otc medication for treating dry skin

What’s the Best Prescription and Over the Counter (OTC) Medication for Treating Dry Skin?

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The medical term for dehydrated skin is dry skin xerosis cutis. Xero means dry in Greek. Xerosis cutis is a skin condition that feels dry, does not have enough moisture, and may feel itchy and flaky. In extreme cases, the dry skin may cut open and bleed.

A majority of people will experience dry skin at some point. This could be due to weather, certain medical conditions, or age.

Certain pre-existing conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis, or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can also cause skin dryness.

There are also skin diseases and medications or environmental factors that may lead to dehydrated skin. The good news is that you can soothe dry skin with easy home remedies and over-the-counter medicines that are tailored to your needs.

Additionally, it is advisable to visit your dermatologist for diagnosis or treatment for skin xerosis, especially if you have had a case of prolonged skin dryness.

Causes of Dry Skin

There are different causes of dry skin. Let’s quickly expound on them here.


The skin tends to get drier when temperature and humidity levels drop in colder climates. Winter months are tough on people who spend time outdoors. The dry air drives moisture away from the skin, leaving it chapped.

Genetic Makeup

Some skin conditions are genetic and may be diagnosed using your family’s medical history. Xeroderma pigmentosum is an example of a skin problem that can be passed down from parents.

Daily Habits

Depending on where you live and the kind of work you do every day, your skin may retain less moisture and lead to dryness. A good example is athletes who frequently swim in a chlorinated pool. The chlorine strips the skin of its natural moisture, and if left unchecked, can lead to extreme dryness.


As we age, our sweat glands do not produce as much sweat as before. It also becomes more difficult to retain moisture as your skin loses more natural oils. This leads to drier skin that is prone to react more harshly to changes in weather, etc.

How can I Prevent Dry Skin?

dry skin medication
Climate changes can affect the skin.

1. Moisturise

Moisturize your skin as often as possible. Moisturize your skin soon after showering when it is still damp to lock in the moisture.

2. Take Shorter Showers or Baths

Bathing habits can affect skin health. Take shorter showers of 5 to 10 minutes to maintain moisture levels on your skin. Use moisturizing soap or mild cleansers with warm water. Hot water and harsh soaps put the skin at a higher risk of drying.

3. Invest in a Humidifier

Dry air causes low humidity, which is a significant cause of skin dryness. Buy a humidifier to add moisture to your environment.

4. Choose Natural Fabrics

Some fabrics are rough and may make itchy skin worse. Wear soft material such as cotton that helps the skin breathe. Additionally, be mindful of the laundry detergents used to wash your clothes. Some detergents contain dyes and fragrances that can cause rashes and itchiness on the skin.

5. Use Moisturizing Products

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends checking the listed ingredients on your moisturizers. Products such as alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid, and cocoa butter help restore skin moisture. Additionally, fragrance-free skin care products are recommended for sensitive skin.

What Skin Diseases Cause Dry Skin?

Some medical conditions can cause dry skin. These include eczema or atopic dermatitis, ichthyosis, perioral dermatitis, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis can also cause temporary itch and dry skin. Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with any substance that might cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms include redness and swelling, and painful itching.

The Best OTC Products to Treat Dry Skin

1. Lactic Acid Products

Lactic acid is one of the best products to use on dry skin. It is made from fermented lactose, a component found in milk. Legend has it that ancient Egyptian queen Cleopatra used to soak in sour milk to gain the health benefits of lactic acid.

It is readily available over the counter and in other products. A 12% lactic acid concentration on creams is a strong enough combination to keep the skin firm and hydrated.

2. Hydrocortisone

Hydrocortisone is a good cream for itchy or flaky dry skin that may be uncomfortable to the touch. It may be challenging to wear clothes with dehydrated skin due to the discomfort. Hydrocortisone comes as a cream, ointment, or lotion. It is sold at 1% strength at a pharmacy.

Hydrocortisone works best when the skin is still damp. You can use it to treat common conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and contact dermatitis.

Prescription Drugs for Dry Skin

otc medication for treating dry skin
Severe xerosis cutis may require a prescription.

Dry skin can get worse even with continuous use of OTC medicine. To know when to seek medical attention, check for any of the following conditions:

  • Constant itchy skin that cuts open when scratched.
  • Slight improvement from OTC medication or home remedies.
  • Irritated skin that is red or pink.
  • Scaling and peeling on large areas of dry skin.
  • Discomfort when sleeping.

If any of the above symptoms seem to only get worse in time, it is advisable to visit your healthcare provider. Depending on the diagnosis as to the cause of the skin problem, your doctor may prescribe certain medications to help ease your skin condition.

Some of the most common prescription medicines for dry skin include:

1. Aqua Care

Aqua care contains urea for quick absorption. It works to restore moisture and treat dry, scaly skin. It is also used for mild skin conditions such as nappy rash.

2. Allantoin

Allantoin; is used to treat itchy, scaly, and dehydrated skin. It works by shedding off the dead skin layer, thereby softening the skin.

3. Beclometasone Skin Creams

Also known as beclomethasone, these creams come in cream or ointment form. Beclometasone is used to soothe the symptoms of dry skin effects such as inflammation, itching, and redness.

Compound Medications

Compound Medication; Your dermatologist may recommend a combination of uniquely beneficial ingredients to your skin type and condition.

These combinations, commonly referred to as compounded medication, may not be readily available at your local pharmacy.

There are licensed pharmacies such as Fort Worth pharmacy that can create the specific combination using your doctor’s prescription. These are made from scratch, considering any allergies you may have and what works best for you depending on whether you have a dry, normal, or oily skin type.

Common ingredients used in compounded medication for xerosis are glyceryl glucoside, ceramide 3, and components such as urea.

Our experienced pharmacists here at Fort Worth Pharmacy can help come up with the best combination to treat your xerosis.

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