What is dry skin?

Dry skin is the skin that appears and feels dry and irritating. There are number of layers in our skin. And in case of dry skin, the outermost layer known as the stratum corneum gets dehydrated implying lack of moisture.

The people belonging to any age group ca have dry skin but elderly people are more likely to have it. But there are certain factors that can make younger people tend to.

Dry skin is an uncomfortable and very irritating condition characterised by cracking, itching or scaling. It may be caused due to number of different reasons. A person may naturally have dry skin too. Any part of your body may be impacted by dry skin. But generally it impacts arms, hands and legs.

Types of dry skin

When the skin is exposed to dry weather conditions, hot water, and certain chemicals it can make your skin dry. The medical term to refer extremely dry skin is Dermatitisis. There are several various types of dermatitis. Sometimes the underlying medical conditions can also make your skin dry .This may be due to impact of medicines or medical problem itself. Here below are enlisted various types of dermatitisis, their symptoms, causes and treatment:

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin of a person reacts to something it touches, causing localized inflammation.

There are three types of contact dermatitis:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis
  • Irritant contact dermatitis
  • Photo contact dermatitis

Photo contact dermatitis is less common among the people.

Allergic contact dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis occurs when the skin develops an allergic reaction after coming into contact with the external substance. This makes the body to secrete inflammatory chemicals that can make the skin feel itchy and irritated .Symptoms associated with allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • dry, scaly and flaky skin
  • radiating blisters
  •  redness in skin
  • skin that appears more darkened or leathery in texture
  • skin that feels and appear burnt
  • hives
  • extreme itchiness
  • sun sensitivity
  • swelling, especially in the eyes, face, or groin areas

The Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis are as follows:

  • wearing jewellery made from nickel or gold
  • wearing latex gloves
  • cosmetics and skin care products containing perfumes or harsh chemicals
  • poison oak or poison ivy

Irritant contact dermatitis

This one is the most common type of contact dermatitis found. It is developed when the skin comes in contact with a toxic substance. Its symptoms are enlisted as follows:

  • Due to excessive dryness cracking in the skin
  • Swelling in the skin
  • skin feeling stiff or tight
  • ulcerations
  • crusts forming in open sores

The Toxic substances that can cause irritant contact dermatitis are as follows:

  • battery acid
  • bleach
  • drain cleaners
  • kerosene
  • detergents
  • pepper spray

It can even occur when the skin comes in contact with materials that are not so harsh such as soap or even water which is quite usual in nature. The persons whose hands are usually busy in works involving use of water, such as hairdressers, bartenders, and healthcare workers, have higher number of chances to experience irritant contact dermatitis of the hands , for an instance.

How contact dermatitis can be treated

It is very less often seen that the problems of contact dermatitis go away on their own after the substance responsible for the problem is no longer in contact with the skin. Here below are enlisted some tips you can easily try at home:

  • Try your level best not to scratch your irritated skin again and again. It can make the irritation worse or even can lead to a skin infection which will require you to take the help of antibiotics.
  • Make sure that you clean your skin with a mild soap and lukewarm water for getting rid of any irritants.
  • Do not use any products which you think that they might be causing or triggering your skin problem.
  • Apply bland petroleum jelly like Vaseline for soothing the affected area.
  • Give a try to sue of anti-itch treatments like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream.
  • If required, take an antihistamine drug like diphenhydramine to curb itching of your skin and to minimize your allergic response.

These items can be purchased at most drugstores or you may find online.

Many a times, contact dermatitis is not reason to worry or bother. But, you should make sure that you seek medical attention in case your rashes are close to t your eyes or mouth, clading a large area of the body, or does not show improvement with the help of taking home treatment.

The doctor can prescribe a more effective steroid cream if home treatments are not doing any good to soothe your skin.

Seborrheic dermatitis

It is caused when the skin of a person releases excess of oil. It leads to red and scaly rash, offenly on your scalp. This one is offenly seen in infants.

Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis are as follows

It is generally found on the scalp, but it may sometimes appear elsewhere on your body. Seborrheic dermatitisis makes itchy patches of scaly skin that can look as if they are greasy but they can flake, especially when you scratch them.

In babies, seborrheic dermatitis may be crusty. Scales may look like red, brown, or yellow in colour. Babies may also have dermatitis problem in the area around the eyes and nose. And In case the skin is scratched, there arises a risk of bleeding or even infection.

The person of any age group can develop seborrheic dermatitis. But males have more chances to develop it as compared to women. The things that may be instrumental in causing seborrheic dermatitis are enlisted as follows:

  • a family having history of seborrheic dermatitis
  • skin which is oily in nature
  • using products which contains alcohol
  • living in extreme weather conditions
  • Taking over stress
  • fatigue

How is seborrheic dermatitis treated

The treatment for seborrheic dermatitis depends on the severity of your problem. The response of individuals to medication differs from one another, so it may be possible that it might take a few tries to find the solution that is going to sooth you.

In some people, dandruff gets cleared up by itself. The medical products and shampoos purchased over-the-counter are generally enough to improve flaking and soothe itching. If they do not work, in that case consult your doctor for you problem and follow his instructions. In babies, cradle cap does not always necessitates treatment. It usually resolves well before the coming of the first birthday. For the meantime, use a mild baby shampoo. Give massage to the scalp gently with a very soft brush. Be gentle, breaking of skin may cause an infection. If you are bothered about your baby’s scalp, consult their paediatrician.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis who has another name that is eczema is a vulnerable problem. Atopic dermatitis is a skin condition which is chronic in nature that involves appearance of dry scaly patches on your skin. It is usually found in little children.

The symptoms of eczema

The major symptom of this skin condition is dry, rough, flaky, inflamed, and irritated skin. It may flare up, subside, and then flare up again.

It can occur anywhere on your body but generally influences the arms, inner elbows, backs of the knees, or head. It is not dangerous in nature, and, in some cases it is seen that it becomes less severe with progressing age.

Its other symptoms are as follows:

  • excessive or intense itching
  • red or brownish-grey patches
  • small, raised bumps that produce unsolidified in case they are scratched by you
  • crusty and dry patches of dried yellowish spots on skin which might indicate the signs of infection
  • solidified or scaly skin or both together

Scratching eczema further hurts and cause the skin to inflame. This may lead to infections that requires treatment with the antibiotic.

Causes of eczema

The cause of eczema is not yet fully understood by experts. However it is believed to be triggered by an overactive immune system that reacts in an aggressive manner when exposed to irritants.

It is sometimes caused by an abnormal response to proteins that are part of the body. Eczema flare-up appears when more than one eczema symptoms appear on the surface of the skin. The common triggers of eczema flare-ups are as follows:

  • chemicals present in cleaners and detergents that makes the skin dry
  • material which is rough and scratchy in nature, like wool
  • synthetic fabrics
  • raised body temperature
  • sweating
  • changes in temperature
  • sudden drop in humidity
  • stress
  • food allergies
  • dander from animals
  • Infections in upper respiratory system

Eczema treatment

It may be helpful for you to combine more than one treatment:

Some options include:


(OTC)  antihistamines may help in ease your itching. They work by blocking histamine, which trigger allergic reactions. Examples are as follows:
  • cetirizine
  • diphenhydramine
  • fexofenadine
  • loratidine

Several antihistamines can lead to drowsiness or laziness, so it’s suggested to take them when you don’t need to be alert.

Cortisone (steroid) creams and ointments can also help in easing your itching and scaling. But they may have side effects after use for a long time, which are as follows:

  • thinning of the skin
  • irritation
  • discoloration

Steroids which are low potent, like hydrocortisone, are available over the counter. If in case the body of a person is not responding to low-potency steroids, high-potency steroids are prescribed by a doctors.

In intense cases, a doctor may suggest oral cortisone. These may lead to serious side effects, including bone loss.

For the treatment of infection, a doctor suggests topical or oral antibiotic.

 Immunosuppressants are suggested medications which help the immune system avoiding overreacting. This helps in preventing flare-ups of eczema. Side effects involves an increased risk of developing cancer, infection, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.


Light therapy, or phototherapy, makes the use of ultraviolet light or sunlamps to help prevent immune system responses that trigger eczema. It necessitates a string of treatments, and can help decline or clear up your eczema. It can also help to prevent skin infections which are bacterial.

Lifestyle changes

Stress has the potent to trigger or exacerbate symptoms. Ways to reduce stress include:

  • doing deep breathing exercises
  • practicing yoga
  • meditating
  • listening to relaxing music
  • prioritizing a good night’s sleep

Cold compress holds the potent to help releive itching, as can soaking for around fifteen minutes in a warm or lukewarm bath.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments can be resorted to calm the symptoms of eczema. However due to the of potential side effects, always consult with your doctor before using herbal supplement or beginning an exercise pattern. Popular home remedies include:

  • Green, black tea
  • Acupuncture
  • Coconut, sunflower, borage oils
  • aromatherapy
  • Relaxation techniques, like meditation, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation.

Photo contact dermatitis

Photo contact dermatitis most usually arises from the interaction between UV radiations or from one or more of the products listed below:

  • Some sunscreen like oxybenzone or cinnameates and others
  • Coal tar products
  • fragrances like musk

Risk factors for dry skin

Person belonging to any age group can have dry skin which is very irritating. But there are certain risk factors that increases your chances of developing dry skin. Here below are enlisted those factors

  • Age. The adults in older age group are more likely to have dry skin. As a person age advances, his/her pores naturally secretes less amount of oil, raising the chances of dry skin. So as the person ages older they should take care to keep their skin properly moisturized.
  • Medical history. A person is more likely to have eczema or allergic contact dermatitis if he/she has a history of these type of skin conditions or other allergic diseases in their family.
  • Season. The cases of dry skin amongst more people are seen during the fall and winter months, when the levels of humidity are comparatively lower. Whereas in the summer times, the presence of higher levels of humidity in the air helps stop your skin from drying out.
  • Bathing habits. Bathing habits also do matter. Taking very frequent baths or washing with very hot water increases the chances of developing dry skin. So you must make sure to bath with not so hot water and try using lukewarm water for a healthy skin.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22417992
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23299208
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30005098

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