural oils from the skin leading to dryness.
* Use moisturizing creams. Do this particularly after showering or handwashing to protect skin and make it softer and smoother.
* Try a mild skin cleanser. Avoid harsh soaps because they tend to dry out skin.
* Use a humidifier. This helps moisturize the indoor air in fall and winter.
* Avoid dehydration. Prevent your skin from drying out.
Are there similar remedies to manage dry scalp?
Dry scalp is common in the fall and winter months but can be experienced anytime. Dry scalp can be caused by dermatitis, scalp psoriasis and eczema, to name a few conditions. Most often, one of the common indicators of dry scalp (beyond the incessant itching) is dandruff, a cosmetic problem that is more of an embarrassing issue than a major health concern. Remedies for dry scalp are similar to those for dry skin, but also include:
* Wash hair with a dandruff shampoo. Look for selenium sulfide, tar-based, zinc pyrithione or salicylic acid shampoos.
* Use conditioner after shampooing. It protects against dryness.
* Don’t scratch your scalp. Scratching may worsen the problem.
When is it time to see an expert for either condition?
See your doctor or skin specialist when all other remedies and treatments aren’t working. Your doctor should be able to recommend treatments to help resolve your skin or scalp issues.
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