Dry skin is a condition involving the integumentary system. Dry skin occurs most commonly on the scalp, lower legs, arms, hands, the knuckles, the sides of the abdomen, and thighs. Symptoms most associated with dry skin are scaling (the visible peeling of the outer skin layer), itching, and skin cracking.
Also or xerodermia (also known as xerosis cutis), derived from the Greek words for “dry skin”, is a very common condition that occurs at all ages. Ordinarily, dry skin isn’t serious, but it can be uncomfortable and unattractive, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles.
Severe dry skin conditions – an inherited group of disorders called ichthyosis – can sometimes be disfiguring and upsetting. Fortunately, environmental factors that can be at least partially controlled cause most dry skin. These factors include hot or cold weather, low humidity and soaking in hot water.
Chronic or severe dry skin problems may require evaluation by a dermatologist. But first you can do a lot on your own to improve your skin, including using moisturizers and avoiding harsh, drying soaps.
Dry skin can be caused by diet, excessively dry or cold weather, dermatitis, hormonal imbalance, allergies and other skin and health disorders. Other causes of dry skin include alcohol exposure as well as other irritants and allergens. In cases of deep fissures, dry cracked skin can lead to infections. In rare cases, if left untreated, skin infections can become systemic and even life-threatening.
Dry skin is usually pretty easy to treat. The affected skin should be cleaned thoroughly and a good shielding lotion applied. The shielding lotion helps the skin retain moisture while locking out irritants and allergens that could harm the skin.
You should always consult with a dermatologist when symptoms become severe or are difficult to treat, as the underlying problem may be more serious.