Skin Care Problems Dry

Referred to as xerosis in medical communities, dry skin can affect people of all ages. While this skin problem is usually minor, in some cases, people with seriously dry skin can suffer from emotional and psychological stress. Each year, over 9 million people in the United States are affected by dry skin.

Causes of Dry Skin

Skin becomes dry as the result of environmental factors, the presence of some underlying disease or condition and/or lifestyle habits. Environmental factors that cause dry skin include:

  • Baths and showers: Taking frequent hot baths and/or showers can over longer periods of time wear away at the lipids on the skin’s surface. This eventually reduces the skin’s moisture levels, causing dry skin.
  • Heating and/or AC systems: Central air and heating units take a large amount of humidity out of the air in your home, as well as the moisture in your skin.
  • Soaps and detergents: Like hot water, soaps and detergents can break down the skin’s surface lipids, resulting in dry skin.
  • Swimming in pools: The chlorine in pools can have the same effect on skin as harsh soaps. Because the chlorine strips the skin of its surface lipids, swimming in pools for longer periods of time can cause dry skin.
  • Weather: Since the winter season is typically marked by reduced temperatures and humidity, many people tend to have dry skin during this period. However, those who live in the desert are more likely to suffer from dry skin in the summer when desert temperatures rise and the humidity factor drops.

Along with these environmental causes, both psoriasis and thyroid disorders are diseases and conditions that are also responsible for causing dry skin. While psoriasis triggers the buildup of dead, scaly skin cells on the skin’s surface, thyroid disorders (such as hypothyroidism) limit the function of the sweat and oil glands, which also causes dry skin.

Dry skin can also be caused by lifestyle habits. Drinking excessive alcohol, taking drugs (whether prescription, over-the-counter or illegal) and experiencing prolonged dehydration are also causes of dry skin.

Dry Skin Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of dry skin include:

  • deep cracks in the skin that tend to bleed
  • itchy skin
  • peeling skin
  • redness
  • rough skin
  • scaly looking skin
  • the sensation of having “tight” skin, especially after contact with hot or chlorinated water
  • white, flaky skin.

While dry skin can affect nearly any area of your body, the most commonly affected areas include the:

  • arms
  • face
  • hands
  • legs
  • lower abdomen.

Keep in mind that the symptoms and duration of your dry skin depends on the cause of the condition, as well as on your:

  • age
  • current health status
  • lifestyle habits
  • location (i.e. the climate in which you live).

Dry Skin Treatments

Typically, many people with dry skin can treat their skin problem at home by:

  • limiting their time in the swimming pool
  • reducing shower times
  • taking cooler showers and/or baths
  • using moisturizers (especially those that contain lactic acid or a combination of lactic acid and urea).

If dry skin persists for extended periods of time or you are experiencing more extreme symptoms, see a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Ichthyosis and psoriasis are two conditions that cause serious dry skin in people. Both will require prescription medication, along with the proper home care.

If left untreated, dry skin can cause dermatitis, a condition marked by chronic dry, red and inflamed skin. Once you have dermatitis, you will need to undergo more intense treatment for longer periods of time before your skin returns to its normal state.


MayoClinic (updated May 30, 2006). Dry Skin. Retrieved October 30, 2007 from the MayoClinic Web site: