Dry Skin – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

March 19 22:05 2019 Print This Article

Dry skin is also known as xerosis, which is a common problem. Your skin needs moisture to stay smooth and supple, and retaining moisture is especially difficult in winter. Central heating of home and other buildings is very drying to the skin. Simple daily routines, such as bathing and towel drying, may actually remove moisture from the skin. Modifying your bathing routine will help preserve your skin’s moisture. Bathing provides the skin will moisturize temporarily, but it removes the skin’s oily lipid layer and in the long run causes more moisture loss than gain. Dry skin is most commonly found on the lower legs, arms and flanks. Dry skin is known by several names, including Asteatosis and Winter Itch.

Dry skin is also a feature of several more serious skin disorders, such as Psoriasis, Eczema, and Contact Dermatitis. Fortunately, most dry skin results from environmental factors that can be wholly or partially controlled. These include exposure to hot or cold weather with low humidity levels and to wind, long-term use of air conditioning or central heating, excessive bathing, especially tub baths, and the use of strong soaps or detergents. Metabolic changes that occur with normal aging or with certain medical conditions also can affect the moisture content of your skin.

Dry skin can be rough, flaky, red, and sometimes painful, skin. It is caused by not enough oil and water in the layers of the skin. Common causes of dry skin include dehydration, heat, cold, poor nutrition, and side effects of radiation treatment or chemo. Dryness is exacerbated by wind, extremes of temperature and air-conditioning, all of which cause the skin to flake, chap and feel tight. This type of skin is tightly drawn over bones. It looks dull, especially on the cheeks and around the eyes. There may be tiny expression lines on these spots and at the comers of the mouth. The dry areas may result in dermatitis, i.e. the skin becomes red and itchy. This may result in a crazy-paving appearance on the lower legs (‘eczema craquel√©’), or round patches scattered over the trunk and limbs (a dry form of nummular dermatitis ). Sometimes the dry skin is just itchy, without much of a rash (sometimes known as ‘winter itch’, ‘7th age itch’, or ‘senile pruritus’).

Causes of Dry Skin

Find common causes and risk factors of Dry Skin:

  • Dry skin is very common and it happens more often in the winter when cold air outside and heated air inside may cause low humidity.
  • Eczema may cause dry skin.
  • Increasing age, resulting in decreased natural lubrication.
  • Excessive bathing, showering or swimming, especially in strongly chlorinated hot or cold water.
  • Inherited factors.
  • Air conditioning, central heating or sitting close to a fire or fan heater.

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Skin

Sign and symptoms may include the following:

  • Itching.
  • Cracks.
  • Severe redness
  • Slight to severe flaking or scaling.
  • Skin that feels and looks rough rather than smooth.

Treatment for Dry Skin

Treatment may include:

  • Apply an emollient liberally and often, particularly after bathing, and when itchy. The drier the skin, the thicker this should be, especially on the hands.
  • Reduce how often you bath or shower, and use lukewarm water. Showers may be better than baths.
  • Avoid using skin care products with alcohol.
  • A variety of over-the-counter remedies such as cortisone cream can help relieve inflammation.
  • Applying cool compresses to particularly itchy areas can help to quell this symptom.
  • Drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day can help hydrate the skin and reduce symptoms.
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