Dry Scaly Skin on Legs

Along with your arms, thighs and sides of the abdomen, the lower legs are one of the most common areas in which you experience dry skin, according to the National Institutes of Health's Medline Plus website. This condition can result in itching and peeling, serving as a nuisance during winter months when cold winter temperatures rob your skin of moisture.

Woman putting some moisturising cream
A young woman is rubbing lotion on her legs. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images)

Causes

Dry skin on the legs can be caused by a number of factors, including the eczema or bathing too frequently, according to The New York Times Health Guide. Other factors include aging, living in an arid or cold temperature and the amount of time you spend outdoors. Dry skin is especially prevalent during the winter months when cold temperatures and low humidity reduce the amount of moisture available for your skin, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Identification

When you rub your hands over the skin of your legs, you may feel roughly textured skin, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Very dry skin will appear cracked, as if there are ridges on the skin. The skin also feels tightened on the legs, as if someone is pulling the skin. Itching also is common in dry lower leg skin.

Types

In some instances, the dry skin on your legs can be an indicator of medical conditions, such as atopic dermatitis, according to DermNet NZ, a dermatologist-written site dedicated to skin health issues. Atopic dermatitis can result in red skin that is very itchy and most commonly appears on the feet and ankles. Eczema is another condition affecting the legs that can cause dry, scaly patches to appear on the skin. If the dry patches of skin occur around varicose veins, this condition is known as varicose eczema.

Treatment

If your dry leg skin is mild, applying a moisturizer two to three times per day — especially after getting out of the shower — can help to keep the legs moisturized. Because your leg circulation may be affecting your ability to provide moisture to the skin, massaging this lotion in can help to boost circulation. If your leg skin does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, your physician may prescribe a special cream or ointment to encourage skin exfoliation and moisturize the legs. Using a humidifier to add moisture into the air also may help if you live in a dry climate.

Warning

In some instances, dry lower leg skin can indicate a more serious problem. This includes when your lower leg skin itching and dryness interfere with your ability to sleep or if you have scratches on your skin that do not heal with time. This can be an indicator that you have poor circulation in the skin.

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