Dry skin: causes, symptoms and solutions

The skin is one of the most important organs. It shapes our appearance, gives a sense of touch, controls temperature and protects against infections. However, hardened, thickened, scaly, itchy, or dry pain loses its ability to function properly – the receptors become less sensitive, the risks of premature aging and sun damage increase, and the risk of infection increases. Usually, effective solutions are very affordable, and they are based on daily care, which is suitable for dry skin.

Signs of increased skin dryness

Dry skin is the main cause of skin diseases, more than 40% of visits to dermatologists associated with dry skin. Dryness can occur anywhere on the body, but most often it occurs on the arms, legs, knees, and elbows, as well as the face because these areas are most vulnerable.

Dry skin: causes, symptoms and solutions

When the skin becomes overdried, it can become very stiff, flaky, with detachments, cause severe itching and pain, even very rough and cracked. However, it is not always obvious that dryness is the cause of these skin problems, depending on the degree of dryness and the affected area of the body.

  • Moderately dry skin.
    At first, dryness can be seen in the form of light compaction or slight roughness.
  • Dry skin
    If the skin continues to lose moisture, it becomes coarse and may become cracked or rough, possibly itchy.
  • Excessively dry skin.
    If such dryness remains without treatment or care, or they are ineffective, the skin can become extremely dense, coarse, and cracked. At this stage, itching can also become severe and painful.

Dry skin areas of the body

Dryness often appears on the skin of the legs and thighs. Dry skin on the legs is especially common and often leads to cracked heels, which, in the event of a severe lesion, are associated with pain and inflammation.

Dry skin: causes, symptoms and solutions

However, the dryness associated with washing with the use of strong detergents can affect the whole body equally. Too frequent washing of hands, as a rule, also contributes to dry skin on them.

Sensitive skin

Dry skin on the body is often very sensitive, but its sensitivity is not always caused by dryness. The skin of some people is very sensitive by nature, even if it is well hydrated. In any case, it is important to avoid skin care products that contain irritating ingredients such as fragrances and colors. Always check that the product has been dermatologically tested on sensitive skin.

Dry skin for diseases

For diseases such as psoriasis or atopic dermatitis, the skin may look reddened, peel off and itch.

Dry skin may also be associated with certain diseases:

  • Xerosis is a medical term for dry skin. It comes from Greek: “Xero” means “dry”, and “oasis” means “disease”.
  • Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis are also associated with dryness, although these diseases are based on inflammatory processes. As a rule, the skin affected by them looks reddened, exfoliates and itches very much.
  • Metabolic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus and kidney disease, can also increase the risk of dry skin

The main causes of dry skin

There are many causes and factors that cause the dry skin of the body: from environmental exposure and improper skin care to diseases such as psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. The skin acts as a barrier to the body, but this means that it is exposed to both external and internal influences.

External factors

  • External factors cause dysfunction of the skin as a natural barrier, which leads to an increase in moisture loss through the skin.
  • Violation of the surface barrier of the skin due to washing off the natural lipid layer makes it impossible to retain moisture, and the rate of its loss increases.
  • Finally, when dryness spreads to the lower layers of the skin, the transport of water through the buried tissues is disturbed, since the functioning of important channels of moistening is disturbed.

External factors contributing to dryness

The main external causes of the process described above are environmental factors and skin care:

  • Excessive intake of ultraviolet rays can lead to aging of the skin and, consequently, to dryness.
  • It is recommended to limit the time of bathing and reduce the temperature of the water, as prolonged baths can lead to evaporation of moisture.
  • Since some drugs can cause dry skin, it is recommended to consult a doctor

External environment

  • Severe weather conditions – heat, cold and dry air – destroy the protective function of the skin.
  • Seasonal changes – dry skin symptoms often worsen in the winter or summer.
  • Ultraviolet (UV) sunlight can accelerate skin aging, and with aging, it becomes more prone to dryness.

Skin care

Frequent washing or prolonged hot baths or showers remove the layer of lipids that form the skin’s protective barrier.
Unsuitable skin care – it is important to follow the instructions and use products that are suitable for dry skin. It is especially important not to use strong soaps that erase the natural lipids of the skin.


Dry skin occurs as a side effect of many drugs. Among the common drugs that have this side effect are diuretics for controlling blood pressure, the effect of which is to increase the amount of water that is excreted from the body along with urine, as well as some antibiotics and oral medications to fight acne. Always consult a doctor or pharmacist if you are

Internal factors

Genetic effects

Heredity also affects the balance of moisture in the skin. Some people have oily skin, others are dry, and these types of skin are inherited, although the person will not necessarily have the same type of skin that his parents had. Skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, diabetes mellitus, and ichthyosis often have a genetic background.

Hormonal effects

Changes in the concentration of certain hormones, especially estrogen and testosterone, can affect skin moisture and lipid levels. This is especially noticeable after menopause when the skin becomes dry due to a decrease in estrogen levels.
Dry skin can also develop during pregnancy due to hormonal changes, as well as due to additional needs in the biological fluid.


Like any other organ, the skin requires a number of important nutrients for normal functioning. Among them are unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins. The absence of any of them can contribute to the development


With age, the number of sebaceous glands and sweat glands in the skin decreases, which reduces the ability to synthesize lipids and sweat. The water content in the skin and its ability to retain moisture are also reduced. These factors lead to dryness, which, in turn, causes aging of the skin and the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Learn more about age-related dryness.

Factors causing dry skin

In addition to the main causes of dry skin of the body, there are several factors that also affect the degree of dry skin. Understanding this will help to avoid them and thereby reduce their impact.

  • The best time for moisturizing is when the skin is clean and slightly moist, for example, after a bath or shower.
  • Dry skin needs special sunscreen without any irritating perfumes and dyes.
  • Constant use of protective gloves and hand cream can help representatives of some professions, such as the doctor or the hairdresser.

Dry skin: causes, symptoms and solutions

Lack of effective treatment

If dry skin is not treated quickly, the degree of dryness may increase, and the moisturizing system in the deeper layers of the skin may be disturbed. In such situations, you must use a moisturizer designed to solve this problem

Effect of sunlight

Protecting dry skin from exposure to sunlight, it is important that the sunscreen also restores the lack of moisturizing factors, in addition to the appropriate sunscreen factor (SPF). It is also important that sunscreen, like any other care products that are used on dry skin, does not contain irritating perfumes and dyes, since dry skin, especially on the face, is more prone to irritations than normal.

Occupational hazards

Some occupations require working in conditions that may increase the risk of dry skin. Usually, these are activities that involve the influence of dry skin development factors, such as working in hot or cold conditions (farmer/fisherman), or work related to using detergents (doctor/ nurse/hairdresser), or working with chemicals (mechanic/cleaner).


The skin receives moisture from the body, and therefore depends on the water balance in the body. When dehydrated, it reduces the flow of moisture to the skin, which slows down the natural movement of water through the skin, which can contribute to its dryness. Older people are prone to dehydration, because, with age, the feeling of thirst is dulled.


Cigarettes contain many toxins, including nicotine, which can reduce the rate of blood flow. This leads to a decrease in the metabolic rate in the skin. And this means that the processes of premature aging and drying can start there.

Care for dry skin

Dry skin is caused by a violation of the barrier function of the skin, which leads to loss of moisture and a decrease in the ability to retain water due to the lack of moisturizing factors. Thus, dry skin requires daily care, which does not cause further deterioration of the skin barrier and restores the lack of natural moisturizing factors.

Dry skin: causes, symptoms and solutions

Dry and excessively dry skin, as well as associated with diabetes or psoriasis, require appropriate means depending on the degree of dryness, but atopic dermatitis requires special products for daily skin care for babies and young children. When choosing a product to care for the skin of children, always check the age indications.

Recommendations for the care of dry skin

Cleansing. Most often, the skin becomes dry due to damage to the surface barrier of the skin, therefore it is important that the cleanser is soft enough not to wash off the natural protective barrier of the skin. Additional natural moisturizing factors, such as urea, will also help restore the moisture balance in the skin.

Moisturize. The first requirement for moisturizers for dry skin is to restore the moisture balance in the upper layers of the skin. Substances that are called “natural moisturizing factors” (PZF), such as urea and lactic acid, retain moisture in the stratum corneum or the top layer of the skin. The minimum recommended urea concentration, even for moderately, is 5%. For excessively dry skin, a higher concentration of urea and other moisturizing factors are usually necessary.

Dryness, coarsening and hardening of the skin can be caused by disturbances in the three main mechanisms of moisture control: damage to the surface barrier due to lack of skin lipids, dehydration of the horny layer through the absence of natural moisturizing factors and poor distribution of moisture in the lower layers of the skin.

Protecting dry skin from sun radiation
Going outside, reduce exposure by wearing clothing that covers all parts of the body and using sunscreen. In addition, it is important that sunscreens also contain moisturizing factors. Sunscreens for dry skin should not contain irritating perfumes and dyes, because dry skin is sensitive to irritations.

Avoiding factors that contribute to dryness

In addition to high-quality daily cleansing and moisturizing, it is important to avoid factors that contribute to the development of dry skin. This will help alleviate the problem of dry skin and reduce the need for treatment:

  • Avoid dry air by spending less time outside during hot and arid or cold weather and using humidifiers if the heating is turned on in the room.
  • Reduce the time spent in hot water, taking quick warm showers instead of long hot baths.
  • Use gloves while washing dishes to avoid exposure to hot water and aggressive detergents.
  • Wear clothes made from natural materials such as cotton and silk that do not irritate the skin. Wool is also a natural material but can irritate dry skin, so it should be avoided.
  • Try to use clothes for washing clothes without dyes or fragrances to avoid irritation.
  • Make sure you drink enough water – especially for older people.

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1 Response

  1. June 1, 2019

    […] with age, the skin does not age, and with every year there are different signs of aging: wrinkles, flabbiness, loss of […]

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