Your skin has a lot of responsibilities when it comes to protecting your body, such as preventing infections, bacteria, foreign substances, and other materials from causing you harm.
Your skin also allows you to sweat, grow hair, make new skin cells, and touch and feel. It consists of three parts: the outer layer (epidermis), the middle layer (dermis), and the lower layer (hypodermis). Most skin damage affects the upper and middle layer.
Dry skin happens for a variety of reasons, and millions of people deal with it occasionally. But chronic dry skin can lead to other conditions that affect how well your skin protects you.
If you’re concerned about dry skin or other skin conditions, Dr. Javier Zelaya and the skilled medical team at Skinworks Dermatology, with three New York City locations, can help.
Causes of dry skin
The itchiness, dryness, peeling, stinging, and burning associated with dry skin (also known as xerosis and, in more severe cases, dermatitis) is a lack of moisture from water and natural oils in your skin. The problem has a number of possible causes:
- Harsh deodorants
- Certain cleaning products
- Kidney disease
- Certain medications
- Taking long, hot showers or baths
- Living in a dry climate
- Heat sources (e.g., central heating or wood-burning stoves)
People at greater risk of dry skin include those 40 or older, people with black, brown, or fair skin, smokers, those living in cold climates, and those who work jobs with their hands submerged in water.
Complications of dry skin
People with chronic dry skin can experience conditions such as:
1. Permanent skin changes
Scratching dry and itchy patches of skin can cause permanent changes, including discoloration, thicker patches, and constant itching.
2. Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
In a twist, a condition that can cause dry skin can itself be caused by chronic dry skin. Long periods of dry skin can compromise your skin’s protective abilities and make cracking and rashes more common.
Cracked and bleeding skin resulting from long-term xerosis or dermatitis can make it easier for viruses and bacteria to penetrate the skin and make you sick.
Prevention and treatment
To prevent dry skin, use warm water to shower or bathe instead of hot, shower less frequently and for shorter periods of time (no more than 10 minutes), apply moisturizer after showering, use a humidifier, and drink plenty of water.
In addition to lifestyle changes, treatment can include prescription ointments, creams, or lotions.
Dry skin is often harmless, but untreated can compromise your skin and create more problems. If you’re ready to deal with your dry skin, call one of the Skinworks Dermatology locations in Maspeth, Chelsea, or Park Slope, or book your visit online.