Skin dryness occurs when the skin does not retain enough moisture. This can occur as a result of frequent bathing, use of harsh soaps, aging, or certain medical conditions. For those in colder climates, it may be due to cold and dry winter air. You can find more information below.
What is skin dryness?
Skin dryness is a very common skin condition characterized by the lack of proper amount of moisture (water) in the epidermis, the most superficial layer of the skin.
While dry skin, which can affect any or all parts of the hands, face, and body, tends to affect men and women equally, older individuals are typically much more prone to dry skin. In older individuals, the skin tends to reduce the amount of natural skin oils and lubricants.
Areas such as the arms, hands, and especially the lower legs tend to be more affected by skin dryness. Environmental factors such as humidity and temperature also have a significant impact on the amount of water retained in the skin. For example, the sudden heating of cold air in a place will evaporate the moisture on the skin and cause skin dryness.
Frequent hand washing and using disinfectants also cause evaporation of water in the epidermis and dryness. Dry skin can also be a side effect of some medications or a side effect of some skin diseases.
The epidermis (the surface layer of the skin) is normally composed of lipid (fat) and protein. A part of the epidermis, together with its lipid-specific epidermal proteins, retains moisture in the skin. Skin moisture evaporates more easily when there is a lack of protein or lipid. As the skin dries, it can become more sensitive and prone to rashes and skin breakdown.
The medical term for skin dryness is xerosis . Simple precautions and physician recommendations are very effective in the treatment of skin dryness. Basic prevention strategies include avoiding harsh soaps and chemical cleaners. Treatment usually requires more frequent and regular applications of emollients and moisturizers.
Untreated skin may lead to complications such as dryness, eczematous dermatitis, secondary bacterial infections, cellulitis, and skin discoloration. Fortunately, dry skin is usually mild and easily treatable.
What causes skin dryness?
There is no single cause of dry skin. The causes of skin dryness can be classified as external and internal.
External factors are the most common, the underlying cause, and the easiest to deal with. External factors include cold weather and low humidity, especially when central heaters are used in winter.
External factors that cause dryness on the skin include:
- Excessive washing with harsh soaps
- Excessive use of disinfectants and lipid solvents
- Cold weather
- low humidity
One of the most common factors causing skin dryness is the frequent application of harsh soaps. The type of soap can have a big impact on hand and facial skin dryness. Soap is an emulsifier that removes oils from the skin. The more often the skin is rubbed with soap, the more oil is removed, ultimately resulting in drier skin. Excessive use of soap can worsen skin dryness.
Although bathing and showering add water to the skin, the water evaporates afterwards. Overly taut and dry skin after a bath may indicate a removal of body moisture and natural skin oils.
In addition, the problem of dryness on the skin may be permanent or worsen in cases of wrong moisturizer and misuse. Clothing choices can also cause skin dryness. Materials such as wool or synthetic fibers tend to irritate the skin and worsen skin dryness.
Internal factors include general health, age, genetics, family health history, and personal history of other medical conditions such as atopic dermatitis. Especially those with certain thyroid diseases are more prone to dry skin.
Dry skin can also be caused by medications taken for certain diseases. Some examples are high blood pressure , high cholesterol, allergy and acne medications. Dry skin can sometimes be a sign of an internal medical condition. For example, aging can make skin more prone to dryness. Additionally, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes , hypothyroidism, and malnutrition are associated with dry skin.
What medical conditions cause dry skin?
Some physiological changes and medical conditions can cause the skin to dry out. The onset of dry skin may be due to aging or hormonal changes, as seen in menopausal women. In some cases, it can also occur in people with medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, or malnutrition (for example, vitamin A deficiency).
The following medical conditions can also cause dry skin:
- atopic dermatitis
- Vitamin deficiencies
Do genetic factors contribute to dry skin?
Dry skin can be manifested by a genetic condition called ichthyosis (fish scale disease) . Ichthyosis is a scaly skin condition, usually on the lower legs. Ichthyosis causes dry, fish-like scales and often runs in families. Dry skin is also an important symptom of atopic dermatitis, which has a genetic component.
Do drugs cause skin dryness?
High blood pressure medications (such as diuretics), cholesterol medications, and acne medications (retinoids) can also play a role in drying out the skin.
Dry skin and possible accompanying symptoms
People with dry skin can often find rough, dry, red patches on their skin, which are often itchy. Affected skin areas include areas of friction such as arms, hands, legs, abdomen, ankles, and soles of the feet. As the dryness of the skin intensifies, cracks may develop.
The symptoms are generally as follows:
- Hardening and flaking of the skin
- Red eczematous skin plaques
The itching sensation can worsen the severity of skin dryness. Itching can lead to the development of a cycle of constant irritation of the body. That is, due to the itching sensation, a person may scratch himself, which can trigger the need to scratch a lot.
The most affected skin areas are:
- Your wife
Constant itching and rubbing of the skin can cause the skin to thicken. If the skin is constantly itchy, red and raised patches may occur, become irritated and infected.
Itching as a symptom of skin dryness
Itching causes the urge to scratch the skin and is a source of irritation. Itching is a problem experienced by everyone, and the symptom can be localized (limited to one area of the body) or generalized (all over the body or in several different areas). Sometimes, depending on the underlying cause, the itching may be worse at night.
Generalized pruritus that occurs all over the body is often more difficult to treat than localized pruritus. Itching may also occur with or without skin lesions (such as blisters, redness, or other abnormalities that may appear on the skin).
An itch accompanied by a visible skin abnormality should be evaluated by a dermatologist, as the problem is likely to require specialized medical treatment.
How is skin dryness diagnosed?
In general, a doctor can easily diagnose skin dryness when he visually examines the skin. Although doctors can diagnose dry skin at any age, the elderly and people who frequently expose their skin to soap or detergents are more likely to develop the condition.
Additionally, a thorough medical history review can help support the diagnosis of dry skin. In some cases, a skin biopsy can be helpful to confirm the diagnosis and guide the treatment plan.
How is skin dryness treated?
The best treatment for dry skin is daily lubrication with an emollient (a substance that prevents water from evaporating). Since dry skin is often caused by external causes, external treatments such as creams and lotions can be applied and effectively control the skin problem.
Skin dryness can usually be improved by applying a gentle over-the-counter moisturizer. After eliminating other causes of skin dryness, the main goals of treatments are to stop itching, prevent dehydration, and keep the skin moisturized.
Light moisturizing lotions for the treatment of skin dryness include:
Highly hydrating or moisture-retaining products (which characteristically do not flow out of the jar when inverted) for severe dry skin on the hands, face, or whole body include:
Topical steroid creams include:
- Hydrocortisone (mild strength)
- Pramosone (light strength)
- Triamcinolone (medium strength)
- Fluocinonide (strong)
As a general rule, only mild corticosteroid creams such as hydrocortisone should be used on the face, armpits and groin areas. Long use of strong corticosteroid creams such as fluocinide can cause serious problems such as skin flaking, cracks and rash.
Oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine, and cetirizine can relieve severe itching that may not allow sleep at night.
Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.
What is good for dry skin?
The things that are effective for skin dryness when applied continuously are:
- Use moisturizer in winter. Make sure you use enough to replenish the top layer of skin.
- Limit yourself to a 5-10 minute bath or shower each day. If you take more baths than that, you can strip most of the oily layer of the skin and cause it to lose moisture. Use warm water instead of hot water, which can wash away natural oils.
- Minimize your soap use. Opt for moisturizing soaps if needed, or consider soap-free cleansers. Avoid deodorant soaps, perfumed soaps, and alcohol products that can destroy natural oils.
- Avoid bath sponges, scrub brushes and washcloths to avoid damaging the skin. If you don’t want to give up on them completely, be sure to use them with a light touch, without pressing. For the same reason, rub gently when towel drying.
- Apply moisturizer immediately after bathing or washing your hands. This helps fill in the gaps between your skin cells and seal in moisture while your skin is still moist.
- Petroleum jellies, such as Vaseline, trap moisture in the skin. To reduce the oily feel of petroleum jelly and heavy creams, rub a small amount on your hands and then rub the affected areas until they feel oily.
- Never, ever itch. Often times a moisturizer can control the itch. You can also use a cold pack or compress to relieve itchy spots.
- Use unscented laundry detergents and avoid fabric softeners.
- Avoid wearing wool and other fabrics that can irritate the skin.
Can skin dryness be prevented?
Moisturizing the indoor environment can be beneficial, especially during the drier winter months, to prevent the skin from drying out. Sometimes reducing bathing frequency, avoiding strong soaps, and reducing exposure to detergents can also help improve dry skin.
Harsh cleansers can remove natural oils and sebum from the skin. Limiting exposure to irritants such as solvents and wool clothing can prevent worsening of skin dryness.
To prevent skin dryness:
- Avoid strong soaps and detergents.
- Use indoor room humidifiers.
- Limit exposure to irritants such as solvents.
- Avoid wool clothing.
- Use cotton and natural fiber clothing.
- Try to live in a humid climate.
Complications of skin dryness
An occasional complication of skin dryness and accompanying itching is bacterial infection. Infections may be mild and resolve spontaneously, or they may be more severe and require antibiotic treatment. You shouldn’t scratch yourself, because the more you scratch yourself, the more you scratch. This cycle of itching can cause a variety of skin problems.