Dry skin and eczema are often mistakenly likened to one another. Having dry skin or eczema is really common and can affect people of any age. People often mistake dry skin for eczema and vice versa. Moisturizing is one of the best ways to clear up dry skin but what works might vary from one person to the next. Moisturizing is necessary for the management of eczema, whether a flare-up persists or not. Sometimes, moisturizing alone is enough to keep eczema at bay. In most cases, you will need something with some extra kick like a topical OTC medication or even a prescription treatment from your dermatologist.
How To Identify Dry Skin
To be able to differentiate between dry skin and eczema you need to know the key differences between the two. Dry skin can appear anywhere on the body but tends to usually show up on the legs, arms, hands or face. Some of the main symptoms of dry skin are:
- Flaky skin that has started to peel
- A patch of rougher skin
- Itchy skin
- Dry skin after bathing with a propensity to appear in the same place
- Tight skin in certain places, especially after bathing or a shower
Some bouts of dry skin are worse than others. You might even be able to live with dry skin and not really notice it. Other times, dry skin will be incredibly irritating and impossible to ignore.
When you notice dry skin taking hold, you should try to relieve the symptoms as soon as possible. Moisturizing is one of the best ways to do this and continuing to do so on a regular basis can help stop the dry skin returning. If you choose to ignore your dry skin it can quite quickly get worse. Bad cases of dry skin create deep cracks that leave the body vulnerable to pathogens where infection can take hold.
Dry Skin Or Eczema…Which Is It?
It can be easy to mistake one for the other if you haven’t suffered from eczema before. People often get them confused with each other. Here is the MedlinePlus definition of the two:
Eczema: Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a long-term (chronic) skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes.
Dry skin: Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water and oil. Dry skin is common and can affect anyone at any age. The medical term for dry skin is xerosis.
One of the ways to differentiate between the two is that eczema can flare-up with no apparent causes, whereas dry skin is usually traceable to weather, dehydration, and lack of moisture. Eczema symptoms can appear without clear cause because, unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for eczema and it’s a chronic condition. Although you can’t get rid of eczema itself you can manage the flare-ups and common indicators.
The symptoms of eczema can be tougher to deal with than those of dry skin. You might need to deal with the breakout or flare-up by using topical hydrocortisone in the form of a cream or lotion. Strong topical hydrocortisone that isn’t compounded with sulfur can be pretty hard on the skin if used for too long. Ideally you want to find an eczema cream that is safe to use long term. Take a look at SmartLotion® and the safety study attributed to it for an example of a cream that puts long term safety first.
A dermatologist will be able to tell right away between eczema or dry skin. If you’re still unsure and can’t work it out yourself, getting a medical opinion will give you peace of mind and inform your plan for dealing with the problem.
If it is eczema, the location might dictate the way you deal with it. For example: a facial breakout, due to the visibility, could push you towards high strength creams. The stronger the steroid, the faster the recovery, right? In reality, as the eczema is on your face, it is much better to use a cream that is safe to use long term with zero chances of topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) or steroid acne developing.
Which Moisturizer Should You Use
You’ll already know there are countless companies offering different kinds of moisturizer. However, some are better than others at managing dry skin and helping to prevent eczema flare-ups. Dr. Steven Harlan, the inventor of SmartLotion®, suggests the following moisturizers:
- CeraVe® cream
- Curel® lotion
- Cetaphil® lotion
- Aveeno® eczema therapy lotion
- Moisturel® lotion
Through trial and error you’ll find something for you. Moisturizers are vital in helping with both recovery and prevention of eczema symptoms. However, for eczema, you will also most likely need some sort of OTC medication or prescription treatment. While topical steroids are common, they aren’t safe to use long term. Thankfully, one eczema cream that contains a topical corticosteroid has been proven safe to use long term. That means no topical steroid withdrawal (TSW), no steroid acne, and no perioral dermatitis, all of which can be caused by extended use of topical corticosteroids. SmartLotion® uses 0.75% hydrocortisone and an enhanced sulfur probiotic to enable the user to apply it long term without worrying about side effects like TSW. The safe nature means you can use it on flare-ups but also use it as a preventative measure.
These are the kind of creams that are best to use if safety is on your mind. If you go to the doctor and they prescribe a topical corticosteroid, you’ll see they won’t recommend long term use.
How Often Do I Need To Moisturize?
It depends on the extent of the dry skin present, as well as how bad your dry skin can get in certain conditions. Some people only need to moisturize when dry skin or eczema symptoms present themselves, while others use it as a preventative measure all year around. If you have atopic dermatitis, Dr. Harlan suggests you moisturize your whole body 2x per day regardless of whether a flare-up is present or not.
Each person will have a different regimen, but getting into the habit of moisturizing at least twice a day is absolutely necessary. If you’re busy and find it hard, try setting an alarm on your phone twice a day to give you an all important nudge. Once you’ve fallen into a routine, it becomes as easy as brushing your teeth.
When you’re jumping in and out of water, experiencing incredibly hot or cold weather, or suffering from a bad eczema flare-up, you might want to up your application count. Each person is different so it’s just about finding a good balance for your own skin.
What Makes Moisturizing Work
It’s quite scientific, but in short, moisturizing gets the job done by filling in the gaps of air on your skin. The detailed version:
“Moisturizers improves skin hydration and increases stratum corneum water content by directly providing water to the skin from their water phase and increasing occlusion to reduce trans-epidermal water loss, it also covers small skin fissures, provides a soothing protective film and protects skin from friction”
Moisturizing provides a barrier against irritation and lends water content to dry skin, which relieves it from the symptoms dryness presents. It’s amazing to use after a bath or in dry weather. Your skin might react better to some moisturizers than others, but one thing’s for certain: Moisturizing protects your skin.
If you’re looking to buy a cream with hydrocortisone for the first time, make sure you do your research. Consider purchasing an eczema cream that has shown it’s safe for longer term use. Most corticosteroids are safe short term, but as eczema is recurring, it’s vital you find a cream that is effective and safe for daily use long term.
Moisturizing is one of the best tools in your arsenal in terms of tackling both eczema and dry skin. Another great tool is knowledge. If you know about dry skin and eczema, you’ve got a better shot at handling flare-ups efficiently without making it any worse. You can find multiple articles about eczema and dry skin on our blog, or alternatively check out the skin care guide. If you want to know more about how safe SmartLotion® is for long term use, be sure to read through the PubMed safety study. If anything doesn’t make sense about our product, feel free to contact us.