Dry skin, or xerosis, refers to epidermis that lacks moisture or sebum, the oily substance produced by the sebaceous gland which keeps skin looking smooth and supple (and can also cause acne). With xerosis, skin cells shrink from insufficient moisture and can cause pain.
Dry skin often looks tight, unnatural, or dehydrated. Sometimes there is a ruddy hue and a rough, patchy texture to the skin from lack of moisture. Frequently there are fine lines in the skin and varying degrees of itching, flaking, or peeling of the epidermis which can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. In severe cases, an open wound or fissure can develop in the outer layer of the skin. This condition can be quite painful and vulnerable to infection if left untreated.
What Causes It?
Environment and behavior play key roles in the development and appearance of dry skin. Behavioral causes include frequent bathing or showering and excessive scrubbing and cleaning, all of which remove the skin’s natural oils and dry out the skin. Sunbathers are also more susceptible to dry skin and skin damage due to the harmful effects of prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Certain medications and harsh bath soaps can also cause dry skin.
Environmental factors include living in a dry climate, as well as exposure to winter weather and its lower humidity. Older people tend to have drier skin due to lower concentrations of sebum. People who are Vitamin A deficient may also develop dry skin. Some people may inherit dry skin disorders called ichthyosis.
Your dermatologist will determine the proper course of treatment for your dry skin. The goal of treatment will be to restore and retain moisture in the skin, and treatments may include topical creams, cleansers, lotions and serums.