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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Prevention

You can help to prevent dry skin by taking these steps:

  • Bathe with comfortably warm (not hot) water, using an unscented soap that either has a high fat content or contains glycerin. Avoid scrubbing.

  • If you are an athlete, shower off quickly after a workout or game. Use warm water, and bring your own mild soap, since heavy-duty "gym" brands may be too strong.

  • When you finish your bath or shower, pat dry and immediately apply moisturizer. An unscented moisturizing lotion is easy to apply and will help maintain skin moisture.

  • Cover exposed skin when you play outdoors. If you can't wear protective clothing because of hot weather or game regulations, apply a sunscreen with a moisturizer. If you are a swimmer and have problems with dry skin, apply a light layer of petroleum jelly before you enter the pool. Shower when you are out of the pool, pat dry, and immediately apply a moisturizer.

  • If your indoor air is dry during winter months, use a humidifier to raise the humidity level.

  • As necessary during the day, apply a moisturizer that contains at least one of the following ingredients: glycerin, urea, pyroglutamic acid, sorbitol, lactic acid, lactate salts or alpha hydroxy acids.

  • Avoid overusing antiperspirants and perfumes, since these products can dry the skin.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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