Overview of dry skin
Dry skin is an uncomfortable condition marked by scaling, itching, and cracking. It can occur for a variety of reasons. You might have naturally dry skin. But even if your skin tends to be oily, you can develop dry skin from time to time.
This can affect any part of your body. It commonly affects hands, arms, and legs. In many cases, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter moisturizers may be all you need to treat it. If those treatments aren’t enough, you should contact your doctor.
Types of dry skin
Exposure to dry weather conditions, hot water, and certain chemicals can cause your skin to dry out. Dry skin can also result from underlying medical conditions. Dermatitis the medical term for extremely dry skin. There are several different types of dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis develops when your skin reacts to something it touches, causing localized inflammation. Irritant contact dermatitis can occur when your skin’s exposed to an irritating chemical agent, such as bleach.
Allergic contact dermatitis can develop when your skin is exposed to a substance you’re allergic to, such as nickel.
Seborrheic dermatitis occurs when your skin produces too much oil. It results in a red and scaly rash, usually on your scalp. This type of dermatitis is common in infants.
Atopic dermatitis is also known as eczema. It’s a chronic skin condition that causes dry scaly patches to appear on your skin. It’s common among young children.
Other conditions, such as psoriasis and type 2 diabetes, can also cause your skin to dry out.
Symptoms of dry skin
Signs and symptoms depend on your age, health, where you live, time spent outdoors, and the cause of the problem. It is probably going to cause at least one of the accompanying:
- A feeling of tightness in the skin, especially after showering or swimming.
- Skin that appears rough
- Itching (pruritus)
- Mild to very flaky, peeling or peeling
- Fine lines or slits
- Deep cracks that may bleed
Causes of dry skin
This can occur when the skin loses too much moisture. The skin shrinks with age. So older people often suffer from this. Other causes include:
- Live in desert climates
- Jobs that require frequent hand washing.
- Bathing too much
- Skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis.
- Cold air
- Hot water
It is easy to diagnose by its appearance. Depending on your symptoms, your healthcare provider may order tests to check for health conditions that are causing, such as:
- Allergy testing to identify the substances that cause allergies.
- A blood test to check for problems such as diabetes or kidney disease.
- Skin biopsy (sample of tissue) to test for eczema or other skin conditions.
This can affect anyone. But some risk factors raise your chances of developing dry skin, including:
- Age. Older adults are more likely to develop dry skin. As you age, your pores naturally produce less oil, raising your risk of dry skin.
- Medical history. You’re more likely to experience eczema or allergic contact dermatitis if you have a history of these conditions or other allergic diseases in your family.
- Season. Dry skin is more common during the fall and winter months when humidity levels are relatively low. In the summer, higher levels of humidity help stop your skin from drying out.
- Bathing habits. Taking frequent baths or washing with very hot water raises your risk of dry skin.
Your healthcare provider may recommend moisturizing your skin:
- Moisturizers: Moisturizers are the mainstay of treatment for most dry skin types. It smoothes and softens the skin to help prevent chapping and rebuilds the skin’s natural barrier. Saturating items come in balms, creams, salves, and oils.
- Medicines: For very dry skin that is itchy or prone to cracking, your healthcare provider may prescribe a topical steroid or another steroid-keeping agent, both of which work to reduce the inflammation in the skin that causes the rash and itching. In severe cases, oral or injection medication may be appropriate.
- Use warm water and limit bath time. Long showers or baths and hot water remove oils from your skin. Limit your bath or shower to five to 10 minutes and use warm, not hot, water.
- Avoid harsh, drying soaps. It’s best to use cleansing creams or gentle skin cleansers and bath or shower gels with added moisturizers. Choose mild soaps that have added oils and fats. Avoid deodorant and antibacterial detergents, fragrance, and alcohol.
- Apply moisturizers immediately after bathing. Gently pat your skin dry with a towel so that some moisture remains. Within a couple of minutes of bathing, apply moisturizing cream or ointment to trap moisture in your skin. A product in which petrolatum is one of the top three ingredients may be best. Products containing glycerin, lactic acid or urea may also help.
- Use a humidifier. Hot, dry, indoor air can parch sensitive skin and worsen itching and flaking. A portable home humidifier or one attached to your furnace adds moisture to the air inside your home. Be sure to keep your humidifier clean.
- Choose fabrics that are kind to your skin. Natural fibers, such as cotton and silk, allow your skin to breathe. But wool, although natural, can irritate even normal skin.
Wash your clothes with detergents without dyes or perfumes, both of which can irritate your skin.