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Dry Patches On Skin: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment
04/30/20238 min read
No one likes to have dry patches on their skin. They’re uncomfortable. They’re distracting. And they’re sometimes even painful.
Thankfully, once you understand the symptoms and causes of the dry patches on your skin, your treatment options are fairly straightforward. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about dry patches on skin so you can feel good in your skin again.
Table Of Contents
- Symptoms Of Dry Patches On Skin
- Causes Of Dry Patches On Skin
- How To Determine What’s Causing Your Dry Patches
- Treatment Of Dry Patches On Skin
Symptoms Of Dry Patches On Skin
If you have dry patches on your skin, you’re probably experiencing some (or all) of the following symptoms.
1) Roughness Or Tightness
Roughness and tightness are often the first symptoms you’ll notice when you start to have dry patches on your skin.
Your skin may not itch or hurt, but certain spots may feel rougher than normal, and the skin around those areas may feel like it’s being pulled extra tight when you move.
If you develop rough or tight spots on your arms, legs, hands, feet, or torso, try one of the treatments in this article to help prevent the dryness from getting worse and turning into a more severe symptom.
2) Scaling Or Peeling
Scaling or peeling occurs when the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, begins to flake off. In the case of dry patches, scaling often develops from a long-term lack of moisture in a certain spot and occurs as a progressive condition after roughness and tightness.
That said, scaling or peeling can also occur at the end of your body’s healing process as a way to get rid of dead and damaged skin. Either way, applying a moisturizer is one of the best ways to treat these problem areas.
Itching is another symptom that usually develops soon after roughness and tightness. The itching may be mild, or it could be intense. Often, you’ll notice the itchy skin more at night when you’re trying to sleep.
Resisting the urge to scratch itchy skin can be incredibly difficult. But do your best to avoid irritating dry, itchy patches because doing so could lead to even more severe symptoms. You can enter a chronic itch-scratch cycle that’s hard to end.
Left untreated, dry patches on your skin can develop painful cracks that may interfere with your daily activities — not to mention being extremely uncomfortable — and can even become infected.
Cracking is especially common on the ends of fingers and toes because the skin there is thinner, more exposed, and more active than the skin on your upper arms or thighs.
In some cases, dry skin patches can become so severe that they may break open and bleed if left untreated.
Unless there’s some underlying condition causing your dry patches, you can usually avoid this symptom by regularly following the treatment options on this list.
6) A Burning Sensation
Sometimes, skin can dry out so much that it starts to feel like it's on fire. This burning sensation feels like you have a bad sunburn, even if you haven't had too much sun exposure.
7) Fine Lines Or Wrinkles
What happens when you dehydrate a fresh, plump grape? It shrivels up and gets wrinkly as it transforms into a raisin.
The same thing can happen to your skin if it's becoming dry.
If you start to see fine lines or wrinkles on your face when you look in the mirror, this could be a sign that your skin is too dry — especially if it seems like they're popping up out of nowhere.
Where Can You Experience Dry Patches Of Skin?
Dry skin can strike virtually anywhere on your body, but it’s commonly found on areas exposed to the elements, like your face, hands, and arms. Your feet are also prone to dryness, especially if you go barefoot often or wear sandals that don't offer much coverage.
Parts of your body that don’t get much air circulation, such as the back of your neck or behind your ears, can also dry out easily. Unfortunately, these are areas you might not think about when applying moisturizer, which can cause the problem to worsen.
Causes Of Dry Patches On Skin
Several factors play a role in drying your skin out. Let’s look at some of the things that can wreak havoc on your skin.
Weather is one of the most common causes of dry patches on skin. Too much sun. Too much cold. Low humidity. Even excessive wind. All of these can dry out your skin and make it itchy and uncomfortable.
Thankfully, weather-related dry skin is also one of the easiest to treat. We’ll discuss some of the best options in the next section.
Getting older is hard enough, but it also brings with it more of a tendency to develop dry patches on your skin. As you age, your oil and sweat glands dry up, your epidermis loses elasticity and fat, and your skin becomes thinner.
All of these factors make it harder for your body to maintain the delicate balance in your skin and much easier for dry skin to pop up.
Exposure to everyday chemicals is another common cause of dry skin.
Soaps, detergents, household cleaners — all of these may contain ingredients that can strip away the protective natural oils in your skin and lead to irritation, roughness, and other dry-skin symptoms.
4) Hot Water
Few things are better than a long, hot shower or a soak in a hot bath after a hard day’s work.
But too much hot water can damage the cells in your epidermis to the point that they can’t lock in moisture like they used to. That lack of moisture can lead to rough, itchy, cracked dry skin.
It won’t happen right away, but if you take too many hot showers or baths too often, you’re bound to develop dry skin eventually. Take shorter showers or baths (10 minutes or less) and set the temperature to lukewarm rather than hot.
Changes in hormone levels within your body can lead to dry, itchy skin — especially for pregnant women or those undergoing menopause.
Hormones play a significant role in regulating your body’s natural processes. So, when hormone levels change for whatever reason, you can develop dry skin in places you’ve never had it before.
Allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust are everywhere and can lead to sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.
Those same allergens can also lead to dry skin. It doesn’t matter if you suffer from spring allergies, fall allergies, or year-round allergies, your body may be out of balance because it’s trying to fight off all the stuff in the air.
While airborne allergies are the most common, you might also be suffering from food allergies. You may not know it, but the foods you eat could be causing an allergic reaction in your body that may lead to dry skin.
Common food allergies include:
- Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
Try eliminating one or all of those foods from your diet for a week or so, and then add them back in slowly to see how your body reacts.
Finally, we mentioned soaps, detergents, and household cleaners earlier. Those and other common products contain chemical ingredients — like parabens, phthalates, phenoxyethanol, and hydantoin — that may cause allergic reactions in some people.
If you suspect an allergy of any type plays a role in your dry skin condition, you may need to see an allergist or dermatologist who can order allergy testing. Then, once you know what you’re allergic to, you can avoid contact with those substances.
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that can cause redness, itching, and skin inflammation. If you have eczema, you may notice dry patches of skin on different parts of your body, such as on your legs, hands, or face.
However, eczema can be mistaken for other skin conditions, such as psoriasis or allergic contact dermatitis. That’s why it’s essential to visit a doctor if you believe you have it. They can help diagnose your condition and provide proper treatment.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin condition that causes your skin cells to multiply rapidly, resulting in dry, scaly patches of skin. It can appear on almost any part of your body, including your scalp, feet, torso, and face.
People with psoriasis may experience itching, burning, and soreness at the affected site. In more severe cases, you may also have swollen joints (such as in psoriatic arthritis) or scars where the scales have fallen off.
If you think you may have psoriasis, a dermatologist can examine your skin and give you an official diagnosis.
How To Determine What’s Causing Your Dry Patches
With so many potential causes, it can be difficult to identify the exact source of dry patches. To help narrow down the possible reason behind your dry skin, consider these questions:
- Does itching accompany the dryness?
- Does the area look inflamed or irritated in any way?
- Have you recently started using any new medication or skincare product?
- Are you exposed to any particular irritant frequently (e.g., harsh soaps or detergents, solvents, certain fabrics)?
- Have you recently been in contact with an allergen like a pet or plant?
- Have you been experiencing extreme weather conditions in your area, such as very hot or cold temperatures?
- Do you have a family history of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, or dermatitis?
By considering these questions, you may be able to discover what’s causing your dry skin.
If you're still unsure, try keeping a skin journal for a few days to document any changes in your skin due to different activities or products. You can also seek professional advice from a dermatologist.
How To Treat Dry Patches On Skin
Now that you have a better understanding of what could be causing dry patches on your skin, let’s take a look at treatment options.
Some of these treatments are specific to particular causes, while others are more general suggestions that can help moisturize your skin regardless of what's drying it out.
1) Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize
One of the best treatments for dry patches on skin is to apply a moisturizer on a regular basis. Moisturizers help soften and smooth dry skin to prevent it from peeling, itching, cracking, and bleeding.
It doesn’t matter if you choose a cream, lotion, ointment, or oil, but pick one that is hypoallergenic or formulated with as many natural ingredients as possible.
To lock in moisture more effectively, apply a cream or balm to slightly damp skin after a lukewarm shower or bath.
Also, remember to moisturize your hands and other uncovered skin throughout the day, especially if you tend to wash your hands frequently or your skin is exposed to the elements.
To lock in moisture more effectively, apply a cream or balm to slightly damp skin after a lukewarm shower or bath.
2) Drink Plenty Of Water
Drinking plenty of water every day plays a big part in keeping dryness away.
If you’re not getting enough water in your diet, your skin won’t be able to repair itself, replenish the moisture in the epidermis, and retain its natural elasticity. This can lead to dry skin.
Try drinking eight cups of water every day for both your skin and your overall health. Try this simple schedule:
- Drink two cups of water first thing in the morning before you leave for work
- Drink two cups of water with lunch
- Drink two cups of water with dinner
- Fill a large water bottle with at least two cups and sip on it throughout the day
3) Protect Your Skin From The Sun
As environmental factors go, the sun is the biggest cause of dry skin. Granted, you do need some sun exposure every day, but too much can be harmful to your skin.
To prevent overexposure — and the dryness that can result — apply an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen to your face, neck, hands, and other exposed areas before leaving the house and periodically throughout the day.
Wearing protective clothing is also a great way to protect your skin. Here are some suggestions for minimizing sun exposure:
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat
- Wear long sleeves
- Wear long pants
- Cover your eyes with sunglasses
- Wear gloves when working outside
If you are especially susceptible to UV rays, consider limiting your time outside to the mornings and evenings, when the sun is less intense.
4) Use Gentle Products
Read the label of any products that will come in contact with your skin, and only use those that are gentle enough not to cause dryness.
Even the heavy scent found in some skincare products can cause dryness in your skin. Avoid those harsh scents and the other ingredients that can harm your skin.
Choose products that are gentler on your skin and less likely to remove the natural oils that keep your skin balanced.
5) Try Colloidal Oatmeal
Colloidal oatmeal works to lock moisture into your skin. This, in turn, allows your skin to rehydrate more efficiently and stay hydrated longer. The increased moisture may also help strengthen your skin's barrier, which can help prevent the negative effects of air pollutants.
Our Eczema Daily Calming Cream contains colloidal oatmeal to help prevent dryness caused by eczema and improve the appearance of skin over time.
You can also create your own colloidal oatmeal powder to add to your bath. Simply blend a cup of oats until it becomes a fine powder. Then, stir a quarter cup into your bath water to enjoy its moisturizing effects.
6) Use Products Formulated For Your Skin Condition
If you have an underlying skin condition, such as psoriasis or eczema, it's important to use products specifically formulated for your skin.
For example, our Eczema Daily Calming Cream: On-the-Go can help make eczema-prone skin more comfortable. Its small size lets you tuck it into your purse or bag and enjoy moisturizing relief no matter where you are.
And if you have psoriasis, our Psoriasis Calming Cream formula, with soothing botanical ingredients, can help you achieve clearer-looking skin over time.
By using products that target your specific skin condition, you can ensure the ingredients work for you and don’t hinder your journey toward clearer skin.
7) Try A Skincare Routine Specifically For Dry Skin
Your daily skincare habits can make or break your skin. In order to put your best face forward, embrace a routine that works for your skin type.
If you have chronically dry skin, here is a quick skincare routine you can try:
- Begin by washing your face with a gentle product
- Put on a toner designed for dry skin (but remember a little goes a long way!)
- Apply a moisturizer with hydrating ingredients, like almond oil or shea butter
- Put on sunscreen before heading out
In the evening, rewash your face to remove any makeup or dirt from the day. Use soft, gentle strokes as you wash, and pat your face dry when finished. While it's still damp, reapply moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated all night.
8) Wrap Your Skin
Wet wraps can help target dry skin and prevent water loss from the surface. This alternative treatment is especially helpful for people with eczema or allergic contact dermatitis.
Dampen a cloth, cotton bandages, or gauze with a bit of water. Then, wrap them over the dry patches of skin. Next, place a dry layer of bandage over the area and let everything sit for a few hours or overnight.
This process keeps moisture locked in your skin and can help improve your dry areas.
9) Avoid Drying Ingredients
People with oily skin need different ingredients in their skincare routine than those with dry skin. So, it’s important to know which ingredients could be drying out your face and body.
Alcohol and sulfates are common culprits, as they strip natural oils from the skin's surface.
10) Embrace A Holistic Approach To Your Skin
Your skin is a part of you, not an independent organism. In order to care for it, you need to take care of your body as a whole. A holistic approach to skincare takes all aspects of your lifestyle — including nutrition, environment, exercise, and sleep — into account.
For example, eating nutritious foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants provides essential nourishment to your skin. Conversely, eating too many processed foods or drinking too much alcohol can be detrimental to your skin. Moderation is key.
In addition, a holistic approach requires paying attention to your environment and the products you use. Get in the habit of always reading the labels, and as mentioned earlier, opt for natural, plant-based ingredients whenever possible.
You’ll also want to monitor the humidity levels in your space. If the humidity drops too low, your skin will feel like it’s drying out. You may need to run a humidifier to put moisture back into the air, especially in the winter when running a heater or using a fireplace.
Physical activity is also good for your skin, as it can help improve circulation and give you a healthy glow. But overexerting yourself in the gym or on the running track isn’t a good solution, so always listen to your body and rest when needed.
Finally, getting enough sleep is an essential component of holistic skincare. Sleep deprivation can cause dark circles, puffy eyes, and a dull complexion. Establish a healthy sleeping routine and get at least seven hours of sleep every night to let your skin heal itself.
Feel Good In Your Skin Again
Don’t let dry patches on your skin prevent you from living a full and enjoyable life.
Follow the treatment suggestions in this article, and use high-quality skincare products, like Bodewell Eczema Daily Calming Cream for eczema dry patches, and Psoriasis Calming Cream for dryness caused by psoriasis to keep your skin soft, supple, and smooth.
You can feel good in your skin again!
Cleveland Clinic Mayo Clinic Medical News Today National Library of Medicine The University of Tennessee Medical Center