Chapped skin occurs when the skin becomes dry, rough, and cracked. This condition can affect any part of the body but commonly occurs on hands, feet, and lips, especially in cold or windy environments. Several factors can cause chapped skin:
1. **Weather**: Cold, windy, or dry conditions can strip moisture from the skin.
2. **Heat**: Central heating, wood-burning stoves, space heaters, and fireplaces all reduce humidity and dry out your skin.
3. **Hot baths and showers**: Taking long, hot showers or baths can dry out the skin.
4. **Harsh soaps and detergents**: Many popular soaps, detergents, and shampoos strip moisture from your skin as they are formulated to remove oil.
5. **Other skin conditions**: People who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis are more prone to having chapped skin.
Restoring Chapped Skin
To restore chapped skin, it’s essential to both return moisture to the skin and protect it from further damage. Here are several strategies:
1. **Moisturize**: Apply a heavy, oil-based moisturizer or ointment soon after you bathe and several times a day. For very dry hands, slather on a thick layer of lotion and wear cotton gloves overnight to let the moisturizer work.
2. **Stay Hydrated**: Drink plenty of water to hydrate your skin from the inside out.
3. **Use a humidifier**: Adding moisture to the air can help prevent your skin from drying out.
4. **Limit water exposure**: Keep bathing or showering to less than 10 minutes, and use warm (not hot) water.
5. **Use gentle cleansers**: Avoid products with alcohol, fragrance, retinoids, or alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), which can irritate and dry out your skin.
6. **Protect your skin**: Wear gloves when you go outside in cold weather, do dishes, or clean around the house.
7. **Choose fabrics wisely**: Wear soft fabrics, such as cotton, next to your skin, and avoid wool and other scratchy materials.
Remedies for Chapped Skin
1. **Ointments and Creams**: Petroleum jelly, hydrocortisone cream, and products with dimethicone, glycerin, mineral oil, or lanolin are effective.
2. **Natural Oils**: Coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter can soothe and replenish dry skin.
3. **Aloe Vera**: Known for its soothing properties, it can help to calm irritated skin.
4. **Lip Balm**: For chapped lips, a balm that has beeswax or petrolatum can protect from the elements.
5. **Overnight Treatments**: Apply thick creams or ointments at night and cover the affected area to increase absorption.
6. **Oatmeal Baths**: Colloidal oatmeal baths can soothe and heal dry, chapped skin.
If your chapped skin does not improve with home treatment, or if it is frequently recurring, it may be wise to consult a dermatologist to rule out more serious skin conditions and to recommend a targeted treatment plan.