The skin protects the body form the outside world and is the largest organ of the human body. It has several different functions, including protecting us from infection and dehydration, as well as controlling our body temperature. The skin is naturally protected by a layer of sebum which acts to retain moisture and keep the skin healthy. Dry skin can result from damage to this layer, commonly caused by aging, cold/dry/hot or windy weather, central heating and exposure to solvents or detergents. Dry skin can be best treated with regular use of emollients or moisturisers that replace any lost moisture on the skin's surface and by avoiding soaps and other drying substances.

Irritant Contact Dermatitis/Allergic Dermatitis

Irritant contact dermatitis is the most common form of dermatitis to affect adults. It occurs soon after exposure to the irritant. The severity can vary with the type of irritant; strength, quantity and also the length of time the skin was in contact with the irritant.

Allergic dermatitis occurs in patients whose skin has previously been sensitised by contact with the allergen (nickel in jewellery or rubber). Re-exposure to the allergen triggers an inflammatory response.

Both types of dermatitis appear red and tender and possibly with blistering and itching. The best treatment is to identify and avoid the causative factor, but sometime this may be difficult to do.


Eczema is an inflammatory disorder of the skin and may be considered as dermatitis of an unknown origin. It is often a hereditary condition. Eczema patients' skin has an inability to produce its own natural moisturising layer. Eczema is an irritant rash. The rash of eczema typically has dry flaky skin which may be inflamed and may include small red spots. The skin may be cracked and weepy and sometimes becomes thickened. Common locations on the body for eczema to occur would be on the hands, elbows and behind the knees.


Psoriasis is a common chronic skin condition that can present at any time in anyone's life. It is caused by a change in pattern in skin cell production and removal from the body's surface. This leads to a build-up of skin cells and can present itself as slivery scaly plaques with well-defined boundaries. The cause of psoriasis is unknown although genetic and environmental factors are implicated. Itching is generally not a symptom and the areas of the body most commonly affected include the exterior elbow/knee joints and the scalp.
Many people suffer from dry skin, which may not be as serious as eczema or psoriasis. The best treatment is the regular use of emollients, containing ingredients such as paraffin or lanolin, and avoiding soap and other drying substances.

Aqueous cream: is a water-based moisturiser that is effective in restoring lost moisture to dry skin. It is very safe for all patient groups including people with lanolin allergies. It can be applied when needed.

Liquid paraffin/White soft paraffin and emulsifying ointment: are all more greasy, emollient ingredients used to treat dry skin conditions.

Urea: Is used in many preparations to aid hydration of the skin and is sometimes used in addition to steroid-based creams e.g. Hydrocortisone to enhance penetration and effectiveness of the steroid.

Hydrocortisone 1%: is a mild corticosteroid (inflammation suppressant) and is available over the counter. It can help reduce inflammation and itching caused by skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and allergic skin reactions. It cannot be used by children under the age of 12, or by pregnant women. It should not be used on broken or infected skin because it can make the infection worse. It should not be used on the face, neck or genital area and should not be used on large areas of skin. It can only be used for a maximum of 7 days and must always be applied thinly.

Crotamiton: is an anti-itching ingredient that can work for up to ten hours in some preparations. It should be avoided near the eyes.

Mepyramine: is an antihistamine contained in a cream formulation. It can be applied 3 times a day to the skin to treat insect stings and bites.
Visit your pharmacist or doctor:
  • If the condition is not responding to treatment with emollients
  • If the condition is near the eye(s)
  • If the patient is in pain
  • If in eczema the skin is infected, oozing pus, or covers a large area and is spreading
  • If the skin is broken, bleeding or crusted
Helpful Tips from Mulligans Pharmacy:
  • At Mulligans Pharmacy, we understand that our customers may need treatment for symptoms of a personal or sensitive nature. Our pharmacists are always available for a discreet chat in our private consultation room at your request, or you can ask a Mulligans Pharmacist a question in confidence here.
  • Avoid substances that can irritate the skin e.g. leather, rubber, cement, hairdressing chemicals, washing detergents, and nickel etc.
  • Patients are advised to avoid perfumed toiletries
  • Washing skin too much can dry the skin
  • Emollients should be used as often as possible to maintain skin hydration
  • Aqueous cream and emulsifying ointment can be used as soap substitutes
  • For some people, eczema can be treated by avoiding certain foods but this should only be done after tests have been carried out to identify the exact cause
  • Antihistamine tablets may be of use where appropriate for easing the itching and reducing the redness of skin allergy.
  • Cotton gloves can be worn after application of an emollient to dry chapped hands. It can aid absorption of the cream. It is often best done at night time before going to bed
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The information provided is intended solely as a guide. Please seek the advice of your pharmacist to determine whether a particular service, medication, or treatment programme will be of value to you. Always check the dosage directions carefully on all medicines. Never combine medicines without consulting your doctor or pharmacist. All health facts and information contained herein should not be a substitute for medical advice. The use of this site is subject to our Terms & Conditions.
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