For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Health Library

Browse A-Z
Search
    test
    test
    test
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks
bookmarks-menu

Dry skin

Xerosis; Asteatotic eczema; Eczema craquele

Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water and oil. Dry skin is common and can affect anyone at any age. The medical term for dry skin is xerosis.

Causes

Dry skin can be caused by:

  • The climate, such as cold, dry winter air or hot, dry desert environments
  • Dry indoor air from heating or cooling systems
  • Bathing too often or too long
  • Some soaps and detergents
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Diseases, such as diabetes, underactive thyroid, Sjögren syndrome, among others
  • Certain medicines (both topical and oral)
  • Aging, during which skin gets thinner and produces less natural oil

Symptoms

Your skin may get dry, scaly, itchy, and red. You may also have fine cracks on the skin.

The problem is usually worse on the arms and legs.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will examine your skin. You'll be asked about your health history and skin symptoms.

If the provider suspects the dry skin is caused by a health problem that hasn't been diagnosed yet, tests will likely be ordered.

Treatment

Your provider may suggest home care measures, including:

  • Moisturizers, especially creams or lotions that contain urea and lactic acid
  • Topical steroids for areas that get very inflamed and itchy

If your dry skin is from a health problem, you'll likely be treated for it as well.

Prevention

To prevent dry skin:

  • Do not expose your skin to water more often than needed.
  • Use lukewarm bath water. Afterward, pat the skin dry with the towel instead of rubbing.
  • Choose gentle skin cleansers that are free from dyes and perfumes.

References

Coulson I, Cunningham C. Xerosis. In: Lebwohl MG, Heymann WR, Berth-Jones J, Coulson I, eds. Treatment of Skin Disease: Comprehensive Therapeutic Strategies. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 250.

Habif TP. Atopic dermatitis. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 5.

    • Xerosis - close-up

      Xerosis - close-up - illustration

      Xerosis refers to abnormally dry skin or membranes, such as those found in the mouth or the conjunctiva of the eye. This picture shows a close-up of xerotic skin. Note the dry and scaly appearance.

      Xerosis - close-up

      illustration

      • Xerosis - close-up

        Xerosis - close-up - illustration

        Xerosis refers to abnormally dry skin or membranes, such as those found in the mouth or the conjunctiva of the eye. This picture shows a close-up of xerotic skin. Note the dry and scaly appearance.

        Xerosis - close-up

        illustration

      Self Care

       

      Tests for Dry skin

       

      Review Date: 8/20/2016

      Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
      adam.com

       
       
       

       

       

      A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
      Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.