Chronic Dry Skin Causes and Treatments
Dry skin can be one of life’s little annoyances; itchy, flaky, red skin can distract you throughout the day. Or it can be worse than that. Sometimes dry skin can be a chronic problem and severe enough to interfere in your life. You may feel the need to hide under a layer of clothes, and never leave the house without a tube of hand cream and face moisturizer if dry skin is a frequent problem, it might benefit you to identify the cause of your dry skin. Often it’s an environmental factor that is easily alleviated, but occasionally it may require diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Common Dry Skin
Common dry skin can present as a feeling of tightness, especially noticeable in the face and after bathing or showering. Your skin may look rough, flaky, dry and grayish, or ashy. You could have flaking and redness and even cracks in the skin’s surface.
Typical dry skin can be caused by environmental factors such as cold, dry weather and central heating. It’s also commonly caused from washing with hot water and oil-stripping soaps. Household pollutants can also contribute to dry skin. Household cleaners such as laundry detergent, furniture polish and other harsh chemicals can leach essential moisture and oils from the surface of the skin. These types of dry skin conditions are rarely severe and can be corrected and avoided by using gloves when handling household cleaners, resisting bathing and showering in very hot water, and moisturizing after a shower or bath. Common dry skin can be treated by using moisturizing body washes rather than soaps, and by choosing one of the best drugstore moisturizer products, or the best drugstore face moisturizer if dry skin is a problem on your face.
See your doctor if over the counter treatments don’t improve your dry skin, or if your dry skin has excessive redness and cracking. If you have open sores or large areas of peeling or scaly skin, you should see your doctor. If your dry skin interferes in your life or your sleep you should see a dermatologist to get to the root of the problem.
Medical Causes of Dry Skin
According to dermatologists, the skin normally has a very effective barrier composed of lipids (fats) and proteins. These function to seal in moisture and keep the skin’s natural hydration from evaporating from the skin’s surface. When this critical barrier becomes compromised, either from environmental factors or disease, the skin will lose its essential water, and dry skin is the result. As skin becomes dry it is more prone to sensitivity, rashes, and even infection. The medical term for dry skin is xerosis.
If your dry skin doesn’t improve despite your best efforts and the best drugstore moisturizers, your doctor may diagnose the following conditions and give you a prescription cream or medication:
Dermatitis is the medical term used to describe extreme or chronic dry skin. There are several types of dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis is an itchy red rash that develops as a result of contact with an allergen or irritant. Contact dermatitis may be caused by known allergens such as poison ivy, or by reactions to artificial fragrances, dyes, cosmetics, soap, and jewelry. It generally resolves on its own when the allergen is identified and avoided. They can be treated with prescription or over the counter medications.
Atopic Dermatitis or eczema is most common in young children but may also occur in adulthood. Atopic Dermatitis causes patches of dry scaly skin that may leave brownish patches after scratching or rubbing. Atopic Dermatitis should be treated with a combination of over-the-counter products such as the best eczema cream available in your local drugstore, and often by topical steroids prescribed by your doctor.
Plaque Psoriasis is another diagnosis related to chronic dry skin. Plaque Psoriasis shows up as patches of very scaly dry skin. In plaque psoriasis the life cycle of skin cells speeds up, causing a rapid build-up of cells on the surface of the skin. Psoriasis is a chronic and life-long condition that can be managed with medication and trigger avoidance.
Outlook for Dry Skin
Most dry skin can be treated over-the-counter with the best moisturizer products, or the best face moisturizer if the dry skin is present on the face. Some easy changes in lifestyle such as avoiding emersion in hot water, wearing protective clothing and soothing moisturizing creams or ointments in winter, or by wearing gloves when doing household chores. Together these precautions can help to relieve and prevent dry skin.
If none of the above precautions lessens your dry skin, see your doctor.