If your skin is tight or itchy, knowing the difference between dry skin vs. eczema can help you treat your symptoms and get back to better skin days.

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Dry Skin Vs. Eczema: How To Tell The Difference

06/03/20228 min read

Your skin is tight, sensitive, and irritated. After a Google search trying to figure out what the problem could be, you’ve come up with two possibilities: dry skin vs. eczema.

Dry skin and eczema can both cause your skin to become scaly, itchy, and red. On top of that, eczema can even cause dry skin.

Because these skin conditions have overlapping symptoms, it can be difficult to confidently tell the difference between them. However, understanding which condition you have is the first step toward getting the treatment you need.

In this article, we’ll help you understand how to tell the two apart and, most importantly, share some effective ways you can treat each one.

At Bodewell, we care about the health of your skin, but before we discuss the options for getting your glow back, let’s dive deeper into each of these skin woes.

What Is Dry Skin?

Woman touching her face to determine if it’s dry skin vs. eczema

Dry skin is a common skin problem. Even though our skin becomes drier and thinner as we get older, it affects people of all ages.


While some people may require long-term treatment, dry skin is usually seasonal or temporary. For example, some experience it only during the cold winter months and are fine for the rest of the year.

The symptoms of dry skin may differ depending on your environment, age, skin tone, sun exposure, and general health.

They include:

  • Skin that looks and feels rough and tight
  • Scaling or peeling that ranges from mild to severe
  • Cracks or fine lines
  • Itching
  • Skin that varies from reddish to grayish
  • Cracks that may bleed


There are multiple reasons why you may develop dry skin, including:

  • Living in cold, windy, or low-humidity climates
  • Dehydration — not drinking enough water can affect your entire body, including your skin
  • Using harsh soaps and detergents that strip the moisture from your skin
  • Excessive bathing or scrubbing — taking long, hot baths or showers can damage your skin by stripping it of its natural oils
  • Autoimmune conditions, like eczema or psoriasis
  • Age — as we get older, our skin tends to get thinner and produces fewer of the oils required for water retention
  • Certain medical conditions — some people develop dry skin from dialysis, cancer treatment, or other medications

What Is Eczema?

Man scratching dry skin on his arm

Although eczema isn’t as common as dry skin, it still affects many people. According to the National Eczema Association, the skin condition affects over 31 million people in the U.S. (about 10% of the population).

At Eczema often appears in early childhood, and while people usually outgrow it, in some cases, it can last well into adulthood. Eczema is also more common in people with a family history of the condition.


If you have eczema, you may experience:

  • Scaly or rough and leathery skin
  • Sensitive and dry skin
  • Swelling in certain areas
  • Discolored and inflamed skin that can be itchy
  • Crusting or oozing


Most people with this eczema experience periods when they have flare-ups and times when their symptoms can subside for a few weeks to a few months.

Although research is still ongoing about what exactly causes eczema, some common flare-up triggers include:

  • Dry skin — when your skin is too dry, it can easily become brittle, scaly, rough, or tight, resulting in an eczema flare-up
  • Pollutants
  • Harsh soaps, detergents, and everyday products
  • Allergens (e.g., pet hair, pollen, etc.)
  • Stress
  • Wearing wool and other rough fabrics
  • Smoking
  • Sweating
  • Excessive heat

Dry Skin Vs. Eczema: How To Tell The Difference

From the above symptoms, it’s easy to see how you could mistake dry skin for eczema, or the other way around.

One of the best ways to tell if you have one condition or the other is to take note of when you experience dry skin. If you feel dryness after you’ve been exposed to some common triggers (e.g., cold weather), then you most likely just have dry skin.

On the other hand, if you experience dry skin for unknown reasons and this feeling is coupled with excessive itching, you may have eczema.

Eczema symptoms also tend to get worse if you don’t treat them correctly. So, if you notice that you’re moisturizing but the dryness and itching don’t stop, this may be a sign that you’re not just dealing with dry skin.

Dry Skin Vs. Eczema: Treatment Options

Dry Skin Treatment

Unhappy woman looking in a mirror

Moisturize Often

While it may sound simple, moisturizing is one of your best defenses against dry skin.

Opt for over-the-counter options, or have your dermatologist recommend a moisturizer that contains active ingredients to heal your skin, such as glycerol, lactic acid, and urea. The right combination will repair and hydrate your skin's outer layer.

Use Gentle Products

It's essential to examine the ingredient list on all products you purchase for yourself and your home.

While shopping, look for keywords like "unscented," "fragrance-free," "organic," "natural ingredients," or "dye-free" on soaps, detergents, and shampoos. These are generally gentler on the skin and less likely to strip it of its natural oils.

Take Shorter, Lukewarm Showers

Taking a hot shower or a bath for an extended period of time removes moisture from your skin. So, be sure to shower or bathe no more than 10 minutes at a time.

While doing so, use a gentle cleanser, like our Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash. It's effective in helping lock in moisture and leaving your skin feeling soft and smooth.

After your shower or bath, be sure to moisturize within a few minutes of stepping out and every time after washing your hands throughout the day.

Run A Humidifier

During the cold winter months, the air in your home can be very dry. If you're prone to getting dry skin, that's not good news for you. Thankfully, a humidifier can help by adding some much-needed moisture back into the air.

Eczema Treatment

Woman looking in small mirror at dry skin vs. eczema

Topical OTC Products

Topical over-the-counter eczema treatments are typically moisturizing, anti-rash, anti-itch, and gentle skin cleansing products.

Our Eczema Daily Calming Cream contains our unique proprietary BW22 botanical blend and colloidal oatmeal. The combination of these helps relieve eczema itch and irritation that tends to be persistent.

Natural Home Remedies

Another easy way to treat dry skin and eczema symptoms is to bathe in a warm bath, then moisturize the skin immediately afterward. This warm bath should include naturally calming ingredients, such as Epsom salts, sea salts, or oatmeal.

It’s also important to be aware of your triggers because avoiding them can help reduce the severity of flare-ups.

Prescription Products

Dermatologists may prescribe skin barrier creams for eczema flare-ups. These products help relieve the redness, itchiness, and dryness on your skin.

Eczema can be persistent, and you may need to try a variety of prescribed creams and lotions before finding the perfect one for you.

Light Therapy

This treatment is for people who either do not improve with topical therapies or relapse quickly after treatment.

The most basic form of light therapy consists of exposing your skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight. Other types of treatment use artificial ultraviolet A and narrowband ultraviolet B either alone or in combination with medications.

Long-term light therapy, while effective, can have negative side effects, such as premature skin aging and an increased risk of skin cancer. Phototherapy is less commonly used in young children and is not given to infants for these reasons.

If you think this treatment option is right for you, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of light therapy with your doctor.

Get Your Glow Back With Bodewell

Woman applying moisturizer to face

Whether you’re treating dry skin or eczema, finding relief is possible. The first step is to identify the specific condition you have.

Dry skin tends to be more common and leaves your skin feeling dry, tight, rough, and itchy. The good news is that you can get rid of it with simple measures, such as moisturizing, choosing gentler products, taking shorter showers, and using a humidifier in your home.

On the other hand, eczema can leave your skin dry, scaly, rough, itchy, and sensitive to the touch. Getting the right topical products can play a significant role in helping relieve symptoms.

Our Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash and Eczema Daily Calming Cream are uniquely formulated to provide you with effective and gentle skincare solutions.

No matter your skin woes, with the above tips and tricks, you can help your skin look and feel better in no time.

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