5 Tips for Managing Itchy, Flaky Skin from Dermatologist Xiaoxiao Li, MD
I work in an environment where I constantly need to wash my hands. Now, my hands are dry and peeling because of the constant washing. There is no end in sight.
Whether it’s mud, dinner, or rolling around outside, my kid loves to make messes, and always needs a bath. Unfortunately, he has sensitive skin that is exacerbated by these baths.
I need to wear a mask, but I’m struggling with maskne!
If any of these remarks sound like you, you’re not alone. Research estimates that 70% of Americans have sensitive skin or chronic skin conditions.
The skincare industry offers a multitude of products addressing specific skin concerns, including those with exotic, game-changing ingredients such as arctic water and snail secretions. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the breadth of choices, and what if the industry’s current offerings do not address your skin concerns? Eczema is a sensitive skin condition where a proven solution remains elusive.
“Since the onset of COVID, I’ve been seeing more patients with sensitive skin, especially eczema,” says Dr. Xiaoxiao Li, a board-certified dermatologist who specializes in eczema. “Eczema is so common, many people will struggle with it at some point in their lives. In spite of that, innovative and accessible solutions for eczema management are lacking: treatments for mild and moderate eczema have not changed in the last few decades while treatments for severe eczema are cost-prohibitive, especially when they are not covered by insurance.”
How can people find relief from dry, flaky, itchy skin? Dr. Li has 5 tips
1. Natural and organic are not always better.
The idea that natural and organic products are good and that “chemicals” are bad is a myth. Natural ingredients such as fruit extracts are enticing, but can be irritating–or worse, poisonous! “You wouldn’t put poison ivy on your skin, right? If the ingredients list reads like a fruit salad or your garden, it’s not always a good thing,” notes Dr. Li. Natural ingredients such as fruit or algae extracts are too abrasive for your skin. Instead, seek out products with gentler ingredients that have been scientifically proven to be effective.
2. What’s inside matters.
We all love products with pretty packaging, but we should also love what’s contained in the packaging: the product’s ingredients. Maintaining healthy skin requires using products that contain active ingredients that are effective and will sustain long lasting, positive results. Some brands’ advertising can be misleading and misstate legitimate scientific research. Dr. Li says, “Peptides, enzymes, and nucleic acids sound fancy like the innovation was developed in a lab—you may have even heard of them in biology class! They are merely buzzwords. Any products that advertise them will not penetrate your skin.”
Editor's note: The active ingredients used in Soteri products are backed by scientific research demonstrating their ability to restore the skin barrier and enhance its ability to remain resilient. When your skin is more resilient, it becomes better at keeping irritants out and moisture in, which means healthier, happier skin!
3. Less is more.
Your skin strives to be resilient and naturally tries to maintain its balance. “Many of my patients do too much to their skin to address eczema, whether by over-cleaning or over-scrubbing to hide their condition, or by over-treating to hasten the healing process. This is disruptive and can irritate the skin further,” warns Dr. Li. Water is also a mild irritant. Most soaps are alkaline. The combination of the two can throw your skin’s pH out of balance. Instead, use gentle products and soaps to care for your skin with minimal skin damage.
4. Pay attention to your skin pH.
Maintaining your skin surface pH is key to healthy skin and to managing eczema. Many brands get this wrong. Their “pH balanced” formulas are at a pH of 5.5, because it is easy to formulate. However, our skin is mildly acidic, meaning such formulations can set your skin at the wrong pH. New research suggests that the ideal, therapeutic pH for healthy skin is lower at a pH of 4.7. Products at this pH level are more challenging to formulate. Fortunately, some brands are innovating new ways to make achieving that pH easier.
As Dr. Li explains, “This acidity, along with skin’s natural proteins and oils, form a protective barrier against harmful substances and microorganisms in the environment. This acidity also fosters the growth of good bacteria that naturally live on our skin, and help fight off the bad bacteria and yeasts that can cause skin problems.” Your eczema flare-ups will fade once you restore balance to your skin.
Editor's note: Soteri uses a patented pH/Lock™ technology in its products to correct skin-surface pH for 12+ hours per application.
5. Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize!
Your skincare routine doesn’t need to be complicated. Dr. Li believes that the most important product for your skin is moisturizer: “Moisturizer is critical. We all have been washing our hands often. Frequent washing depletes your skin’s lipids.” One way to replenish your skin’s lipids is applying moisturizer immediately after handwashing. Dr. Li recommends products that will not only restore the skin barrier, but are free of irritants such as fragrance, alcohol, and preservatives. “Products such as Soteri Skin enable your skin to remain resilient on its own. Carry it around with you to replenish your skin barrier wherever you go.”
Dr Li is a Board Certified Dermatologist that practices in Bellingham, WA.
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