Dry Skin: What Does It Look Like, and What Should You Do?

Snow cas­tles, hot cocoa, time with loved ones — there are plen­ty of things to love about the win­ter. How­ev­er, if you’re one of the many peo­ple who suf­fer from dry skin, this sea­son may not exact­ly be your favorite. 

Dry skin is com­mon. It is also the most com­mon cause of itch­ing, includ­ing win­ter itch. When you address dry skin first, it can often suc­cess­ful­ly ease uncom­fort­able feel­ings of itch and pain. Symp­toms of dry skin can be minor, with slight flak­ing and dis­com­fort, or it can take a seri­ous toll, lead­ing to embar­rass­ment and dis­com­fort that inter­rupts your dai­ly life.

No mat­ter how you’re expe­ri­enc­ing dry skin, it can be frus­trat­ing at the very least. 

By learn­ing about the signs of dry skin, you can start treat­ing it as soon as pos­si­ble. If home treat­ment isn’t suc­cess­ful, a Duly Health and Care der­ma­tol­o­gist can deter­mine if your dry skin is a sign of a con­di­tion, offer pre­ven­tive tips, and find the right skin treat­ment for you.

Here are some signs of dry skin and how you can keep your skin healthy year-round. 

What Are the Signs of Dry Skin?

Most peo­ple have expe­ri­enced dry skin at one time or anoth­er. From itch­i­ness to flak­ing skin, the signs of dry skin are com­mon and well-known. 

How­ev­er, dry skin can come with oth­er symp­toms, too, including:

  • Fine lines
  • Rough or loose skin texture
  • Cracks, which can become deep and bleed
  • Peel­ing skin
  • Exces­sive itchiness
  • Pain, sting­ing, or burn­ing sensation
  • Skin infec­tions, which can look like yel­low crusts, areas of pus, or swelling

    You can have dry skin any­where on your body, but the most com­mon areas are your hands, arms, low­er legs, and abdomen.

    What Puts You at Greater Risk for Dry Skin?

    Your skin has a thin pro­tec­tive bar­ri­er made of nat­ur­al lipids or fat­ty sub­stances. By pro­tect­ing your skin, these nat­ur­al lipids keep your skin mois­tur­ized and soft. 

    If these lipids are stripped away — due to a health con­di­tion, genet­ics, envi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, or your skin rou­tine — that can cause dry skin. 

    You might have dry skin because you’re:

    • Wash­ing with harsh soaps
    • Tak­ing long, hot showers 
    • Not using moisturizers
    • Mis­us­ing mois­tur­iz­ers (such as by only using them when symp­toms arise instead of every day, espe­cial­ly on damp skin)

      Are you expe­ri­enc­ing very dry skin? If it’s becom­ing exces­sive and home treat­ments aren’t work­ing, it might be time to see a Duly der­ma­tol­o­gist. Sched­ule an appoint­ment today.

      Some peo­ple also have a greater chance of devel­op­ing exces­sive­ly dry skin if you:

      • Have a skin con­di­tion that makes you itch, like atopic dermatitis 
      • Smoke cig­a­rettes
      • Are in your 40s or beyond, when your skin makes less oil
      • Have recent­ly spent time out­doors in the cold when less mois­ture is in the air
      • Wash your hands frequently
      • Have vit­a­min defi­cien­cies, such as vit­a­min D, vit­a­min A, or iron

        How Can You Keep Your Skin Moisturized?

        We all want healthy skin that not only looks good but also feels good. Dry skin can hap­pen dur­ing any month, but it’s more com­mon in the win­ter months. 

        Pro­tect your skin from get­ting too dry in the win­ter (and year-round):

        1. Use a gen­tle cleanser. When wash­ing, use a mild cleanser that’s fragrance-free. 
        2. Apply mois­tur­iz­er. Use a mois­tur­iz­er after wash­ing your hands and imme­di­ate­ly after tak­ing a show­er or bath. 
        3. Avoid wear­ing tight clothes. Tight clothes like leg­gings and jeans can rub against your legs. You’ll also want to avoid wear­ing any­thing made of wool or poly­ester, which can irri­tate your skin.
        4. Use a humid­i­fi­er. Humid­i­fiers increase the humid­i­ty lev­el which can help keep your skin moisturized.
        5. Pro­tect your skin from cold air by wear­ing appro­pri­ate cloth­ing, such as gloves. 

        What Hap­pens to Untreat­ed Dry Skin?

        Untreat­ed dry skin won’t get bet­ter on its own. In fact, it might even get worse. Itch­i­ness can lead to scratch­ing, which can cause infec­tions and patch­es of per­ma­nent­ly itchy skin. 

        The good news is that most peo­ple see improve­ment when they fol­low a treat­ment plan. If at-home treat­ment isn’t work­ing, talk to your provider about what you can do to treat your skin and pro­tect it from get­ting worse. If you have devel­oped exces­sive­ly dry skin, one of our board-cer­ti­fied der­ma­tol­o­gists can talk to you about treat­ment options.

        How Your Duly Der­ma­tol­o­gist Can Help Your Chron­ic Dry Skin

        If you have been bat­tling dry skin and noth­ing seems to work, it might be time for a more spe­cif­ic treat­ment plan. One of our board-cer­ti­fied der­ma­tol­o­gists can rec­om­mend prod­ucts or ser­vices to treat your dry skin.

        No one should have to suf­fer from dry skin. By being proac­tive about keep­ing your skin mois­tur­ized and treat­ing dry skin if it does occur, you’ll have healthy skin you can feel com­fort­able in all year long. 

        • Yazan Alghalith - Schaumburg Dermatologist

          Growing up in a small town in Missouri, I was able to watch my mother, a family medicine physician, form meaningful long-lasting connections with her patients. The sense of community that she fostered inspired me to become a doctor myself. Now as a board-certified dermatologist, I have the opportunity to make a true difference in the lives of my patients. It may entail removing skin cancer found during an annual skin exam, softening the signs of aging with cosmetic treatments, or using the most up-to-date treatments available; such as biologic therapy for psoriasis. It could be developing a skincare regimen to treat acne or exploring options for hair restoration. Whatever the skin condition or concern may be, I strive to foster that same small-town sense of community, providing compassion, knowledge and experience to help each patient achieve healthy, glowing skin.