If Daniel Tanguay doesn’t take care of his hands in just the right way, dry weather will cause them to crack so bad, they bleed.
It wasn’t always this way. Back when Tanguay was doing manual labor and working with his hands, dry skin wasn’t an issue.
“It started once I became a desk jockey and my hands apparently got wimpy,” the Lewiston man says.
Cracked and bleeding hands can disrupt a man’s whole day, so when it comes to treating dry skin, Tanguay doesn’t mess around.
“Three different prescription creams/ointments,” he says, “one for my face, one for hands and one for legs and arms. Most over-the-counter ointments will work wonders if you put them on before bed and cover them with white cotton.”
That’s one suggestion in the bag.
Meanwhile, in Bethel, Richard Roberts has a similar problem and some suggestions of his own.
“I have ichthyosis, which is essentially a very dry skin condition punctuated by cracking and scales on my fingers, elbows and knees,” Roberts writes. “Obviously cold weather makes the condition worse, but overall it is better than when I was a child.”
Like Tanguay, Roberts, now 72, prefers a full frontal assault over a scatter shot approach to dry skin.
“I use Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula (fragrance free) hand cream when my hands get really bad,” he says. “I use Vaseline on a routine basis for my arms and legs as this is the most economical alternative. I also use, for showering and bathing, Alpha Keri Moisture Rich Oil (manufactured by Novartis), which consists mainly of mineral oil. After the shower you pat, not towel dry, the skin, which allows the skin to moisturize with the oil and water. This is not a cream or hand lotion and can be ordered by your pharmacist if not stocked at the pharmacy.”
If there’s one thing we learned after hearing from our readers, it’s that almost every demographic suffers dry skin, particularly in winter when the air turns cold and dry. Man or woman, young or old, it doesn’t seem to matter. Hands, feet, legs and faces seem to suffer the most but, really, it’s all over.
Medical experts will tell you that winter weather, steamy showers and moisture-stealing soaps are leading contributors to dry skin, and they are points not missed by our readers – several of them, for instance, report taking far fewer showers in wintertime to help combat the problem.
“During the winter months, I don’t shower every day,” says Tina Barbour, of Leeds, “and when I do shower I apply baby oil to my body while it is still damp. For lips I always use Blistex.“
While our readers offered up a wild array of different advice for treating dry, cracked and flaking skin, a few themes did emerge. A lot of them favor Bag Balm, for example, and more than a few mentioned O’Keeffe’s various skin care products.
There was one product, however, that was suggested more than all others. It wasn’t even close.
“Coconut oil, coconut oil, coconut oil,” says Meagan Charest, of Auburn.
Yep. Coconut oil. When it comes to treating dry skin in its various forms, our readers overwhelmingly prefer it to all other remedies. And why not? Those in the know say coconut oil is not just a top-shelf moisturizer, it’s also naturally antibacterial and antifungal. Not to mention relatively cheap, easy to find and easy to apply.
If you have dry skin, maybe the oil of the magical coconut is all you’ll need. Or maybe you need something more powerful. Maybe you need a whole bag of tricks and a whole new process to scratch the ceaseless itch of dry skin.
Not to worry. When it comes to this annoying affliction, our readers have got you covered and then some.
Lin Prescott, Auburn
“For feet in the winter, I use an underwater battery operated buffer with the coarsest pumice stone I can find – in a soaking bath with essential eucalyptus and lavender oil. And the aromatherapy is good to help clean the sinuses as well. Then, if they are really bad, and are cracked, I pull on the awesome Miracle Aloe Gel infused socks and wrap them inside a hot towel. After an hour or so I peel them off, top them off with a coating of Mary Kay pink extra emollient night cream, and viola! The feet of a baby! (Well, not so much, but they certainly do not tear the sheets in my sleep anymore!)
Jennifer Townsend, Buckfield
“Bag Balm works miracles on dry areas such as knees and elbows. Any facial lotion for the face, because other lotions are too heavy and block pores. Here is my favorite tip EVER: Apply lotion immediately after your shower, while your skin is still somewhat wet. You’ll be glad you did.”
Kelly Briggs, Auburn
* Get a humidity monitor and a humidifier to keep moisture in the air.
* Exfoliate in the shower
* Use a sugar or salt scrub on your hands. You can make your own out of a teaspoon of sea salt or sugar and some olive oil. I use this on my hands once every two months or so. You won’t believe how smooth they are when they’re done!
Tina Barbour, Leeds
“During the winter months, I don’t shower every day and when I do shower I apply baby oil to my body while it is still damp. For lips I always use Blistex.”
Phil House, Auburn
“It’s hell playing the piano or organ with cracked fingers. I always use NuSkin. Works very well.”
Elaina O’Dell, Daegu, South Korea
“I use Younique’s Rose Water and uplift serum. Rose water helps reduce redness and hydrates the skin. The serum helps your skin retain moisture. Love these for winter.”
Jessica Smith-Sullivan, Bowdoinham
“Make my own – beeswax, shea butter, lavender and frankincense!“
Karen Schneider, Cundy’s Harbor
“I only use plain water to wash my face – five cold splashes in the morning and a warm washcloth at night. Every once in a while I smash a little avocado and use it as a facial mask then rinse it off. I also use a scrub of sea salt, olive oil and a few drops of essential oil on my hands and feet.
“I’ve come to realize we all take too many hot showers and it damages our skin. Taking vitamin E is another good supplement for the wintertime.”
Gail Scipione Shelley, Auburn
“Put Vicks on your feet, then cover with socks and go to bed for the night. Dry skin solved.”
John Brubaker, Portland
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands hand cream. “This works for my husband! He is always out in the cold and his hands crack so bad!”
Gail Nicholas Burgess, Auburn
“My husband smears Bag Balm on his hands and feet. He smells great – not.”
Daryel R. Duhaime, Hebron
“O’Keeffe’s is the best.”
Christine Grindle, Pownal
“I make a lotion by melting down shea butter, cocoa butter and coconut oil, cooling it and beating it until smooth. Works wonders!”
Bobbi Frechette, Auburn
“Good ol’ Bag Balm works wonders.”
Kristen Schulze Muszynski, Lewiston
Meredith Kendall, Lewiston
“Weird, but it works: Duct tape those dry heel cracks. Tape falls off in a few days, heels are healed.”
Steve Negm, Lewiston
“I use NEKKYD’s body butter every night and every day. Keeps my body silky smooth.”
Mary Graziano Richard, Lisbon
Erica Edwards, South Woodstock
“Coconut oil is a miracle. Use it on your skin, in your hair, on your teeth and cook with it.”
Meagan Charest, Auburn
“Coconut oil, coconut oil, coconut oil.”
Cheryl Libby-Davis, Lewiston
Siiri Cressey, Lewiston
Goodsense Anti-Itch lotion.
Carey S. Clark, Arrowsic
Mountain Ocean Skin Trip. “It smells yummy.”
Laurie Haynes St. Pierre, Auburn
Casco Bay Gardens’s Lobsterman’s Balm
Joline Lacoste, Greene
Cathy Curtis, Bowdoinham
“I have always struggled with dry skin – the product that really gets me through the winter is a lotion made locally in Bowdoinham by Laurel Lopez. It has cocoa butter, olive oil and beeswax.”
Patty Brewer, Brunswick
“I love Curel’s Ultra Healing. It works, and is also unscented, which I really like.”
Nancy Greindl, Topsham
“Coconut oil! Also taking a fish oil supplement, as well as vitamin E are great for skin. I also love Advanced Clinical’s Coconut Oil Cream.“
Sonja Christiansen, Clayton, Oklahoma
“Chicken grease works wonders! Or at least it did when I was a kid on the farm! I also make a lotion based on coconut butter and lavender.”
Melanie R. Janisch, Nashua, New Hampshire
Dermatone Camphor Ice skin balm
Bob Glencross, Pittsfield
“Vaseline Intensive Care for chapped hands. Superglue for the split fingernails. Worked outside more than three-quarters of my life. This became a morning ritual, like chugging coffee.”
The rub: Readers’ favorite skin moisterizers
Here is a list of products and substances offered up by our readers for dry skin remedies.
Bag Balm (“The one in the green can,” reminds one reader.)
Coconut oil (This is right up there with Bag Balm as far as popularity.)
O’Keeffe’s Working Hands cream (Many votes for this one too.)
Vaseline Intensive Care
Corn Huskers Lotion
Dermatone Camphor Ice Skin Balm
Nekkyd body oils (a Lewiston company)
Rodan + Fields skin care
Johnson’s baby oil
GoodSense Anti-Itch Lotion
Mountain Ocean Natural Body Care
Lobsterman lip balm (A Casco company)
Dove Body Wash
Bloom body products
Novartis Alpha Keri lotion
Underwater, battery-operated buffer
Banana Boat skin lotion
Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula
Different types of ‘dry’
Dermatitis is the medical term for extremely dry skin. There are several different types of dermatitis, including: irritant contact, allergic contact, seborrheic and atopic.
* Contact dermatitis develops when your skin reacts to something it touches, causing localized inflammation. Irritant contact dermatitis can occur when your skin is exposed to an irritating chemical agent such as bleach. Allergic contact dermatitis can develop when your skin is exposed to a substance you’re allergic to, such as nickel.
* Seborrheic dermatitis occurs when your skin produces too much oil. It results in a red and scaly rash, usually on your scalp. This type of dermatitis is common in infants.
* Atopic dermatitis is also known as eczema. It’s a chronic skin condition that causes dry scaly patches to appear on your skin. It’s common among young children.
Other conditions including psoriasis and type 2 diabetes can also cause your skin to dry out.
Who gets dry skin and why?
Anyone can get dry skin. Skin becomes dry when it loses too much moisture or oil. Some common causes of dry skin are:
Age: As we age, our skin becomes thinner and drier. By our 40s, many people need to use a good moisturizer every day.
Climate: Living in a dry climate such as a desert.
Skin disease: People who had atopic dermatitis (also called eczema) as a child tend to have dry skin as adults. Psoriasis also causes very dry skin.
Job: Nurses, hair stylists and people in other occupations who often immerse their skin in water throughout the day are more prone to have skin that becomes dry, raw and cracked.
Swimming: Some pools have high levels of chlorine, which can dry the skin.
Source: American Academy of Dermatology