Dry skin can be caused by factors as diverse as extreme hot or cold weather and autoimmune system disorders. Frequently, dry skin responds to lifestyle changes and plenty of moisture, but in those with brown skin it can leave areas of hyperpigmentation. Patches of dark dry skin that do not improve with added moisture may need to be examined by a dermatologist.
Dermatitis is a general term for skin rashes caused by irritation. Contact dermatitis may be due to soap, laundry detergent or fabric softener, with the clothes that rub against your body irritating sensitive skin. Atopic dermatitis is common in dry climates, while seborrheic dermatitis sometimes plagues on parts of the body rich in oil-producing sebaceous glands. Lack of B vitamins or too much vitamin A can bring about symptoms of dermatitis, such as itching and discoloration.
Eczema, another cause of skin redness and itching, is believed to be an immune system disorder. Eczema leaves your skin dry, rough, flaky and often quite itchy. Red blotches caused by eczema may later turn dark brown. If you do not properly treat a case of eczema, your skin may crack and break, leaving it vulnerable to bacterial infection. According to MayoClinic.com, eczema may be accompanied by allergies or asthma and usually first appears in childhood, though rare cases do crop up initially in adults. The arms and legs are the parts of the body most commonly affected by eczema, although outbreaks can occur on the chest as well.
Psoriasis causes a rapid buildup of dry, dead cells that develop a scaly appearance. If your dark skin patches are rough, flaky and shed easily, psoriasis may be to blame. This disorder is chronic and may be accompanied by arthritis. Those suffering from psoriasis may experience thickening of the fingernails and joint stiffness. Outbreaks can occur for weeks or months on end, then cease for a while before ultimately returning. MayoClinic.com reports that psoriasis outbreaks occur when T lymphocyte cells, which usually attack viruses in the body, turn on healthy skin cells instead. Stress and certain prescription medications, such as lithium and beta blockers, may make psoriasis symptoms worse.
Treating dry skin may be as simple as applying moisturizer, or it may require an over-the-counter cortisone cream. Taking lukewarm rather than hot showers, avoiding baths and choosing moisturizing shower gel containing cocoa or shea butter instead of regular soap can help relieve dryness and itching. Always apply lotion after showering, preferably an unscented, dye-free formula made for sensitive skin. Colloidal oatmeal compresses or body wash can help relieve severe itching. Antifungal treatment may also be necessary in some cases.
Dark Skin Considerations
According to Dr. Susan Taylor's Brownskin.net, eczema is a common skin problem in people of color, including those of African, Asian and Latino descent. The hyperpigmentation intrinsic in eczema may be more pronounced for those with dark skin, and the presentation of the illness may differ from light skin. A sure sign of eczema is intense itching, so if the dark, dry patches on your skin also cause you to scratch a lot, visit a dermatologist for an accurate diagnosis.