Dry skin is a very common skin condition characterized by a lack of moisture in the skin. It affects males and females equally, but older populations are more likely to be affected. Areas that tend to be impacted more by dry skin include arms, hands, and particularly lower legs. Many people experience dry skin temporarily in the winter lasting a few days to weeks. For some, it can be a more severe, long-term problem. Symptoms of dry skin include discomfort from skin tightness, skin that feels and looks rough, fine lines or cracks, redness, possible bleeding, slight to severe flaking, scaling or peeling, and itching.2 In addition, external factors such as weather can affect severity of skin dryness. For example, cold or dry air and winter weather can worsen dry skin.3 Untreated dry skin can result in eczema, secondary bacterial infections like cellulitis, and skin discoloration.
The following health habits can help improve dry skin without the use of medications:
The following over-the-counter products may be helpful:
When to Seek Medical Attention:
Initial improvement should be seen within 24 hours. If the problem persists more than 7 days, contact your primary care physician.9
1). Beth S. Excessively Thick Dry Skin on Feet and Hands. http://skincare.lovetoknow.com/ Excessively_Thick_Dry_Skin_on_Feet_and_Hands#4MMUYCZ1EjAhodTR.97 (accessed 17 September 2016).
2). Mayo Clinic Staff. Dry Skin: Symptoms. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-skin/basics/symptoms/con-20030009 (accessed 9 September 2016).
3). Zagaria MAE. Xerosis: Treating Clinically Dry Skin. US Pharm 2014; 4: 28-32. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/xerosis-treating-clinically-dry-skin (accessed 9 September 2016).
4). Flynn TC, Petros J, Clark RE, et al. Dry skin and moisturizers. Clin Dermatol 2001; 19(4): 387-392.
5). White-Chu EF, Reddy M. Dry skin in the elderly: complexities of a common problem. Clin Dermatol 2011; 29(1): 37-42.
6). Mayo Clinic Staff. Water: How much should you drink every day? http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256 (accessed 17 September 2016).
7). Harding CR, Watkinson A, Rawlings AV, et al. Dry skin, moisturization and corneodesmolysis. Int J Cosmetic Sci 2000; 22(1): 21-52.
8). Ference JD, Last AR. Choosing Topical Corticosteroids. Am Fam Physician 2009; 79(2): 135-140.
9). Krinsky DL, Ferreri SP, Hemstreet BA, et al. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs: An Interactive Approach to Self-care, 18 ed. Washington, D.C.: American Pharmacists Association; 2012.