Dry scaly skin can happen to people of all ages regardless of the condition of their skin. Environmental factors are often the culprits behind this itchy and irritating inconvenience, but luckily there are several treatment methods and preventative measures available for relief. Finding out what is triggering dry skin can help you choose an appropriate treatment regimen.
Dry and scaly skin is a common condition that occurs when the outermost layer of skin, called the stratum corneum, does not have enough water to function properly. This can be caused by low humidity, excessive bathing, skin contact with irritants, chapping, genetic conditions and hot baths. The sun and heat can also cause dry skin. Ichthyosis is a form of dry skin that is known for its scale-like appearance. Ichthyosis is caused by a genetic abnormality, according to the Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types. Atopic eczema, a chronic skin condition, can also cause dry, scaly skin.
Dry, scaly skin often feels tight because the loss of moisture causes the top layer of the skin to dry out, shrink and crack, according to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The skin may also feel itchy, red and rough to touch. The skin may flake or peel and wrinkles may become more apparent. Most dry skin problems can be diagnosed by a physical examination. Ichthyosis is often diagnosed by a skin biopsy or blood test, but this option is not available for all types of ichthyosis, according to the Foundation for Ichthyosis & Related Skin Types.
Determining what is triggering your dry skin is the most effective way to treat the cause. For general dry skin, applying an oil-based moisturizer will give you better results than a water-based. If your skin does not react negatively to steroid creams, use such a cream for five to 15 days to treat eczema patches, according to DermNet NZ. Apply petroleum jelly to dry, scaly areas of your skin at bedtime so your skin is moisturized overnight. After getting out of the shower or bath, pat your skin until it is partially dry and then apply a moisturizer within three minutes to seal in moisture, advises to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.
To keep your skin from becoming overly dry and scaly, avoid taking hot or long baths and showers. If you have a choice between the two, always choose a shower so your skin is not submerged in the water for long periods of time, as water removes the natural protective skin oils on the top layer of your epidermis. To restore moisture in the air, keep a humidifier in your home during the months when your indoor heating is on. Never leave the house without applying moisturizer and a sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
If your skin is itchy, choose an itch-suppressing or anti-inflammatory cream that does not cause irritation to your skin. If you apply a product and it makes your skin feel worse than before the product was applied, discontinue its use because you may be having a reaction to chemicals in the ingredients, notes the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. If your dry skin is itching to the point where you’re unable to sleep at night, contact a dermatologist. In some cases, you may need to take an antihistamine.