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Dry skin is an uncomfortable condition marked by scaling, itching, and cracking. It can occur for a variety of reasons. You might have naturally dry skin. But even if your skin tends to be oily, you can develop dry skin from time to time.
Dry skin can develop on any part of your body. It’s most likely to affect your hands, arms, and legs. In many cases, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter moisturizers may be all you need to treat it. If those treatments aren’t enough, contact your doctor.
Exposure to dry weather conditions, hot water, and certain chemicals can cause your skin to dry out. Dry skin can also result from underlying medical conditions.
Dermatitis is the medical term for extremely dry skin. There are several different types of dermatitis, including:
Contact dermatitis develops when your skin reacts to something it touches, causing localized inflammation. Irritant contact dermatitis can occur when your skin is exposed to an irritating chemical agent, such as bleach. Allergic contact dermatitis can develop when your skin is exposed to a substance you’re allergic to, such as nickel.
Seborrheic dermatitis occurs when your skin produces too much oil. It results in a red and scaly rash, usually on your scalp. This type of dermatitis is common in infants.
Atopic dermatitis is also known as eczema. It’s a chronic skin condition that causes dry scaly patches to appear on your skin. It’s common among young children.
Other conditions, such as psoriasis and type 2 diabetes, can also cause your skin to dry out.
Dry skin can affect anyone. But some risk factors raise your chances of developing dry skin, including:
Your doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on the cause of your dry skin. In some cases, they may refer you to a skin specialist, or dermatologist. Along with lifestyle remedies, they may recommend over-the-counter or prescription ointments, creams, or lotions to treat your symptoms.
Simple lifestyle changes can help prevent and relieve dry skin. Try to:
It’s also important to choose the right kind of moisturizer for your skin type. If your skin is extremely dry, look for a petrolatum-based product.
You might consider switching to a lighter, water-based lotion during the summer months if your skin becomes less dry then. Lotions that contain grape seed oil and antioxidants can also help trap water in your skin.
If you experience occasional dry skin, you can likely prevent and treat it using simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter moisturizers. If you develop severe dry skin, make an appointment with your doctor.
If left untreated, dermatitis can get worse. Early treatment will help you to feel comfortable sooner. It will also lower your risk of complications, such as open wounds from scratching and skin infections.
Written by: Kristeen Moore
Medically reviewed on: Oct 19, 2016: Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, CNE, COI
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