Dry skin - self-care
Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water and oil. Dry skin is common and can affect anyone at any age.
Symptoms of dry skin include:
- Scaling, flaking, or peeling skin
- Skin that feels rough
- Skin tightness, especially after bathing
- Cracks in the skin that may bleed
You can get dry skin anywhere on your body. But it commonly shows up on the hands, feet, arms, and lower legs.
Skin - dry; Winter itch; Xerosis; Xerosis cutis
Dry skin can be caused by:
- Cold, dry winter air
- Furnaces that heat the air and remove moisture
- Hot, dry air in desert environments
- Air conditioners that cool the air and remove moisture
- Taking long, hot baths or showers frequently
- Washing your hands often
- Some soaps and detergents
- Skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis
- Certain medicines (both topical and oral)
- Aging, during which skin gets thinner and produces less natural oil
You can ease dry skin by restoring moisture to your skin.
- Moisturize your skin with an ointment, cream, or lotion 2 to 3 times a day, or as often as needed.
- Moisturizers help lock in moisture, so they work best on damp skin. After you bathe, pat skin dry then apply your moisturizer.
- Avoid skin care products and soaps that contain alcohol, fragrances, dyes, or other chemicals.
- Take short, warm baths or showers. Limit your time to 5 to 10 minutes. Avoid taking hot baths or showers.
- Bathe only once a day.
- Instead of regular soap, try using gentle skin cleansers or soap with added moisturizers.
- Only use soap or cleansers on your face, underarms, genital areas, hands, and feet.
- Avoid scrubbing your skin.
- Shave right after bathing, when hair is soft.
- Wear soft, comfortable clothing next to your skin. Avoid rough fabrics like wool.
- Wash clothes with detergents that are free of dyes or fragrances.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Ease itchy skin by applying a cool compress to irritated areas.
- Try over-the-counter cortisone creams or lotions if your skin is inflamed.
- Look for moisturizers that contain ceramides.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your health care provider if:
- You feel itchy without a visible rash
- Dryness and itching keep you from sleeping
- You have open cuts or sores from scratching
- Self-care tips do not relieve your dryness and itching
American College of Dermatology website. Dry skin: diagnosis and treatment. www.aad.org/diseases/a-z/dry-skin-treatment#overview. Accessed September 16, 2019.
Habif TP. Atopic dermatitis. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 5.
Lim HW. Eczemas, photodermatoses, papulosquamous (including fungal) diseases, and figurate erythemas. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 409.