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Xerosis (Dry Skin)

Author: Shelley Ensz. Scleroderma is highly variable. See Types of Scleroderma. Read Disclaimer
What is Xerosis?
Bag Balm
Udder Cream
Baby Products
Tips from the Skin Site
The Scleroderma Bath

What is Xerosis?

Scleroderma can cause dry, itchy skin. Xerosis is the medical term for dry skin. Scleroderma can also cause sensations of burning, tingling, and tightness.

In Diffuse Scleroderma, itching may precede skin tightening, and is a temporary phase. The prescription drug Atarax (generic name: Hydroxyzine Hydrochloride) may help in this situation.

Consult your doctor if you develop sudden or severe itching, as this may be a symptom of other things, such as kidney failure or liver disease.

What's Your I.Q.? (Itch Quotient?) Lanacane Itch Information Center

Treatments for Xerosis (Dry Skin) and Itching


Common treatments to reduce the skin itching of Scleroderma include KeriCream, Lanalor, Lubriderm, Eucerin Moisturizing, Nivea Moisturizing, UltraDerm, Alpha Keri Bath Oil, Serna, and Penederm alpha hydroxy cream (1)

Bag Balm

One product that many patients find helpful in relieving dry skin is Bag Balm, which is an antiseptic and healing balm made for the udders of cows. Bag Balm comes in square green tins and is sold in drug stores and other outlets (in the United States).

Udder Cream

Another brand is Udder Cream by Redex Industries.

These products do have a bit of a medicinal aroma to them, so they are best used before bedtime and then covered with cotton gloves and stockings. I also use Bag Balm when the "burning skin" is at its height — not because it decreases the burning, mind you, but rather because rubbing in lotion distracts the mind, momentarily, and gives the skin (and nose!) a different sensation to report.

Baby Products

My dermatologist recommends Johnson & Johnson's new line of baby products for sensitive skin — for soap, shampoo, lotion, etc. She also highly recommends Cetaphil which is a gentle cleansing bar (or liquid) for dry, sensitive skin, and Vanicream, a skin lotion.

Tips from the Skin Site

Some tips from the Skin Site include:

  1. Add Baby Oil to your bath water; do not use soap as you wet clean simply soaking in the oil-water combination.
  2. Only use lukewarm water, because hot water dries out the skin.
  3. When toweling dry, do not rub, just blot gently.
  4. While you're still slightly damp, apply more baby oil.

This is reinforced by this practical advice from Dr. Vázquez-Abad for dealing with Raynaud's and dry skin:

The Scleroderma Bath by Dr. Dolores Vázquez-Abad (1)

A practice that has been beneficial for most of my patients is also highly appealing:  taking a warm bath with either a simple and inexpensive baby oil, or a fine bath oil (whichever you may fancy.) The bath should last for at least 20 minutes , and be done just before you go to bed every day , and will achieve three desired goals:

1. The warmth of the water will almost immediately increase your body temperature .

2. The oil will prevent the quick evaporation of water, and thus, will keep you warmer for a longer time .

3. The oil will also treat the dryness and itchiness of the skin which frequently parallels the severity of the Raynaud's.

Pamper yourself: do something that may notably improve your disease, and may allow a reduction of medication. It is important, however, not to do this in the morning, since it is imperative to prevent drastic changes in temperature. That's the reason it should be done always and only before going to bed.

Bag balm is useful for dry skin. When you apply it on hands and feet, you should put on an old pair of gloves and socks before you go to bed, because the balm is oily and may soil the linen. In addition, I recommend flannel pajamas, warm socks, and flannel sheets, with layers of blankets.


(1) Excerpted with permission from "Understanding Scleroderma" by Dr. Dolores Vazquez-Abad © Copyright 1997. All rights reserved.

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