Dry skin is a dermatological condition where there is a lack of necessary moisture in the outermost layer of the skin known as the epidermis. Dry skin is especially common during harsh winters or in humid climates.
Older people are more affected by dry skin because their skin does not have enough natural oils. In some cases, dry skin can be the side effect of certain medications or illnesses. The medical term for this condition is xerosis. This is generally a mild condition and can be effectively managed at home.
Causes of dry skin
Dry skin can be caused by both external and internal factors. External factors are easier to treat and can be managed with home remedies or simple over-the-counter medication.
Winters and humid weather conditions dehydrate the skin, depleting them of their natural lubricants. Additionally, continued exposure to central heaters and air-conditioners can aggravate the condition.
Using harsh chemical-laden soaps and body-washes and the overuse of hand-sanitizers can also cause dry skin. Internal factors require treating the underlying condition of which dry skin is a symptom. Certain medications and disorders can cause dry skin as a side-effect, like cholesterol-lowering drugs and hypothyroidism. It can also be a side-effect of other skin conditions like dermatitis or eczema.
Itching is the biggest and most consistent symptom of dry skin. Though not debilitating on its own, itching causes a lot of discomfort and frequent itching can cause rashes. Doing so can break and makes the skin prone to bacterial infections.
Severe dry skin can also cause cracks and fissures, especially in the feet, which are quite painful. The arms, lower legs, abdomen, back, ankles and soles of the feet are the areas that are usually affected. If dry skin is caused by a pre-existing skin condition, it can also manifest as itchy red patches and pus-filled boils on the skin.
Constant itching can also lead to the itch-scratch cycle where a person feels itchy and scratches the offending area of skin, which exacerbates the itch. This can occur during sleep. Constant itching can also cause the skin texture to become thick and rough, aside from the occurrence of dark spots.
Once the cause has been determined, treatment for dry skin is aimed at reducing itching and scaling, preventing further loss of moisture and restoring natural skin oils. Because it is mostly caused by external factors, dry skin can be effectively remedied by applying over-the-counter or doctor-recommended moisturizers or body lotions.
Most of the time, regular application of a good lotion or moisturizer bought from a convenience store will suffice, but some people with skin conditions might need dermatologically-tested skin lubricants to achieve the required moisture levels.
For some people, light moisturizers and creams will be enough while those with severely dry skin require heavy, deep-conditioning lubricants. Cetaphil, Lubriderm and Vaseline are some of the common moisturizers that are used.
You can also use mild corticosteroids to treat dry skin; although the prolonged use of topical steroids can cause various side effects.