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Dry skin – Symptoms, causes and other risk factors

Dry skin

When you have a dry skin, then you have cracking, itching and scaling of your skin. This is very uncomfortable skin condition. There are many reasons that can lead to dry skin. But also there are some people who have naturally dry skin. Even people who have oily skin can have dry skin from time to time. This condition can develop on any part of your body. In the most cases this condition can affect your legs, arms and hands. In the most cases when you have dry skin, then you need to change your lifestyle and to use over the counter moisturizers. If you have noticed that these treatments are not helping you, then you must talk with your doctor as soon as possible. There are some exposures like exposure to certain chemicals, hot water and dry weather conditions which can cause your skin to dry out. Also if you have some kind of underlying condition, then this can lead to dry skin.

Symptoms of Dry skin:

This is temporary condition in most cases. People often have dry skin in winter. But also there are some people who suffer from dry skin as lifelong condition. [1] There are many signs and symptoms of this condition that depend on your health, age, time spent outdoors, where you live and the cause of the problem. Here are the signs and symptoms of dry skin:

  • Deep cracks that may bleed
  • Redness
  • Gray, ashy skin
  • Fine lines or cracks
  • Slight to severe flaking, scaling or peeling
  • Itching (pruritus)
  • Skin that feels and looks rough
  • A feeling of skin tightness especially after showering, bathing or swimming

Types of dry skin: There are different types of dermatitis (which is a medical term for extremely dry skin) such as

  • Atopic dermatitis: It is also known as eczema – chronic skin condition that causes dry scaly patches on your skin. [1]
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: This condition occurs when your skin produces too much oil. It results in a scaly and red rash which usually appears on your scalp. [2]
  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This condition occurs if you are allergic to some substance such as nickel. [3]
  • Irritant contact dermatitis: This condition occurs when your skin is exposed to some irritating agent (for example – bleach).

Dry skin

Causes: When we have dry skin, then condition is often caused by environmental cause. There are some diseases that also can affect your skin. Here are the causes of dry skin:

  • Hot baths and showers: When you take too long, hot baths or showers, then this can dry your skin. Also when you swim frequently in heavily chlorinated pools, then you have increased chances of getting dry skin. [4]
  • Weather: In winter our skin is driest compared with other periods of year. In this part of the year humidity levels and temperatures plummet. But also there are some people who live in desert and still have dry skin so the season is not always the main factor for dry skin. [1]
  • Harsh soaps and detergents: There are many shampoos, detergents and soaps that strip moisture of your skin because they are formulated to remove the oil from your skin. [5]
  • Heat: There are some appliances that reduce humidity and dry your skin such as fireplaces, space heaters, wood – burning stoves and central heating.
  • Other skin conditions: People who have some skin condition such as eczema (atopic dermatitis) or psoriasis are having increased chances of getting dry skin. [1,2]

Complications: In the most cases dry skin is harmless but if you do not care for, and then this can lead to:

  • Infections: When you have dry skin, then it can crack which means that it allows entering the bacteria. This is a reason to get infected skin.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis): If you have a risk of getting eczema, then your dry skin can activate it which will cause inflammation, redness and cracking of your skin. [6]

When your skin’s normal protective mechanisms are severely compromised, then these complications are most likely to occur. If you have severely dry skin, then this can lead to deep fissures or cracks which can bleed because they are open and this is a reason why bacteria can easily enter in our skin.

Risk factors: Every single person can develop dry skin. But here are people who have increased chances to develop this condition:

  • People who swim frequently in chlorinated pools
  • People who have a job that requires you to immerse your skin in water such as nursing and hairstyling
  • People who live in dry, low – humidity or cold climates [1]
  • People who are in 40s or older. The risk increases with age-more than 50% of older adults have dry skin [7]

Above are some of the symptoms and causes of Dry skin.


[1] Wiley. Why people experience seasonal skin changes. Science Daily. 2018. Retrieved from

[2] Del Rosso JQ. Adult seborrheic dermatitis: A status report on practical topical management. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2011;4(5):32–8.

[3] Ahlström MG, Thyssen JP, Wennervaldt M, et al. Nickel allergy and allergic contact dermatitis: A clinical review of immunology, epidemiology, exposure, and treatment. Contact Dermatitis. 2019;81(4):227-41.

[4] Harjan I, Alduhaidhawi AH, Zaidan HK. Health effects of chlorinated water: A review article. Pakistan Journal of Biotechnology. 2019;16(3):163-7.

[5] American Osteopathic College of Dermatology. Dry skin. Retrieved from

[6] Thomsen SF. Atopic dermatitis: Natural history, diagnosis, and treatment. ISRN Allergy. 2014;2014:354250.

[7] National Institute on Aging. Skin care and aging. Retrieved from

Dr. Emil Sarsath (aka) Vijila, a licensed naturopathic doctor (BSMS) who always ensures his patients receive compassionate, and individualized care. He has extensive experience in primary care, digestive health, mental health, nervous system disorder and more.Area of Expertise – Naturopathic Medicine, Whole Foods-based Nutrition, Siddha, Panchakarma.She is always available through [email protected]


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