What affects your skin?
The environment around you or emotional factors like feeling stressed can affect your skin
Dealing with skin irritants
Though the environment around you and emotional factors don’t necessarily cause your skin to become dry or itchy, they can make skin that’s already dry or itchy get worse.
You might not have full control over the things that are affecting your skin, but there are ways you can limit their impact.
You might have an idea of what’s caused your skin to get worse, so as well as keeping your skin hydrated you can try to avoid any triggers that irritate your skin.
At other times, however, you may not be sure what’s causing the problem. In these instances, you’ll need to consult your doctor on how to manage symptoms as they occur, which can include maintaining a good skincare routine to help improve your skin.
Andy's story (part 2)
“I’ve personally found that there are certain triggers that make it worse, which are usually to do with my diet and what I’m drinking. If I’m not strict with myself, it can flare up again.”
Andy has had two or three different types of psoriasis throughout his life
Inside your home
There are some simple changes you might be able to make around your home which can help you avoid household irritants.
- Hoover it up: try to vacuum your carpets, soft furnishings and curtains regularly to remove potential irritants which could aggravate your skin
- Hardy hands: when cleaning or washing up, you could try wearing gloves to protect your hands from harsh chemicals
- Stay comfy: some people like to use cotton towels, bedcovers, duvets and pillows that are filled with man-made fibres, so there’s less chance their skin gets irritated
- Pet protection: if you have a pet, try and keep them out of your bedroom, wash their bedding often and wash your hands after you’ve touched them
Many people find their dry or itchy skin is worse in the winter. This is because outdoor humidity is lower in the winter months, which reduces the moisture in your skin’s stratum corneum and weakens its natural protection barrier.
When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to reach for thick woolly layers, take long, hot showers and turn the heating up – but all of these things can potentially aggravate your skin.
- Keep it up: in the winter your skin has a higher tendency to become dry due to lower humidity. If it’s necessary to treat your dry or itchy skin with emollient, you may require more emollient in the winter than the summer
- Hot and cold: when the outside temperature drops, the humidity level drops too, drying the skin. Indoor heating can also strip out moisture from the air and your skin: try keeping your house at a slightly cooler, constant temperature. Moving indoors from the cold outside and vice versa may also be a trigger for dry skin
- Adding humidity: a humidifier could help add moisture back into the air – it should be maintained between 50% and 60%. You could also get a similar effect by putting a bowl of water on top of a radiator when the heating is on
- Watch out for your hands: try to prevent your hands from drying out in the cold air by applying hand cream after washing them and topping up several times throughout the day
- Don’t forget your lips: for many people, the lips are often the first to be affected by cold winter air, so try applying a lip balm when your lips get dry
“In winter, my skin becomes a lot worse. I get a lot of chapped skin around my lips…as a new mum with a young baby I do wash my hands a lot more often… you do have to moisturise your hands every time.”
Rakhee is a new mum who started to develop dry skin in her 20s
It’s understandable to feel stressed when you have dry or itchy skin. Everyone’s experience will be different and it can be frustrating. Sometimes, it can be a vicious cycle: stressing about your skin can make it worse, which can then make you feel more stressed.
It’s not always easy to recognise what’s making you feel stressed, and then work to lessen it. Here are some tips to help you manage stress:
- Rest up: try to make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, which can help you feel rested and relaxed
- Breathe deep: mindfulness or breathing exercises are a popular and effective way to de-stress
- Take time: try to take time to do things that relax you – whether that’s a particular activity, or just slowing down to take a rest
- Up and ready: some people find that physical exercise can help them de-stress
- Share the load: you might like to talk to someone about how you feel, whether that’s a loved one or someone from a professional organisation
For parents, it can be especially stressful if a child has dry or itchy skin. Some parents find it useful to do things like:
- Trying to pre-empt stressful situations, such as school commitments, sports competitions or social stress and help their child manage them
- Reassuring and talking to their child, so they know they can come to their parents about what’s making them feel stressed and work through things together
- Building in some family time to help take the child’s mind off their skin
Watching your child cope with dry or itchy skin can understandably affect your stress levels too – so don’t forget that, as a parent, you need support as well. You could try some of the tips above, or find more help by contacting an organisation that offers support for parents.