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Xerosis is Greek for dry skin, which is an abnormal dryness of bodily tissues, especially the skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. Beautiful skin consists of plump, moist cells. When the skin dries out, shriveled cells are left, and they can become itchy, inflamed, and flaky. If left untreated, the skin can even crack and bleed.


The causes of dry skin are myriad, and the treatment depends on the diagnosis. Many times a simple change in routine or products can bring relief, but it can be more complicated.  That’s why it’s important to see a doctor. Dry skin can be the result of a specific skin condition or disease and a symptom of others. Mild versions of contact dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis can make skin feel dry or slightly scaly before other symptoms appear. Environmental factors can also cause the problem. All these factors must be taken into consideration.

Most Common Causes

  • Exposure to hot water when showering or doing dishes can dry skin.
  • Low humidity levels in the winter tend to make skin dry. This condition is called “winter itch.”
  • Using soaps and body washes on the skin too frequently strips natural oils from the skin and makes itching and dryness worse.
  • Overuse of topical medications such as benzoyl peroxide, AHA toners, and retinoids.
  • Somebody and hand lotions can also dry the skin.

Most Common Causes

There are serious dry skin conditions such as ichthyosis, a hereditary condition, which can sometimes be disfiguring and, therefore, cause psychological distress. Fortunately, most dry skin results from environmental factors that can be controlled or cured. If you have a skin condition or allergies, you will need to be diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist.

Bring a list of commonly-used products to your consultation appointment.  Your dermatologist will need a full picture of your daily habits and routines to make a good diagnosis.

Start with Habits at Home

There are some simple steps you can take at home to reduce dryness.

  • Limit shower time to 5-10 minutes, and take warm, not hot, showers.  Dry with a towel by patting skin lightly rather than rubbing. Make sure to close the bathroom door to keep the beneficial steam in the room.
  • Moisturize your skin at least 3-4 times per day using a gentle, fragrance-free cream or ointment. Don’t use too much soap.
  • Treat thicker scaly areas on the hands and feet with a urea (Carmol) or lactic acid cream. Soak your feet in warm water first to help the ingredients penetrate. You may also use Theraseal for your hands if the skin is dry and cracked.

Ordinarily, dry skin isn’t serious, but it can be uncomfortable and unsightly. To avoid turning plump cells into shriveled ones and creating fine lines and wrinkles, it’s important to see a dermatologist.

Make an appointment to speak with one of our trusted Skin Care Providers to discuss options for dry skin. Finding effective ways to control your dry skin can help greatly improve your quality of life.