Dry skin, also known as xerosis or xeroderma, is a very common skin condition and is seen more commonly in older people. In most cases, it does not pose a serious problem and is often caused by external factors, which you can control.

Its symptoms are typical and of mild nature except for the itching, which can be intense. However, if left unattended, it can lead to dermatological complications that can be difficult to treat.

Dry skin is often temporary and you can usually treat it on your own with effective home remedies and by using the right moisturizers. However, in some cases, the condition is seen to stay lifelong. Its signs and symptoms are limited to the skin itself and present nowhere else.

You will usually see the skin patches of this condition develop over the scalp, arms, knuckles, flanks (sides of the abdomen), thighs, and lower legs.

It is a condition of the cold dry months, which causes the moisture in the epidermis, the upper layer of the skin, to evaporate causing the skin to dry.

How does dry skin present? symptoms and signs

You usually develop dry skin in the cold and dry months of winter. However, your age and certain lifestyle habits such as regular bathing with hot water, long periods of exposure to the sun, using harsh soaps, etc can cause your skin to become dry.

The following symptoms are commonly seen:

  • The skin appears shrunken.
  • It is rough to feel and does not look smooth.
  • There is itching, which can be severe at times.
  • Winter itch is a common skin symptom of generalized itching in the winter. It is primarily due to dry skin and is most common in older people.
  • Constant scratching can make the skin become thick and fibrous.
  • Thin lines or cracks are visible on the skin.
  • Deep fissures can develop, which may bleed.
  • There may be peeling or flaking or scaling.
  • Red patches may develop over the dry patches.
  • You experience a feeling of tightness over the dry patch of your skin.
  • If you suffer from hypothyroidism, you will commonly find associated dry flaky skin accompanied by weak hair and nails.
  • If you have diabetes, infection more easily sets in and becomes difficult to control if blood sugar is not under control.

When should you see the dermatologist?

In spite of treating yourself with home remedies and tackling the external factors that cause skin dryness, you should see a skin specialist if

  • The dryness of the skin persists.
  • The itching of the skin interferes with your sleep.
  • There is bruising and infection due to itching.
  • There is scaling and peeling over large areas of the skin.

He will put you on a treatment course, which will comprise prescription products besides lifestyle corrections.


In people who are prone to skin allergy or if you have left your dry skin unattended, there may be certain long-term complications, which will need medical treatment.

  • Folliculitis is inflammation and infection of the hair follicles in the affected areas. It causes soreness, itching, swelling, and pus formation at the site of infection.
  • Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, can develop or existing eczema can get activated, which can cause inflammation, itchiness, redness, and skin cracks.
  • Cellulitis causes itching and cracks in the dry skin, which can result in open cuts and sores. This can cause an infection that penetrates deeper and spreads via the blood and lymphatic system to the underlying tissues. This can be a serious infection and medical treatment becomes necessary.