Dry, flaky skin is often a temporary condition – the result of artificial heating during a cold winter months, excessive sun exposure, a rash, or some other temporary condition. Generally, the dry skin patches and peeling skin heal and return to normal with normalization of the conditions.
Other reasons for flaking, dry skin are not as temporary and could be the result of different types of dermatitis, inflammatory diseases, or genetically inherited conditions.
Dry, flaking skin can appear on the entire body, or be confined to a particular area depending on the cause. Generally though, if you have dry, flaking skin, the arms and legs are often the most affected since these areas contain fewer oil glands, although this can differ from person to person.
- The skin feels tight, especially after showering, bathing or swimming
- Skin looks and feels rough and papery
- The skin itches and appears red
- The skin has signs of flaking, scaling or peeling
- Fine lines and cracks can appear
- People with dark skin tones tend to look grey and ashy
Causes of Dry, Flaking Skin
Weather – the most common cause of dry, flaky skin. In cold climates, humidity levels in the air drop significantly, causing the skin to dry and flake. Living in dry, desert areas can be particularly challenging since there almost a total lack of humidity in the air to help maintain moisture levels in the skin.
Sun Exposure – over time the sun not only dries the skin on the surface. However, below the surface ultraviolet radiation is damaging the deeper layers of skin which will ultimately lead to dry, sagging, wrinkled skin.
Indoor Heat and Hot Water – also among the most common causes of temporary dry, flaky skin. Artificial indoor heat, dries out the air inside the office, home and other living spaces, drawing all moisture from the skin. And taking long hot showers or baths in another way to quickly rob the skin of essential oils, leading to dry, flaky skin.
Soaps and Detergents – most bar soaps, especially deodorant and antibacterial soaps will strip moisture from the skin, leaving it feeling tight and maybe even itchy. Don’t forget, shampoos, these also affect the skin, primarily the scalp, leaving it dry and flaky.
Age – as we age, the skin produces less natural oils, less skin firming collagen and elastin. The result is chronically dry skin that if not treated will being flaky, itchy and even irritated.
Medical Conditions – those with chronic dry and flaky skin usually have skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema that appear as patches of rough, dry, scales due to the rapid buildup of dead skin cells. These conditions are generally treated under the care of a dermatologist or medical doctor.
Treating Dry, Flaky Skin
In most cases dry, flaky skin responds to simple remedies and a few life changes like daily u se of moisturizers, avoiding long, hot showers or baths, etc. More serious conditions require prescription creams or ointments and a regimen of special care. Read more about treating Psoriasis and Eczema.
In general though, making these few simple changes will improve your skin condition and keep it healthy and conditioned:
Moisturize – dry, flaky skin requires a thick moisturizer designed to lock in the skin’s natural moisture. Oils or petroleum jelly could be used at night for deeper treatment. Apply these over damp skin (after showering) to lock moisture in the surface cells and create a barrier to prevent further evaporation and drying.
Limit Use of Hot Water – long, hot showers, as wonderfully relaxing as they sounds, damage the skin by stripping natural oils. Warm of tepid baths or showers lasting no more than 10 minutes in ample time to clean the skin without drying it out in the process.
Avoid Harsh Soaps – these are drying to the skin and often contain detergents, fragrance and alcohol, all of which are very drying to the skin. Use cleansing creams and shower gels with conditioning moisturizers for better results.
Moisturize the Air – if the indoor air in extremely dry (as in heated rooms in the winder) and the skin is excessively dry and itching, add moisture into the air with a home humidifier. Use it while you sleep to contain in to the one room and allow your skin the night to drink in the moisture particles.
How much do you know about your dry, flaking skin – that this dry skin quiz created by medicinenet.com and test your knowledge. Take the Dry Skin Quiz created by Medicinenet.com
- Mayo Clinic: Diseases & Conditions; Dry Skin
- www.medicinenet.com – Dry Skin Test