Published on Jul 04, 2018 and last reviewed on Jun 19, 2020 - 4 min read
Is your skin is severely dry and itchy? Read the article to find the causes, risk factors, and ways to prevent it.
Skin is the largest organ in the body. It not only protects your body from the entry of toxins, pollutants, and ultraviolet rays, it also is the primary defense mechanism for infections and disease. Skin that is well-hydrated is able to protect the body better.
Xerosis is the technical or medical term used to describe dry skin but in its more severe form. “Xero” is a Greek word that means dry. Many people, mostly older adults, suffer from dry skin. It might sometimes result in some discomfort but is generally a minor and temporary condition.
Our skin needs to retain moisture to stay smooth and healthy. But with aging, the skin’s capacity for retaining water or moisture gets affected. This makes the skin dry, rough, and lose water and oils.
Most people have dry skin during winter, which can be managed with moisturizers and cold creams. If your skin is more prone to get dry and lifeless, avoid taking long showers with hot water and use moisturizers.
The following are some of the common signs and symptoms of xerosis:
Severe dry skin, especially on the arms and legs.
The skin becomes white and flaky.
Fine lines on the skin.
Red and inflamed skin.
If your skin is not properly moisturized, you may see very fine lines on the surface. The skin might also look whitish-grey or have ash-like appearance. You might feel a layer of dead skin has accumulated on the surface.
In severe cases, xerosis can make the skin red and irritated. The fine lines can deepen and can bleed. The skin can become dry in the entire body, but it more commonly affects the skin on the arms, legs, and face. The trunk region is less commonly affected.
When the skin loses more water than it retains, it results in xerosis. The skin has small glands called the sebaceous glands, which produce natural oils called sebum. This sebum keeps the skin lubricated and moisturized. It seals the moisture in the skin and prevents it from evaporating easily, and it along with sweat, also helps in regulating the body temperature.
Apart from sebum, the skin also produces various substances, such as ceramides, amino acids, hyaluronic acid, urea, and lactic acid, that help keep the skin moisturized. These substances together are called the natural moisture factor (NMF).
When this NMF gets disrupted, its natural barrier function gets lost, and the skin is not able to hold on to water effectively, making it abnormally dry.
The following factors can cause or trigger xerosis:
Washing hands/bathing too frequently.
Using harsh soaps.
Showering with excessively hot water and harsh soaps that strip the skin of its natural oils.
Low humidity conditions.
Dry winters or summers - Dry air sucks the moisture from the skin.
Prolonged exposure to the sun.
Central heating/air conditioning.
Aging affects sebum production and NMF goes down. The skin also becomes thin and friable.
Certain medications like diuretics, statins, and Isotretinoin.
People who work with harsh chemicals such as cement, pool chemicals, or mortar.
The following are some conditions that can result in xerosis:
Eczema and Dry Skin - Eczema, otherwise called atopic dermatitis, is a skin condition that commonly affects younger people. It is characterized by severely dry skin and itchy skin. They also have blisters and hard, scaly skin.
Psoriasis - Psoriasis is an immune disorder that makes the skin cells to multiply faster, resulting in the buildup of white, flaky skin cells on the surface.
Ringworm - Ringworm, otherwise called dermatophytosis or tinea, is a type of fungal skin infection.
Thyroid Problems - Underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism can make a person’s skin dry and flaky. In some people, the skin gets a leathery texture.
Make it a point you consult a dermatologist if:
The skin is oozing.
Large areas of the skin start to peel off.
You notice ring-shaped rashes.
Your skin becomes progressively dry after applying moisturizer.
Your skin is not better after a few weeks.
This is because many fungal or bacterial infections, allergies, or other skin conditions can also result in similar symptoms. Avoid scratching the skin, as it can cause infection.
When you visit a dermatologist for dry skin, the doctor will diagnose the condition by conducting a physical examination and taking a complete medical history. He or she might also ask you the following questions to determine the cause:
Since when do you have this problem?
Does your skin feel better after applying anything?
Are you experiencing any other symptoms?
The doctor might also want to know your skin care routine and about all the products that you use. Based on the information gathered, the doctor will diagnose your condition or run some tests to rule out other similar conditions.
Most cases can be treated with the help of over-the-counter products and preventing the skin from drying out more. Moisturizing creams, lotions, and ointments help skin retain moisture. Applying moisturizer several times a day is the best treatment for abnormally dry skin. Look for moisturizers that contain specific humectant and emollient ingredients such as Lactic acid, Urea, Hyaluronic acid, and Ceramides. Petroleum jelly also acts as a good barrier for the skin.
If you have severe itching, then your doctor might recommend using 1% Hydrocortisone cream.
Moisturize the skin with creams containing urea, glycerin, and AHA (alpha-hydroxy acids) immediately after a shower.
Have a healthy diet rich in zinc, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Avoid rubbing the skin vigorously with rough towels after a bath. Instead, gently pat dry.
Natural products such as olive oil, almond oil, and flaxseed oil help soothe the skin.
Avoid soaps, perfumes, detergents and other products containing drying agents such as alcohol.
For more information on ways to prevent your skin from drying out, consult a dermatologist online now!
“Xero” means dry, and xerosis is the medical term to describe a severe form of dry skin.
“Xero” means dry and “Cutis” means dermis or skin. Xerosis cutis or xerosis is another name for abnormally dry skin.
Some tips to prevent and treat dry skin are:
- Take short showers with warm water and use a fragrance-free and gentle cleanser.
- Apply moisturizer, lotion, or cream after washing.
- Use unscented skin care products that are free of harsh chemicals.
- Use hypoallergenic detergent to wash your clothes.
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Vitamin A and D deficiency can result in dry skin and other skin problems. Vitamin A is responsible for the repair of skin cells and fights inflammation due to a skin infection. And severe vitamin D deficiency may result in eczema.
To get rid of dry skin:
Avoid long and hot showers.
Moisturize your skin after washing.
Avoid using scented and harsh soaps.
Avoid prolonged sun exposure.
Drink plenty of water.
The common causes of dry skin are cold and dry weather, heaters and fireplaces make the air and your skin dry, long hot showers, scented and harsh soap and detergents, and skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, etc.
Foods that can help maintain healthy skin and fight dry skin from the inside are fatty fish, avocado, sweet potato, walnuts, cucumbers, broccoli, and green tea.
STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) that can cause dry skin in the genital areas are herpes and HIV (human immunodeficiency syndrome) infection.
If the skin is dry in patches on your face, try doing the following:
Wash your face with a soap-free and gentle face wash.
Moisturize your face after every wash.
Use a moisturizer containing glycerin, shea butter, or ceramides.
Use a gentle scrub to exfoliate the skin 2 to 3 times a week.
Use hydrating face masks.
Dry skin becomes irritated and itchy because they lack natural oils, or it can be due to an allergic reaction. Avoid scratching the skin as it can infect it.
Query: Hello doctor, I have a question about my skin condition. I have developed a really itchy and dry skin after I dyed my hair. Here are the symptoms. I do not know what the condition is as my appointment is months away. Can I attach pictures? Read Full »
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