Dry Skin Symptoms and Online Treatment

Many people struggle with dry skin, but it's often something you can deal with at home. When can skin dryness and irritation be solved with some at-home moisturizer and when do you need to seek out a dermatology appointment? Learn more about dry skin and other skin conditions below.

What is dry skin?

Dry skin, medically called xerosis, is when your skin is, for some reason, not hydrated enough. It's often dry and rough to the touch and may be red, itchy, or otherwise bother you. There are many causes of dry skin, and your doctor will likely interview you about your lifestyle to try to identify the cause.

Anyone can get dry skin, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), there are some risk factors for dry skin. You're more likely to suffer from excessively dry skin if:

  • You're more than 40 years old
  • You have very dark or very light skin (medium complexions are less likely to develop dry skin)
  • You take certain medications, including statins and diuretics
  • You frequently wash your hands or submerge them in water
  • You frequently come in contact with harsh chemicals
  • You smoke
  • You live in an area that experiences cold, dry winters
  • You have a condition that includes dry skin as a symptom or side effect

What are the causes of dry skin?

Dry skin can be caused by a wide variety of things. Many are environmental factors: washing your hands a lot, especially with harsh soaps and hot water, or working outside in the elements. You may have been exposed to an allergen: lotions, household cleansers, makeup, medications, and laundry detergents are common culprits. Climates that experience dry, cold winters often contribute to dry or itchy skin. If you don't get enough water or certain foods in your diet, you may also have dry skin.

Dry skin can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. On your feet, dry, flaky skin may be a sign of athlete's foot, which is caused by a fungus. Dry, red, and itchy patches of skin could point to eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, or similar skin problems.

Symptoms of dry skin

Dry skin is usually easy to spot. It's characterized by a rough, scaly texture and sometimes cracks in the skin. This is often accompanied by a white appearance in light-skinned people and a grey or ashy appearance in dark-skinned people. Many cases may feature flaking, peeling, or loose, wrinkly, or sensitive skin.

More serious cases may be itchy or come with redness and a rash. If your skin is scaly or painfully sensitive, this could be a sign of an underlying condition.

Dry skin treatment and skin care

Adding hydration into your environment, such as a humidifier, or directly into your skincare routine with a moisturizing cream or lotion, can help with environmental factors. If you're having an allergic reaction, the first step is identifying what changes you are allergic to. A dermatologist can interview you and help you determine which products in your house may be causing a reaction, and which you should avoid using in the future. Lifestyle adjustments like quitting smoking or drinking more water may also help improve your condition.

In the case of dry skin being a symptom of an underlying condition, treatment of your condition will often also help your dry skin.

FAQs

What are some home remedies for dry skin?

There are plenty of products you can add to your skincare routine to help protect or repair dry skin. Emollients (skin softeners) and glycerin (moisturizer) are important for keeping skin healthy.

If your work requires you to frequently wash your hands, protect the natural oils in your skin with a skin barrier, like petroleum jelly or products with ceramides. Home remedies like mineral oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and more may help hydrate and moisturize your skin. Skincare products formulated for your skin type (dry, average, or oily) will be more helpful than generic products.

Avoid hot showers and rough scrubbing to protect the natural oils in your skin.

Why is it important to avoid hot showers/over-washing/harsh chemicals?

Your skin is naturally built to attempt to stay hydrated. In most cases, this is through the natural oils your body produces, called sebum. Hot water and harsh chemicals both strip your skin of its natural oils, as does washing your hands too many times without moisturizing in between. Without your body's natural defense against dry skin, it's far easier for your skin to lose too much moisture.

What can I eat or drink to help combat dry skin?

The most important thing is to drink plenty of water. The US Dietary Guidelines don't provide an exact recommendation for how much water the average person should drink. However, you should be having at least a few glasses of water, between your liquid intake and the food you eat.

Additionally, foods high in Vitamins A, C, D, and E, as well as zinc and selenium, can help protect against dry skin. Eating a balanced diet helps promote healthy organs, including the skin.

What household items are likely to cause contact dermatitis (allergic reactions)?

Skin irritation as a reaction to an allergen is fairly common. Soaps and detergents with dyes and perfumes can cause a reaction. You can find fragrance-free varieties that are preferable for sensitive skin. Using a hyaluronic acid treatment may cause moisture to draw away from the skin, leaving it dry. Clothes made with synthetic fibers, like polyester, can irritate skin and keep it from breathing. Makeup and lotion may also cause an allergic reaction, and you should always test new products on a small patch of skin before applying them as normal.

When to see a dermatologist about dry skin?

Dry skin on its own is usually a non-serious condition. When accompanied by other symptoms, it's usually a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional. Schedule an appointment with a doctor or dermatologist if you experience symptoms that interfere with your daily life, or if your dry skin doesn't go away with at-home remedies.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.