Dry Skin

Dry skin

Dry, ashy skin: People who had atopic dermatitis as children often have very dry skin as adults.   

Dry skin is common. It can occur at any age and for many reasons. Using a moisturizer often helps repair dry skin.

Sometimes people need a dermatologist's help to get relief from dry skin.

Extremely dry skin can be a warning sign of a skin problem called dermatitis 

(derm-muh-TIE-tis).

Dermatitis means inflammation of the skin. It can cause an itchy rash or patches of dry irritated skin. The earlier dermatitis is diagnosed and treated the better. Without treatment, dermatitis often gets worse.

Your doctor may call dry skin xerosis (ze-ROW-sis).

Dry skin: Signs and symptoms

The signs (what you see) and symptoms (what you feel) of dry skin are:

When dry skin cracks, germs can get in through the skin. Once inside, germs can cause an infection. Red, sore spots on the skin may be an early sign of an infection.

Dry skin: Who gets and causes

Who gets dry skin and why?

Anyone can get dry skin. Skin becomes dry when it loses too much water or oil. Some people are more likely to have dry skin. Some causes of dry skin are:

Dry skin: Diagnosis, treatment, and outcome

How do dermatologists diagnose dry skin?

To find out whether your dry skin is a sign of a skin disease, a dermatologist will carefully examine your skin. The doctor also will ask questions, such as when the problem began. This information will help the dermatologist make the right diagnosis and determine the best treatment. Tests may be needed if a dermatologist thinks your dry skin is due to a health problem.

How do dermatologists treat dry skin?

Your dermatologist may recommend the following:

If your skin is dry, look for a product that contains petrolatum or lanolin, which can seal moisture into your skin.

For very dry skin, a moisturizer that contains urea or lactic acid may be helpful. These ingredients help the skin hold water. You can find these ingredients in both prescription moisturizers and those that you can buy without a prescription. A drawback is that these ingredients can sting if you have eczema or cracked skin.

Medicine: When skin is extremely dry, your dermatologist may prescribe a medicine that you can apply to your skin. This may be a corticosteroid (cortisone-like) or an immune modulator (tacrolimus, pimecrolimus). These medicines tend to be quite good at relieving the itch, redness, and swelling. You also may need to use a moisturizer several times a day.

Changes to your day: If your dry skin is caused by something that you are doing, such as immersing your hands in water all day, you may need to stop doing this for a few days. When you start up again, you may need to wear gloves or apply a special moisturizer throughout the day.

 Dry skin: Tips for relieving

Here are tips that can prevent dry skin or keep it from getting worse.