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.
Dry skin can develop on any part of your body. It’s most likely to affect
your 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, contact your doctor.
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
the medical term for extremely dry skin. There are several different types of
- irritant contact
- allergic contact
develops when your skin reacts to something it touches, causing localized
inflammation. Irritant contact dermatitis can occur when your skin is
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.
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.
Dry skin 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
- 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 doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on the cause of your
dry skin. In some cases, they may refer you to a skin specialist, or dermatologist.
Along with lifestyle remedies, they may recommend over-the-counter or
prescription ointments, creams, or lotions to treat your symptoms.
Simple lifestyle changes can help prevent and relieve dry skin. Try to:
- avoid using hot water to bathe or shower
- shower every other day instead of every day
- keep your shower time to less than 10 minutes
- use a moisturizing soap when you bathe or shower
- apply moisturizer immediately after bathing or
- pat, rather than rub, wet skin dry with a soft towel
- avoid itching or scrubbing dry skin patches
- use a humidifier in your home
- drink plenty of water
It’s also important to choose the right kind of moisturizer for your skin
type. If your skin is extremely dry, look for a petrolatum-based product.
You might consider switching to a lighter, water-based lotion during the
summer months if your skin becomes less dry then. Lotions that contain grape
seed oil and antioxidants can also help trap water in your skin.
If you experience occasional dry skin, you can likely prevent and treat it using
simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter moisturizers. If you develop
severe dry skin, make an appointment with your doctor.
If left untreated, dermatitis can get worse. Early treatment will help you
to feel comfortable sooner. It will also lower your risk of complications, such
as open wounds from scratching and skin infections.