Dry skin is also known as xeroderma or xerosis and is a very common skin condition characterized by a lack of the appropriate amount of water in the most superficial layer of the skin, the epidermis. While dry skin tends to affect males and females equally, older individuals are typically much more prone to dry skin. Dry skin may be a mild, temporary condition lasting a few days to weeks or may become a more severe, long-term skin problem. External factors such as weather can affect the severity of skin dryness. For example, cold or dry air and winter weather can worsen dry skin.
The epidermis is normally composed of fat (lipid) and protein. The lipid portion of the epidermis helps prevent skin dehydration. When the skin's fatty oils are removed, the skin loses its protection and loses moisture more easily. As skin becomes dry, it also may become more sensitive and prone to rashes and skin breakdown. This condition is sometimes referred to as xerosis. Dry skin may be an entirely invisible skin condition, or may cause a fine dry powder-like appearance of the skin. Untreated, dry skin may become irritated and result in a red rash (xerodermatitis).
Simple prevention and treatment measures are very effective in the treatment of dry skin. Basic dry skin prevention steps include avoidance of harsh soaps and chemical cleansers. Treatment generally requires more frequent and regular applications of emollients and moisturizers. Untreated, dry skin may result in complications, including rashes, eczema, secondary bacterial infections, cellulitis and skin discoloration. Fortunately, dry skin is usually mild and can be easily remedied.
Symptoms and Signs
- Rough dry skin
- Red patches
What causes Dry Skin?
There is no single cause of dry skin. Dry skin causes can be classified as external and internal. External factors include cold temperatures and low humidity, especially during the winter when central heaters are used, over-washing with harsh soaps, overuse of sanitizers and cleaning agents (alcohol). Internal factors include overall health, age, genetics, family history, and a personal history of other medical conditions like atopic dermatitis. In particular those with thyroid disease are more prone to developing dry skin.
The following medical conditions may also cause dry skin:
- Atopic dermatitis