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Dry Skin - Symptoms, Causes, Remedies, and Complications

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Dry skin is a condition where skin fails to retain moisture, which may be due to various factors. Read the article to know about remedies for dry skin.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav

Published At September 15, 2022
Reviewed AtMarch 22, 2023


Dry skin, in medical terms, is called ‘Xerosis’. It is a condition that causes itchy patches on the skin. It has an equal predilection among males and females but most commonly occurs in older individuals. It can be due to various external and internal factors which certain remedies and medications can treat.

What Is Dry Skin?

A skin condition called dry skin is characterized by the loss of water in the skin due to the evaporation of water content and natural oils in the epidermal layer of the skin.

It occurs in the,

  • Arms.

  • Hands.

  • Legs.

  • Face.

  • Abdomen.

  • Areas of friction like ankle and sole.

What Are the Symptoms of Dry Skin?

Dry skin may appear to be,

  • Itchy.

  • Red plaques.

  • Rough-in texture.

  • Irritated.

  • Scaly.

  • Raw.

  • Cracks.

  • Burning.

  • Feeling tight.

What Are the Causes of Dry Skin?

The causes of dry skin can be external or internal.

The external causes are,

  • Winter with cold temperatures and low humidity.

  • Over usage of harsh soaps.

  • Over time bathing

  • Improper and inadequate use of moisturizers.

The internal causes of dry skin are,

  • Inadequate nutrition.

  • Dehydration.

  • High blood pressure and high cholesterol medications.

  • A genetic condition called ichthyosis is characterized by dry, fish-like scales on the skin.

  • Another genetic condition where the individual lacks filaggrin, the protein present in the epidermis which prevents dryness.

  • Medical conditions like eczema, psoriasis, diabetes and hypothyroidism are associated with dry skin.

What Are the Remedies for Dry Skin?

Hydrate Yourself: Keep drinking water throughout the day to maintain your skin as well as overall health. We tend to avoid drinking water in this busy day-to-day life which may lead to decreased water content in the body, thus making the skin dry. So the first step for preventing dry skin is hydrating yourself.

Eat Healthily: Add fruits and vegetables to your diet. They aid in increasing the water content in the body.

Moisturize Your Skin: A good moisturizer rich in ingredients such as ceramides, fatty acids, glycerine, shea butter, cocoa butter, dimethicone, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, petroleum jelly, argan oil, sandalwood oil, lecithin, linoleic, and linolenic acids helps lock the moisture and natural oils in the skin. Moisturizers are available in the form of creams, lotions, and ointments. Use oil-based, thick moisturizers as oil has great power to lock the water and prevent its evaporation. Apply moisturizers immediately after a shower and not on dry skin.

Use Appropriate Skincare Products: Choose products based on the ingredients in them, the area of usage, and based on the texture of your skin.

  • For dry hands, apply petroleum jelly at bedtime and use a non-greasy hand cream immediately after each hand wash.

  • Use products that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate for the face and neck.

  • For lips, apply lip balm to prevent dryness and cracks on the lips.

  • For oily skin, avoid using oil-based moisturizers.

  • If you have mature skin, use products containing antioxidants and light alpha hydroxy acid.

  • For mild dry skin, use light moisturizing lotions and for severely dry skin use highly moisturizing products that do not flow.

  • If you are prone to acne, do not use products containing petroleum jelly, coconut oil, and cocoa butter.

  • Do not use skin care products containing alcohol, strong alpha hydroxy acid, foaming substances, fragrance, retinoid, and allergy-causing substances because they tend to remove the natural oils in our skin.

  • If you use cosmetic products, select moisturizers with cream or oil base.

Things To Take Care Of During Bath:

  • Avoid bathing in hot water as it washes the skin’s natural oils. It is better to take a bath in lukewarm water.

  • Avoid bathing for a longer duration. Over time bathing makes the skin tight which indicates the excess removal of natural oils from the skin.

  • Avoid using harsh soaps. Soaps are emulsifiers that remove oil from the skin. If you use it often, it will remove the natural oils as well.

  • Use a fragrance-free cleanser that removes dirt and oil on the skin. Then immediately apply an adequate amount of moisturizer which gets penetrated into the skin and retains the moisture.

  • Avoid using bath sponges, washcloths, and brushes. Pat dry your skin rather than rubbing it and apply moisturizer to seal the moisture in between the skin cells.

Things To Do During Winter: The water content in the skin reflects the humidity around it. So as winter approaches, due to low humidity, the skin becomes dry. Modifications to be done during winter are,

  • Wool and synthetic fibers can cause irritation to the skin. So wear cotton or silk clothes on top of which a sweater can be worn.

  • Use humidifiers to keep the air wet thereby preventing dryness of the skin.

  • In order to escape the cold temperature in winter, do not switch to hot water; instead, have a lukewarm water bath.

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen during winter.

  • Wear leather or cotton gloves when you step out to prevent dry skin.

Homemade Remedies:

  • Coconut oil is used as a moisturizer. It contains fatty acids which keep the skin hydrated and protected.

  • Petroleum jelly is used on lips, hands, and feet to soothe the skin.

  • Specific sugars and fatty acids in oats lock the moisture in the skin and fight against inflammation and redness. So it helps to treat dry skin and eases itch. It is recommended to have an oatmeal bath in lukewarm water.

  • Honey has moisturizing and antimicrobial properties thereby applied to the skin to keep it moist and away from wrinkles.

  • Olive oil heals dry skin as they contain fatty acids and antioxidants. It is the best facial oil.

  • Milk exfoliates the dead cells due to the lactic acid content in it and it has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties and thus retains the moisture in the skin.

  • Yogurt also has anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties.

Medications: Hydrocortisone cream(1%), Triamcinolone cream(0.1%), and Fluocinamide cream(0.05). But long-term application of these creams can lead to skin thinning and stretch marks.

What Are the Complications if Left Untreated?

  • Cellulitis: Extreme dryness can lead to cracks and fissures, which pave the way for infectious microorganisms to enter the skin. This entry of microorganisms leads to the inflammation of the skin cells and that is called cellulitis.

  • Itch-Scratch Cycle: Due to dryness, the person may feel itchy all the time which provokes him/her to keep scratching the area. The repeated scratching of the area may thicken and darken the skin. On rubbing further it can lead to a condition called lichen simplex chronicus.

  • Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis: Individuals with eczema are always prone to dry skin. There may be fissures and cracks on their skin.

  • Discolored Skin: The skin appears discolored, dry, and scaly in a condition called Tinea versicolor, which is a fungal infection.


Be good to your skin. Keep following your skincare routine. If your skin appears dry, follow the remedies consistently. Spare some time to take care of your skin. Dry skin will respond to lifestyle measures. In case, the remedies don't work out, it's time to meet the dermatologist who will analyze your skin type and will provide you with a skincare regimen.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Can I Get Rid of Dry Skin?

Dry skin occurs when the skin fails to retain moisture. Dryness can be managed to a certain extent by using thick water retaining moisturizer and a humidifier, drinking enough water, use of certain medications, taking a balanced diet, and use of skin care products.


Does Drinking Water Helps to Improve Dry Skin?

Hydration is essential to carry out bodily functions. Lack of water may cause the skin to lose its elasticity and plumpness leading to fine lines, dryness, and sagging skin. Thus, drinking sufficient water is important in maintaining the normal texture and glow of the skin.


What Are the Vitamin Deficiencies Associated with Dry Skin?

Adequate nutrition is essential in maintaining skin health. Lack of vitamin D, E, A, and C can cause skin dryness and increase the incidence of skin problems such as acne, flaky skin, rashes, wrinkles, and cracked lips.


What Are the Natural Remedies for Dry Skin?

Certain natural moisturizing agents are popularly used to improve dry skin. Herbal oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, and sunflower oil can be applied to the skin to retain moisture. Other natural remedies for dry skin include the application of aloe vera, oats, honey, milk, and yogurt to the skin.


What Are the Different Methods to Hydrate Skin?

There are different methods to hydrate the skin. It includes the use of moisturizers and gentle cleansers, drinking an adequate amount of water, having a healthy balanced diet, and use of hydrating skincare products.


Can Stress Cause Dry Skin?

Acute and chronic stress may cause negative effects on the skin and cause a number of skin conditions. It includes eczema, psoriasis, hair loss, dry skin, and wrinkles.


What Is the Reason for Dry Skin Even after Drinking Enough Water and Using a Moisturizer?

Some people may have dry skin, even after using a good moisturizer with intake of water. In such cases, the reason for skin dryness may be, overwashing of the skin, malnutrition, use of harsh cleanser, vitamin deficiencies, side effects of medications, dry climate, underlying medical conditions, and genetics.


Can Vitamin D Deficiency Cause Dry Skin?

Studies show that low levels of vitamin D are associated with the risk of several skin conditions. In some people, dry and flaky skin is seen with vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is involved in the regulation of phosphates in the body and its deficiency is associated with atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and alopecia.


Which Is the Best Moisturizer for Dry Skin?

Moisturizer is essential for the skin no matter the type of skin (dry, oily, or combination skin). However, people with dry skin need thick ointment-type moisturizers that can lock moisture and keep the skin hydrated for a long.
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav
Dr. Dhepe Snehal Madhav



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