Athlete’s foot


Corns and callouses

Cuts and grazes

Hair disorders




The value of vitamin creams and pills for skin troubles is discussed on p180.

This section deals with more general skin problems and their solution. It is sometimes impossible and always difficult to differentiate between cosmetic skin products and medicinal ones. I have tried to omit references to cosmetics and cosmetic skin treatments, since the criteria for selection are obviously different to those relating to medicinal compounds. For example, creams, lotions and sprays which are advertised for the purpose of eradicating wrinkles, keeping the skin soft and young, reversing ageing processes and improving skin texture are not discussed; these are all cosmetic preparations and my feeling is that there is no point in my trying to discuss them. What I have dealt with are the preparations designed to help in the treatment of skin disorders.

The commonest problem is probably simple dry skin. There are several causes for this. Long, leisurely hot baths can damage the skin and result in a loss of water and natural oils. Air conditioning and central heating also increase the loss of water from the skin. Too much sunbathing is also a possible cause of dry skin, although in the British climate this cause is probably relatively rare.

Preventing the development of dry skin by avoiding overlong soaks in the bath, by installing a humidifier or opening a window in the house or office, or by avoiding excessive exposure to the sun is obviously better than having to use creams in an attempt to repair and revitalize patches of dry skin. Incidentally, people with a tendency to develop dry skin may notice a deterioration after bathing in a chlorinated swimming pool: the chlorine may exacerbate dry skin problems.

Once dry skin has developed, however, ointments or oils are usually better than creams or soaps. Bath oils disperse in the bath water and adhere to the skin preventing the loss of natural water and oils. Alternatively, oil can be massaged into the skin after bathing. Emulsifying Ointment BP is a non-branded product which can be used. It is important to remember that ordinary toilet soap itself may make dry skin worse. Aveeno Colloidal and Aveeno Oilated are useful bath oils sometimes prescribed by doctors.

Another solution is to use an emollient regularly: these help to prevent loss of water from the surface of the skin and therefore help to re-hydrate the skin’s surface layers. E45 cream, Oilatnm emollient, Ultra-base and Unguentum are among the simple, branded products which are useful. These are likely to be considerably cheaper than and at least as effective as extremely expensive moisturizing creams and cosmetics, many of which simply contain added perfumes which contribute nothing to the effectiveness of the product, and do, in fact, increase the risk of allergic reactions developing.

It is sometimes forgotten that the human body can suffer bad effects from creams, ointments and other superficial treatments, just as it can from oral treatments.

There are a number of skin preparations which are designed to relieve itching and discomfort associated with dry skin conditions and with rashes, mild infections and other disorders. These may contain antihistamines , calamine, zinc oxide or local anaesthetics such as benzocaine and lignocaine.

Calamine is a pink, insoluble powder which contains zinc carbonate and ferric oxide. It is sold in a number of different forms, being available in Calsept, Cream of Calamine, Ec-^ederm Cream, HEB Bum Cream, HEB Calamine and Lacto-Calamine Lotion among others . It is also available as Calamine Lotion BP and Calamine Ointment BPC. Calamine preparations help sooth and cool itchy, uncomfortable skin.

Zinc oxide is also soothing and protective and is available as Compound Zinc Dusting Powder BPC, Zinc Cream BP and Zinc Ointment BP. Many proprietary preparations for the treatment of nappy rash contain zinc oxide .

Those skin preparations which include antiseptics and disinfectants should be avoided since they may cause irritation and are unlikely to help very much. Products containing local anaesthetics or antihistamines may be useful in the treatment of stings or allergic reactions . Most other minor conditions can be eased with calamine or zinc oxide preparations. I do not recommend any home treatments intended specifically for the treatment of eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis. Any skin disorder which docs not show signs of improvement after five days should be seen by a doctor and any skin blemish which gets bigger, bleeds, changes colour, ulcerates or hurts should be examined without delay.

Finally, there are available creams which can be used for the treatment of cracked skin and for protecting skin against exposure to irritants. Creams which contain silicone (such as Atrixo and Vasogeii) and soft paraffin products (such as Vaseline) can be used to build a protective barrier for the skin.