Dry skin, also known as xeroderma, is a common skin condition that can be uncomfortable and unattractive. Individuals troubled by dry skin experience redness and itchiness in the affected area. In most cases, dry skin can be symptomatically controlled with simple treatments.
Causes of Dry Skin
Aging, and its resulting changes in hormone levels, is a common cause of dry skin. In addition, certain diseases or environmental factors may cause the skin to become excessively dry.
Disease Conditions That Cause Dry Skin
Skin dryness may be caused by several skin disorders, including contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, a form of eczema, psoriasis, and ichthyosis, a genetic disorder causing a dry scaly appearance to the skin. There may be difficulty at first in distinguishing early symptoms of these conditions from more ordinary dry skin.
Eczema can usually be diagnosed because of the locations of the affected areas which are usually on the face, sides of the neck, and the backs of the elbow and knees. Psoriasis and ichthyosis, on the other hand, present as accumulations of rough scaly skin cells on many areas of the body. All three skin disorders result in more severe symptoms than simple dry skin and often cause psychological problems, due to altered appearance, as well as medical ones.
Other diseases, such as certain endocrine or autoimmune disorders may also result in dry skin. These include hypothroidism, diabetes and Sjogren‘s disease. Certain medications may also cause dry skin.
Environmental Factors That Cause Dry Skin
Some of the environmental factors that may cause the skin to dry out include:
- Exposure to hot or cold weather
- Long hot showers
- Dry indoor heat
- Harsh soaps, shampoos or detergents
- Particular dyes or chemicals
- Sun exposure
Treatments for Dry Skin
For most people, the tightness, itchiness and general discomfort of dry skin are relatively easy to alleviate. Simple lifestyle changes, like covering oneself appropriately against cold weather, wearing protective sunscreen, avoiding hot showers or baths, using moisturizing creams, particularly immediately after bathing, and humidifying the surrounding air, can be sufficient. Products with petroleum jelly are especially useful in eliminating dry skin since they provide an effective barrier to moisture. Products with fragrance are to be avoided since they may further dry out the skin.
If a particular substance, material or medication is found to be causing the skin irritation, avoiding it can make a tremendous difference. For more severe cases of skin dryness, stronger creams or ointments may be prescribed by the physician. There is also some scientific evidence that taking a fish oil supplement may improve the condition of dry skin.
Who Is Most Prone to Having Dry Skin?
Dry skin is an uncomfortable condition that can affect almost anyone, but for people over 40, you may find yourself more prone to dry skin than you were earlier in life. Because our skin’s ability to absorb moisture can decline as we age, it’s important to develop moisturizing, hydrating skin routines to avoid having dry skin later in life.
Additionally, people who live in cold, windy locations or dry, hot, low-humidity locations may experience dry skin more than the average person. This is because if you live in these environments, your body isn’t getting the average amount of moisture it needs. To avoid this, invest in a moisturizer or sunscreen that can keep your skin hydrated even when you’re outdoors.
Can My Diet Have an Effect on My Dry Skin?
Many people may not realize it, but sometimes, dry skin can be a sign of vitamin deficiencies. Most people with dry skin may be lacking in vitamins A, C, D, zinc, or iron. Implementing citrus, spinach, and other foods high in these nutrients may help to balance out your skin’s moisture levels.
On the other hand, eating unhealthy foods can also have an impact on your skin. Drinks such as alcohol and caffeine and foods that are high in salt can drain your body of its natural hydration, which is why it’s important to stay hydrated. Many patients who shift their diet to more skin-friendly ingredients see improvement in their dry skin.
When Should I Seek Professional Treatment for My Dry Skin?
Although many at-home remedies can help heal your dry skin, these conditions can develop into serious side effects. If you’ve tried self-care and haven’t seen any improvement, it may be time to schedule an appointment with Dr. Peace. If your dry skin has become so itchy that you are scratching until you bleed, or your skin becomes inflamed or painful, this may also be a sign you need treatment. In serious cases, dry skin can be a sign of diabetes, thyroid disease, or kidney disease, which is why we recommend scheduling an appointment at Westchester Dermatology if you don’t see improvement.
Schedule a Consultation
If you’re ready to find relief from your dry skin, schedule a consultation with Dr. Sherri Peace, MD. As a board-certified dermatologist, she is dedicated to providing high-quality care for patients. If you are located in the greater Los Angeles, CA area, click here to schedule a consultation today or call 310.645.6001 to find out more information.