If you have patches of dry skin to begin with, how you bathe and how often you do it is likely to make a difference. Too frequent bathing, particularly if accompanied by the use of hot water and a harsh soap, can worsen dry skin. But, bathing two or three times weekly in tepid water, using a mild soap, followed by the application a moisturizing cream or ointment (usually not a lotion) soon afterwards, may not pose a problem for your skin.
This will make sense if you consider the frying pan analogy. Skin uses fat (lipids) in its outermost layer, the stratum corneum, to waterproof us – that is, to provide our skin’s permeability barrier. Using this analogy, consider your skin to be similar to a well-greased frying pan. If you wanted to clean that pan of its grease, you would plunge it into hot water and use a generous amount of dish soap or detergent, to scrub off the accumulated grease.
Many of us treat our skin as if it were a dirty frying pan. We take showers or baths using water as hot as we can tolerate, then we scrub our skin vigorously with a soapy cloth. This is an effective means to remove dirt and other accumulated debris, but it also extracts some of the natural oils from our stratum corneum. As our stratum corneum becomes deficient in its natural oils or ‘lipids’, it gets even dryer. And so, our dry skin condition can worsen.
A gentle skin care routine – cooler water, milder soap, and use of emollients afterwards – is especially important for people with skin conditions like eczema or atopic dermatitis and for the elderly, who are particularly prone to dry skin. For more information on skin care practices, sign up to receive our free booklet: “Taking Good Care of Your Skin”.