Dry skin

By Medically reviewed by hellodoktor

Know the basics

What is dry skin?

Dry skin is an uncomfortable condition marked by scaling, itching, and cracking. This can occur on any part of the body, but it is most common in the legs, arms, and abdominal area.

It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of dry skin?

Dry skin is likely to cause the following symptoms:

  • A feeling of skin tightness, especially after showering, bathing or swimming;
  • Skin that feels and looks rough;
  • Itching (pruritus);
  • Slight to severe flaking, scaling or peeling;
  • Fine lines or cracks;
  • Gray, ashy skin in people with dark skin;
  • Redness;
  • Deep cracks that may bleed.

For those who have a tendency toward eczema, not caring properly for dry skin can lead to:

Atopic dermatitis (eczema). If you’re prone to develop this condition, excessive dryness can lead to activation of the disease, causing redness, cracking and inflammation.

Infections. Dry skin may crack, allowing bacteria to enter, causing infections.

These complications are most likely to occur when your skin’s normal protective mechanisms are severely compromised. For example, severely dry skin can cause deep cracks or fissures, which can open and bleed, providing an avenue for invading bacteria.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What are the causes of dry skin?

Certain diseases can significantly affect your skin, but most cases of dry skin are from environment factors, including:

  • Weather: in winter, when temperatures and humidity levels plummet, your skin is driest. However, this condition could also happen in desert regions, where temperatures can soar, but humidity levels remain low.
  • Heat: some cases such as central heating, wood-burning stoves, space heaters and fireplaces all reduce humidity and dry your skin.
  • Hot baths and showers: can dry your skin in case you take a long time for that . Besides, when you frequent swim, particularly in heavily chlorinated pools.
  • Harsh soaps and detergents: have some ingredients that strip moisture from your skin. Deodorant and antibacterial soaps are usually the most damaging. Also, many shampoos may dry your scalp.
  • Sun exposure: the sun dries your skin, and its ultraviolet (UV) radiation penetrates far beyond the top layer of skin. The most significant damage occurs deeper, leading to deep wrinkles and loose, sagging skin.
  • Other skin conditions: such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) or a skin condition marked by a rapid buildup of rough, dry, dead skin cells that form thick scales (psoriasis) are prone to dry skin.

Know the risk factors

Who is at risk of dry skin?

Dry skin can occur on anyone, but you may be more likely to develop the condition if:

  • You are older than age 40;
  • You live in dry, cold or low-humidity climates;
  • Your job requires you to immerse your skin in water, such as nurses and hair stylists;
  • You frequently swim in pools that contain chlorinated.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is dry skin diagnosed?

Your doctor is likely to conduct a physical exam and ask about your medical history, including when your dry skin started, what factors make it better or worse, your bathing habits, your diet, and how you care for your skin.

You may have certain diagnostic tests if your doctor suspects that your dry skin is the result of an underlying medical condition, such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

How is dry skin treated?

In most cases, dry skin responds well to lifestyle measures, such as using moisturizers and avoiding long, hot showers and baths. If you have very dry and scaly skin, your doctor may recommend you to use an over-the-counter (nonprescription) cream that contains lactic acid or lactic acid and urea.

Sometimes dry skin leads to dermatitis, which causes red, itchy skin. In these cases, treatment may include hydrocortisone-containing lotions. If your skin cracks open, your doctor may prescribe wet dressings to help prevent infection.

Lifestyle changes & Home remedies

How can I manage my dry skin?

These following simple lifestyle changes can help to prevent your dry skin from being developed.

  • Shower every other day;
  • Keep your bathing time to between five and ten minutes;
  • Avoid hot showers;
  • Use a moisturizing soap;
  • Avoid scrubbing dry skin patches;
  • Pat your skin dry with a soft towel;
  • Use a moisturizer immediately after showering;
  • Use a humidifier in the home;
  • Drink plenty of water.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: September 19, 2016 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019

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