Dry Skin – Symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Treatments

LAST UPDATED: JAN 30, 2023 / By Nura / DrySkin

Find out what trigger skin dryness and which stage of dryness are you at for now. Plus, five tips to keep your skin hydrated during winter season.

This article will help you understand multiple facts that related to dry skin, include its types, stages, symptoms and others.

Dry Skin Intro

Dry skin occurs when the natural oils of your skin are not sufficient to keep the skin moisturized. This causes your skin to become dry, flaky, and itchy. Over time, dry skin can lead to more serious conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Dry skin is a skin condition characterized by the skin’s inability to produce natural oils and moisture. This condition may be present year rounds or may flare up with certain weather condition such as low humidity, especially extreme temperatures like freezing cold winter. Contact with the sun, cold or other elements may exacerbate the condition such as:

+ Using harsh skin products or dishwashing detergent.

+ Excessive skin washing or frequent hot bath.

+ Aging factor that slowing down the build-up of ceramides and collagen.

+ Due to certain illness and effect from taking certain medications.

+ Due to trans-epidermal water loss.

Dry skin is often confused with irritant or allergic contact dermatitis and may be the results of an underlying skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis.

Types of Dry Skin

There are two main types of dry skin: dermatitis and xerosis.

Dermatitis refers to the inflammation of the skin and is the result of a rash or irritation. This can be due to many factors including allergies, chemicals, and even excessive washing.

Xerosis of skin, is a type of dry skin that is caused by a lack of natural oils and moisture. Many people suffer from xerosis due to living in climates with very low humidity or as a result of old age.

The good news is, there are a variety of helpful products and home remedies for dryness that can help treat and prevent dry skin.


How to identify different degrees of dry skin

There are 3 degrees of dry skin ranging from normal dry to extremely dry. These 3 degrees has its own characteristics.

Stage of Dry Skin

+ Common Dry skin

Its texture is rough, brittle and dull looking. This type of texture caused by low elasticity of the skin due to unhealthy skin barrier. You will feel your skin a little bit tight at this stage.

Very dry skin

When you neglect dry skin concern for a long time, it tends to become very dry especially during winter season and when not treated carefully, your skin may develop:
• mild scaling or flakiness in patches, such as flaky skin on forehead
• a rough and blotchy appearance (sometimes it appears to be prematurely aged)
• a feeling of tightness
• possible itchiness such as dry itchy skin on feet.

It is also more sensitive to irritation, redness and the risk of infection. If you see someone that have really redness and irritated face, very dry skin may be the cause of it.

+ Extremely dry skin

Commonly happen at certain areas of the body such as feet, hands, knees and elbows. These parts are prone to:

  • chapping with a tendency to form cracks such as cracked skin on legs
  • roughness
  • calluses
  • frequent itchiness
  • scaling such as dry scaly skin on legs

Extremely dry skin is most commonly found on the elderly or on severely dehydrated hands and feet especially for people that live in desert dry climate countries such as middle east region.


Symptoms of Dry Skin

When your skin is dry, it may flake such as dry flaky skin on legs, itch, or start peeling. The area under your eyes and your lower legs are the most likely to be affected by dry skin since this area has the thinnest skin structure. Dry skin usually feels rough. It can also lead to inflammation and redness if ignored for a period of time. Dry skin can be a symptom of a number of other skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.

Common symptoms of dry skin include:
• Chapped, sore lips
• Itchy scalp
• Scaly skin
• Skin that cracks and bleeds easily


Eczema vs Dry Skin

While both eczema and dry skin are conditions that cause skin to be dry and itchy, there are significant differences between the two.

Eczema is an immune system condition that causes the skin to be inflamed and itchy. It’s common for skin that suffers from eczema to crack, forming painful blisters and patches. Eczema is a type of skin disease that affects the patient’s entire body. It is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes inflammation to the skin. Common symptoms include a dry, scaly, itchy skin that often causes bleeding. Although there is no cure for this condition, it can be treated with steroid creams and hydrocortisone pills.

In contrast, dry skin is not an autoimmune condition. It is caused by a lack of natural moisture in the skin. It is a temporary condition that can be treated with moisturizers. Dry skin is a more localized condition that mainly impacts the outer layer of skin. While the two conditions share some similarities and will both cause the skin to be abnormally dry, the underlying causes are quite different. Having a prolong dry skin can lead to other type of skin concern such as fine lines and wrinkles that can lead to premature aging of the skin.


What is Skin Barrier?

Skin barrier is one of the primary functions of the skin. The skin barrier is a physical, chemical, and microbiological protective barrier that covers the whole body. The skin barrier is made up of two thin layers of skin, the epidermis and the dermis. The purpose of the skin barrier is to prevent water loss, entry of pathogens, toxins, and chemicals. The skin barrier is formed by the physical properties of the epidermis and dermis, the natural flora of the skin, and the immune system. The skin barrier also prevents the entrance of water from the inside out. When the skin barrier is broken, for example: blisters, rashes, psoriasis, and eczema, the skin becomes more susceptible to irritants and allergens which can then lead to more inflammation and irritation.


Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF)

NMF is a natural moisturizing factor found in skin lipids. It is a mix of water-soluble humectant and hydrolytic enzyme which has the function to activate the hydrolytic enzyme that can break down the complex lipids in skin to make them available for water absorption. Or it also can be described as a tri-layer of lipids, proteins and water molecules that act together to protect the skin from dehydration.

NMF is usually found in lipid-rich stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of the epidermis. It plays an important role in the epidermal barrier function, acting as a physical and chemical filter. The NMF level determines if your skin has enough hydration or not. NMF is an essential factor for skin hydration. Without NMF, our skin would get dry and cracked, leading to more visible signs such as fine lines and wrinkles.



Dryness can also be a sign of insufficient ceramide levels. Ceramides are lipid-rich molecules that are found naturally on our skin, making up 50 percent of its natural lipids and protecting hydrophilic regions like our stratum corneum from dehydration and free radicals. And ceramides assist in keeping our skin supple and having a healthy level of moisture.

Ceramide molecules form an interconnected structure in the lipid membrane of all living cells, including those of plants and animals and are often considered the “glue” in our skin, helping it to retain moisture and barrier function of the epidermal layer to make our skin remaining elastic.

It is important to note that ceramides are found naturally in our skin and exist as a part of many lipid molecules, but they can also be artificially manufactured. However, with age and due to lifestyle changes like smoking or UV exposure, the levels of ceramides in our body decrease dramatically. Because of this, ceramide commonly used in skincare products along with retinoids and glycolic acid since both of these ingredients will allow ceramide to penetrate deeper into the skin in order to restore moisture balance and maintain a healthy skin complexion.


Treatment for Dry Skin

Dry skin is a surprisingly common condition. It’s caused by a lack of sebum production, which means that the natural sebum that keep your skin hydrated aren’t present. The best treatment for dry skin is making sure that you have a well-balanced diet, the right skin routine and proper hydration internally and also externally.


Prevention for Dry Skin – How to Get Dry Skin off Your Face

Keeping your skin moisturized is the best way to prevent dry skin. If you have dry skin, you should use moisturizer regularly. Heavy moisturizer is recommended especially for night routine. When you have dry skin, it also recommended to have face exfoliation once a week in order to remove dead skin from face. This to prevent the dead skin from clogging your skin pores that may lead to other skin problem. So, 6 days of heavy moisturizer usage to strengthen skin barrier is enough to cater for once a week of exfoliation and this is how to hydrate dry skin after it being exfoliated.

If you want to avoid getting dry skin, you should always moisturize before you going out for outdoors activities. This will keep your skin from losing water when exposed to the elements. The best moisturizers for dry skin will have gentle and soothing ingredients. Look for moisturizers that contain aloe vera, cucumber, and green tea. These ingredients are great at hydrating your skin, and will help prevent dryness.

Also, it’s important to avoid wearing tight clothes or using harsh soaps on your skin, as this can make your skin dry and irritated. If you don’t have time to do a skin care routine that may require many steps, you can consider to use 3 step moisture technique where it only involve damp your skin with water, treat with hydrating serum and lastly lock-in the moisture using a moisturizer.


Dry Skin Flaking on Face

This type of skin concern which is dry skin flakes on face can develop during winter season. And this is how to get rid of dry flaky skin on face easily. Create a moist environment around your face, and facial mist might help you. Use a heavy moisturizer to cater the dryness of your face that can last throughout the day. Keep your body hydrated by drinking more water while avoiding caffeine as caffeine can dehydrate your body much faster.


Dry Hands Causes

One of the questions that we get is why are my hands so dry even though it is not in winter season. Many reasons can cause it such as excessive washing your hand everyday such as for people that work in hospital due to hygienic purpose or you are using harsh and high pH hand-wash liquid. There’s lots of natural remedies for dry hands that can be use to tone down the effects such as pure petroleum jelly, coconut oil and honey. And the best part is you can find all these items in your home and this make it one of the best home remedies for dry cracked hands.


Patchy Dry Skin on Legs or Feet

You might wonder on, how to get rid of dry skin on legs overnight and whether it is possible? Without proper care, dry skin on legs can be dangerous for people with diabetes as it is more easily to get infection due to weak skin barrier. You can use skin moist lotion on the specified area of dry legs every day for morning and night skin routine to prevent dry patch build up.


Acne Treatment for Dry Skin

Dry skin is more prone to clogged pores which leads to small acne breakouts and other skin irritations. To prevent this, one should make sure one uses a soothing product instead of heavy creams or oils-based products. Noncomedogenic means the product doesn’t cause blockage of pores or clog them up – this helps prevent breakouts during treatment and when used with other skincare products in your routine. Make sure to look for products that have fragrance-free claims so you can avoid potential irritation or irritation from the fragrance in the product itself.


Winter Tips for Dry and Flaky Skin

Winter is a harsh season for skin if you’re not prepared and can be a major pain. The effects of prolonged exposure to the cold can cause skin to become tight and itchy with flaky patches. Commonly during winter, you will experience dry itchy skin on hands. There are a few things you can do in advance to ensure that you’ll be prepared to fight the dry, flaky skin that winter can bring. And it takes time to get back to your old self, but the following tips will at least help you make the transition less painful.

Keep your skin hydrated. Use a deep moisturizing hand cream once or twice a day before bed to prevent the formation of dry, flaky skin.

+ Many people like to use a hand lotion that contains shea butter, as it has proven to be a very effective moisturizer.

+ Eat foods rich in Vitamin A and C.

+ Try to eat different types of fruits, like orange and kiwi, and vegetables, like red pepper and tomatoes.

+ Drink lots of water.

+ Use a fruit infused water bottle to give yourself a boost of natural antioxidants from the herbs and fruit.



The best way to combat dryness is by using high-quality moisturizers at bedtime. You should also avoid hot showers because they can cause serious water loss from the skin. Some people experience dryness after exercising, so you should drink more water to hydrate yourself faster before you exercise. In addition, some people cannot prevent their naturally occurring ceramides from breaking down in response to environmental changes like warm weather, stress and pollution which

Drink lots of water and avoid scrubbing your skin with harsh exfoliators or anything that can dry out your skin further. A healthy skin with enough ceramide will improve Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) then leads to improve skin barrier function to prevent skin from dryness.


Frequent Asked Questions (FAQs)

A – Why is my skin so dry even when I moisturize it?

  • Persistent dryness is a common problem for many people despite moisturizing every day. There are a few reasons why this could be happening. People with dry skin may experience additional problems including the inability to retain moisture and wrinkles due to weak barrier function.
  • There are some easy solutions that can help you combat persistent dryness, such as using a gentle cleanser such as cleansing milk or avoid using foam cleanser that can strip out moisture from your skin. Some common causes of persistent dryness are due to over-exfoliation and using harsh cleanser.
  • Many people in the beauty industry have been recommending exfoliating on a regular basis to keep our skin looking young and smooth, but this can actually cause your skin to become more dehydrated, leading to more persistent dryness.


B – How to prevent dry skin after shower?

  • It is common that our skin becomes dry after a shower and there are many reasons for it. One major cause of the dryness is because of the harsh soap we use and ends up stripping away our natural oils from the body. Ceramide is a type of lipid acid that helps to replenish those natural oils, so many people with dry skin try to take supplements or put moisturizer on their body after shower at least 2-3 times per day in order to keep it well hydrated.


C – What causes ashy skin or ashey skin?

  • An ashy look is a common sign of dry skin. An imbalance in the sebum production and oil production can cause dry skin to look ashy. People with darker skin tone are most likely to suffer from this condition. There are many factors that cause this such as dehydration, aging process, weather conditions and excessive exposure towards UV ray without proper SPF protection.


D – Can dry skin cause hives?

  • Urticaria is a general term describing the sign or symptom of hives. It’s typically a raised area of skin, red, itchy blisters in the skin that may come and go within hours to days. The cause of urticaria is unknown and it can range from anything from an allergic reaction to the response to an infection. There are a few triggers that can make hives more severe: cold exposure, alcohol, stress, or environmental allergens like dust mites. So dry skin is not causing hives since both are totally two different skin condition.


E – Why is my face itchy?

  • Dry skin on the face can be caused by problems like allergies, medications, and a lack of moisture. If you have dry skin on your face that itches or is red, it can also be a sign of eczema. It is advisable to see your dermatologist to find out the real trigger that cause the itchiness of your face.


F – Can you list down some of natural remedies for dry skin?

  • For dry skin home remedy, nuts and seeds are a great way to boost the amount of sebum in your diet without causing indigestion. Green teas are also helpful for dry skin, so we recommend trying them as well.


G – Can you list down few dry skin skin care products?

  • For more serious dry skin concern, we recommend trying a body lotion made of natural ingredients, such as shea butter or coconut oil.


H – What kind of Ingredients will dry out our skin?

  • Sometime, acne medication and using Retinol can make your skin became dry. Same as Salicylic Acid properties where it will dry out your skin when you first start using it. This happens because this type of ingredients, especially retinol will loosen the connection between cells on the skin’s surface. To avoid irritation happened at your skin, reduce the frequency of use and apply linoleic acid where it will helps smoothen the skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells. Remember that when certain sign happened at your skin, burning, peeling and flaking, you should stop using the product.


I – Can you provide some Home Remedies treatment for Dry Skin concern?

  • Add moist in your surrounding air by using humidifier.


J – Can you explain about best Moisturizer for Dry Skin?

  • A quality moisturizer can bring calmness and repair dry, itchy and flaky skin; and at the same time build the necessary natural barrier that will help prevent moisture loss from your skin. Moisturizer will contain humectant which helps attract surrounding moist towards your skin such as ceramide and glycerin; and also contain emollients which helps smoothen the skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells such as linoleic or lauric acids.