Published on June 01, 2018

Save Your Skin

Woman itching her skinSleeveless tops, shorts and swimsuits are sure signs summer is in full swing. Yet, if your skin is itchy, dry and red, skin-baring fashion is no fun. Keep common skin conditions under control.

Acne

Acne, the red bumps that plague most females from puberty to menopause, is caused by bacteria-clogged pores. Pimples typically pop up on the face, chest, back and arms (always at the most inconvenient times). Triggered by hormones, stress and bacteria, most acne is (thankfully) temporary.

Fortunately, it’s easily treatable most of the time with nonprescription pimple-fighting methods such as:

  • Gentle face cleansers. Gentle cleansing twice a day can help prevent a breakout, but it won’t clear up existing acne. Soap and water may dry out your face.
  • Acne-treating cleansers. These products typically contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Whichever one you use, make it part of your regular beauty routine. Once you stop using them, they stop working. Be patient. It may take a few weeks before you see a difference.
    • Salicylic acid. Putting acid anywhere on your body normally isn’t a great idea. However, salicylic acid fights whiteheads and blackheads like a boss.
    • Benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide attacks the bacteria that cause acne.

Sometimes, acne doesn’t get the message. You may need to bring in the professionals (aka prescription antibiotics). Prescription-strength acne fighters can be topical (used on the skin) or systemic (taken by mouth). They reduce inflammation and battle acne-causing bacteria. Common prescriptions medications include clindamycin, erythromycin, doxycycline and tetracycline.

Eczema

Dry, itchy, red skin on your elbows, hands and/or skin folds could be a sign of eczema (aka atopic dermatitis). It’s a chronic condition that usually first appears in childhood. While it does tend to get better with age, there’s no cure. Eczema is typically triggered when stress, weather changes, allergens and skin irritants, like soap, push your immune system into overdrive. Family history plays a part, too.

Eczema is temperamental, flaring up every so often. When it clears up, it may stay away for years. Medications that relieve itching and fight inflammation, like those listed below, can help eczema make an exit.

Depending on the severity and/or frequency of the flare-ups, your doctor might prescribe phototherapy (aka light therapy) to reduce itching and inflammation, increase vitamin D production and boost your skin’s bacteria-fighting systems.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is the result of the immune system launching an attack against skin tissue, causing the skin cells to build up quickly and form itchy, dry patches. There are several different types of psoriasis. It’s common for someone to have more than one type. Like eczema, something triggers a flare up. Typical psoriasis triggers include infections, stress, smoking, skin injuries and excessive alcohol use.

Also like eczema, psoriasis comes and goes, and there’s no cure. Yet, it is manageable. Medications and/or therapies can relieve itching, minimize inflammation, exfoliate the skin, reduce scaling and slow the growth of new skin cells. Your treatment plan may include one or more of the following.

Each treatment option has benefits and side effects. Do your research, and talk with your primary care doctor if you don’t love the skin you’re in. Often, OTC medications and lifestyle changes can keep your skin in the clear. If your condition is more severe or doesn’t respond to treatment, consider consulting a dermatologist.