If you’ve noticed dry patches of skin on your body, you’re not alone. Many people experience these dry spots. They can have a number of causes, including contact dermatitis, psoriasis, and more.

Dry skin patches can feel rough and scaly in only certain areas, which is different from just having overall dry skin.

While dry skin patches can crop up anywhere, they often appear on the:

  • elbows
  • lower arms
  • hands or wrists
  • feet or ankles
  • chest
  • knees or lower legs
  • face
  • eyelids

Read on to learn more about what could be causing your dry patches.

Dry patches can have several possible causes, many of which can be effectively treated.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a condition that occurs when you come into contact with a substance that causes a skin reaction. It often causes a discolored, itchy rash. If you have it on your hands, the American Academy of Dermatology says that you might develop scaling on your fingers.

Some triggers for contact dermatitis can include:

  • perfumes
  • chemicals in skincare or makeup products
  • latex
  • gold or nickel jewelry
  • poison ivy or poison oak

Contact dermatitis can be treated, usually with steroid creams or oral medications. It’s not contagious, meaning you can’t give it to others or catch it from other people.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes skin cells to multiply too quickly. People with psoriasis may develop scaly, itchy patches of skin on their bodies.

This chronic condition causes flare-ups. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, flare-ups may be triggered by:

  • stress
  • smoking
  • alcohol
  • infections
  • skin injuries
  • certain medications

Many treatments are available to help manage symptoms of psoriasis, including:

Your doctor will recommend one of these options based on how serious your condition is.

Eczema

Eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis, can occur at any age. But the National Eczema Association says that it’s most common in children.

The condition causes itchy patches that can range in color from reddish brown to grayish brown, depending on your skin color. These patches may crust over when you scratch them.

Eczema tends to form on the:

  • hands
  • feet
  • ankles
  • wrists
  • neck
  • upper chest
  • eyelids
  • elbows
  • knees
  • face
  • other areas

Eczema isn’t contagious. Several treatments can help you manage flare-ups, including creams, drugs, and light therapy.

Athlete’s foot

You don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot. A fungal infection causes this condition, which usually affects the area between your toes.

Symptoms include a scaly rash that causes itching, stinging, or burning.

The National Health Service says that athlete’s foot is contagious. It can be spread through sharing personal items or walking on floors where the fungus lives.

Doctors usually recommend antifungal ointments or creams to get rid of the infection.

Dry air

Sometimes, dry, cool air can strip your skin of moisture and cause you to develop dry skin patches.

In the summer, higher humidity levels can help stop your skin from drying out. But too much sun exposure can also leave you with dry skin.

Dehydration

If you don’t drink enough fluids throughout the day, you might develop patches of dry skin.

The Institute of Medicine looked at average water intake levels in a 2005 study. To avoid dehydration, they recommended drinking:

  • 13 cups of fluid per day for men between the ages of 19 and 30
  • 9 cups of fluid per day for women between the ages of 19 and 30

Nutritional deficiencies

Not consuming enough calcium, vitamin D, or vitamin E may cause dry, white or light-colored patches to form on your skin.

Dry patches caused by nutritional deficiencies are usually harmless. But a medical professional may suggest that you need to eat a more balanced diet or take supplements.

Smoking

Smoking can be a trigger for dry skin, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. It can also lead to wrinkles and a dull skin tone.

Older age

As you age, your pores naturally produce less oil, and you may notice that your skin becomes dryer.

Dry patches of skin in older adults often appear on the:

  • lower legs
  • elbows
  • lower arms

Stress

Stress can affect your body in many ways. Some people develop dry skin.

If you have a condition like psoriasis or eczema, stress can make your symptoms worse or bring on a flare-up.

Soaps and overwashing

Using or overusing harsh soaps, perfumes, or antiperspirants may dry out your skin. Additionally, taking long, hot baths or showers can make the problem worse.

Cradle cap is a common condition in babies and toddlers. It causes itchy, discolored skin to form on the scalp, face, and chest.

In many cases, symptoms can be managed with special shampoos, creams, and other therapies.

The American Academy of Dermatology says that cradle cap usually goes away between 6 months and 1 year of age.

Treatment for your dry patches of skin will depend on what’s causing your symptoms.

Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription creams, ointments, or lotions. In some cases, pills or infusions of stronger medications are used to clear up the skin condition.

Talk with a healthcare professional about which treatment is best for what’s causing your symptoms.

You should contact a doctor if your dry skin becomes severe or doesn’t go away. It’s also a good idea to get checked out if you think your dry skin might be a sign of an underlying illness.

Seeking out early treatment for your skin condition may lead to a better outcome. The Healthline FindCare tool can provide options in your area if you don’t already have a dermatologist.

If you have dry patches of skin, your doctor will probably conduct an exam and ask about your medical and family history.

They’ll likely refer you to a dermatologist. A dermatologist is a doctor who specializes in skin issues.

Depending on the possible condition, you might need lab tests or skin biopsies.

You may be able to help prevent dry, itchy skin by doing the following:

  • Use moisturizers every day to keep skin hydrated.
  • Limit baths and showers to no more than one a day.
  • Limit the time you spend bathing.
  • Avoid hot baths or showers. Instead, take showers and baths in warm or lukewarm water
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home.
  • Use moisturizing body and hand soap.
  • Cover up your skin, especially in cold or sunny weather.
  • Avoid itching or rubbing your dry skin.
  • Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Dry patches of skin can have many possible causes. You may have a skin condition, or the dryness could be related to other habits or things you’re exposed to.

Most of the time, you can effectively manage symptoms with the right medications or home remedies. Talk with your doctor if the dry patches start to bother you or get worse.