If you suffer from dry, sensitive skin (or any other skin condition), finding soaps, lotions, and other skin products that aren’t irritating can oftentimes be difficult. Combined, hot water and harsh soap (or body wash or bubble bath) can only make matters worse. Sometimes you might not even be aware of the fact that what you’re applying to your skin is actually the culprit that’s causing problems in the first place.

The most important thing you need to do when choosing a soap, lotion or other skin products is to make sure they’re free of parabens, harsh chemicals, strong additives, fragrance and artificial colouring, as these can do a number on the skin – including cause further dryness, increase itchiness, as well as cause redness, stinging and burning. To prevent this, you need to look for something that’s not only moisturizing, but also gentle and soothing. It should be a product that protects your skin rather than something that causes harm to it.

Something many dermatologists recommend is using bar soap rather than liquid soap. A lot of liquid soaps can leave a film on the skin. This film causes pores to clog, which may result in redness and breakouts. If you suffer from itchy or irritated skin all over your body, you could benefit from soaking in an oatmeal bath each day – either in the morning or at night. Other products that contain oatmeal, shea butter, and aloe vera can also be soothing – just remember to read over the labels carefully and look out for any ingredients that could pose a problem. Tip: The more lather you get from soap, the more it’s likely full of those harsh chemicals and additives as mentioned previously, and something you should probably avoid using. If you’re unsure about buying soap, you can just as easily make soap on your own – that way you’ll be sure it won’t aggravate your skin in any way. Some great ingredients you can use include coconut milk (which helps fight inflammation), shea butter (which is rich in vitamins and can help heal everything from burns to make stretch marks disappear, not to mention relieve dry ski), calendula flowers (which also have anti-inflammatory properties), honey (which is not only loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients that fight bacteria and leave the skin glowing), as well as goat’s milk (which is loaded with antioxidants and helps promote the skin’s overall health.)

The same goes for moisturizers. Many of the ones you would find in drug stores or at cosmetic departments are often filled with fragrance and other ingredients that can be extra harsh on the skin. Instead of running to the store and spending lots of money on a brand name moisturizer, check to see if you have any of these following items that are naturally moisturizing; such as organic honey, buttermilk, olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, avocados and cucumbers. While these might sound bizarre, many of these things can sooth irritated skin as well as reduce redness/inflammation.

In cases where dry, irritated skin persists or worsens, patients may need to be prescribed medication – either orally or as a topical cream – to help relieve their symptoms, though it depends what the skin condition is. Your family doctor will be able to determine the right course of action for you, and, if necessary, can refer you to a dermatologist for further evaluation.