Extremely dry skin on the body
The skin is one of our most important organs. It determines our appearance and accommodates our sense of touch, it regulates the temperature and protects against infections. However, rough, tense, scaly, itchy or painful dry skin loses much of its protective abilities – and the risk of sun damage, premature skin aging and infections increases. You can counteract this with daily skin care that is tailored to the needs of demanding skin.
Signs and symptoms
Dry skin on the body – a very common complaint.
Dryness tops the list of skin complaints: over 40% of visits to the dermatologist are due to dry skin. Although it can occur all over the body, it is most often felt on the hands, feet, knees, elbows and face, as these areas are more exposed to external influences than others. Dry skin on the face can contribute to premature skin aging.
When the skin on the body becomes very dry, it can become very tight, flaky, itchy and painful, sometimes even extremely rough and cracked. However, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the affected area, it is not always obvious that dry skin is the cause.
- Slightly dry skin: At first, dry skin may appear as a slight feeling of tension or roughness.
- Dry skin: With further loss of moisture, the skin becomes rougher, can be visibly chapped or flaky and often starts to itch.
- Very dry skin: If dry skin is not cared for or if skin care does not work, the skin can become damaged, extremely tense and possibly very rough and cracked. At this stage the itching can also be very pronounced.
Internal and external factors can disturb the skin’s moisture balance and lead to very dry skin.
Parts of the body with dry skin
Dry skin on the body often occurs on the feet and shins. Especially the feet are affected, often also the heels are cracked, which can be accompanied by pain and inflammation depending on the severity of the problem.
However, other parts of the body may also be affected. If the cause of dry skin is washing with an aggressive cleansing product, the whole body is usually affected. And washing your hands too often can also lead to dryness.
Although dry skin is often sensitive, not every skin sensitivity is caused by dryness. Some people’s skin is naturally sensitive, even if it is well hydrated. In any case, skin care products containing irritants such as perfume or dyes should be avoided. The chosen product should be dermatologically tested for sensitive skin
Dry skin and diseases
Dry skin can also be associated with certain diseases:
- Xerose is the medical term for dry skin. The word comes from the Greek: xero means dry and osis disease
- Neurodermatitis and psoriasis also show dry skin as a symptom although inflammations are the even bigger problem with these skin types. Typically, the skin is reddened, scaly and itches very much.
- Metabolic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease can also increase the risk of dry skin.
- Keratosis pilaris (also known as grater skin) is a cornification disorder of the hair follicles that occurs mainly on the upper arms and legs. There, numerous small white or slightly reddened spots, reminiscent of goose skin, form. The skin feels rough and uneven.
- Ichthyosis is also a cornification disorder of the skin, which is caused by defects in the genetic material. Although the horny layer is very thickened, it cannot bind enough water and therefore suffers constantly from high moisture loss.
Causes and triggers of dry skin
The causes of dry skin
The skin acts as a protective barrier. However, this also means that it is constantly exposed to both external and internal influences. There are numerous causes and factors that contribute to dry body skin, from environmental influences and unsuitable skin care to diseases such as psoriasis and neurodermatitis.
Dehydration of the skin occurs in different stages:
- The skin becomes dry when the natural skin barrier is damaged by a lack of the skin’s own lipids, allowing the moisture in the skin to evaporate more.
- This leads to an increasing loss of moisture. The additional lack of Natural Moisturing Factors (NMF), which bind moisture in the skin, causes the upper layers of the skin to dry out.
- Dry skin becomes rough and cracked when the dryness penetrates to the deeper layers of the skin.
Due to a lack of moisture-binding natural moisturizing factors (Natural Moisturing Factor = NMF), the upper layers of the skin are no longer sufficiently moisturized.
The main causes for the process described above are environmental influences and unsuitable skin care:
- Unfavourable weather conditions – hot, cold and dry air disturb the barrier function of the skin.
- Seasons – The symptoms of dry skin usually worsen in the cold season.
- Ultraviolet light (UV) can also dry out the skin and also increase skin aging. Older skin in turn tends to become increasingly dry. More information about age-related drought.
- Frequent washing and long, hot baths or extensive showers release the lipids from the skin’s protective film.
- Unsuitable daily skin care – Avoid aggressive cleansing products that dissolve the natural fats from the skin. Instead, try to establish a daily skin care routine with products that are specially designed for dry skin.
Dry skin is a side effect of many medications. Common medications with this side effect are diuretics that lower blood pressure. The resulting increased loss of moisture also has a negative effect on the skin’s moisture balance. Antibiotics and oral acne medication can also lead to dry skin. Contact your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned that a medication could cause dry skin.
Shorter baths and lower water temperatures are advisable, as an extended bath removes more moisture and lipids from the skin.
Since some medications can cause dry skin, you should consult your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin while taking medication.
The moisture balance of the skin is also determined by genetic factors. Some people have rather oily skin, others dry skin. The respective skin type is inherited, even though a child does not necessarily have to have the same skin type as its parents. A hereditary predisposition is also frequently found in diseases such as neurodermatitis, psoriasis, diabetes and ichthyosis.
Changes in the hormone balance, especially in oestrogen and testosterone levels, can affect skin moisture and lipid content. This is particularly noticeable after the menopause, when the skin becomes drier due to the reduced oestrogen level. Dry skin can also occur during pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
Like any other organ, the skin needs several important nutrients to function properly. These include unsaturated fatty acids and vitamins. A lack of these nutrients can contribute to dry skin.
With increasing age, the number of sebaceous and sweat glands in the skin decreases, resulting in less sweat and lipids being produced. The water content of the skin and its ability to bind moisture also decreases. These factors lead to increased skin dryness, which in turn promotes skin aging and the development of wrinkles and fine lines. More information about age-related drought.
Dry, itchy skin during pregnancy can be soothed with suitable skin care products.
A balanced diet rich in vitamins and nutrients is important for keeping the skin healthy.
Additional factors for extremely dry skin
In addition to the main causes of dry body skin, there are other factors that can influence the severity of dryness. Those who know about it can avoid them and thus reduce the impact.
Lack of care
If dry skin is not treated sufficiently, the dryness can increase and the moisture network in the deeper layers can also be disturbed. Here a moisturising care product should be used to counteract this problem.
If dry skin is protected from sun exposure, a sunscreen product that also replenishes the missing moisturizing factors should be used in addition to the appropriate SPF. In addition, sunscreens and other skin care products should not contain irritating fragrances and dyes, as dry skin, especially dry facial skin, is more prone to irritation than normal skin.
In some professions, working conditions may increase the risk of developing dry skin. This generally includes all professions that require work under conditions that are harmful to the skin, for example in hot or cold weather (farmers, fishermen, construction workers), or where cleaning agents (doctors, nurses, hairdressers) or chemicals are frequently used (mechanics, cleaners).
The skin is supplied with moisture by the body and is therefore dependent on the body’s water balance. When water is scarce, the skin’s moisture supply is reduced, which can contribute to dry skin. Older people are particularly prone to dehydration, as the feeling of thirst decreases with age.
Cigarettes contain many toxins, including nicotine, which can worsen blood circulation. This slows down the metabolism in the skin and the skin can age and dry out prematurely.
When the skin is clean and still slightly moist, for example after bathing or showering, this is the best time to moisturize it.
Dry skin requires special sun care without irritating fragrances and dyes.
In some professions it may be useful to wear protective gloves and apply cream to the hands regularly, for example medical staff or hairdressers.
What to do with dry skin?
Dry skin is caused by a disruption of the skin barrier, with moisture and the ability to bind water being lost due to a lack of moisturizing factors. It therefore needs daily skin care that does not contribute to a further deterioration of the skin barrier and that replaces the missing natural moisturizing factors.
Dry to very dry skin requires care that is tailored to the degree of severity. In the case of neurodermatitis, special products are required for the daily care of the skin of babies and small children. When choosing a skin care product for children, always pay attention to the age recommendation.
Cleaning of dry body skin
Dry body skin often results from a disturbance of the lipid barrier on the skin surface. Therefore, detergents should be so gentle that the natural protective film of the skin is not detached during washing. In addition, natural moisturizing factors such as urea ensure that the skin’s moisture balance is restored.
Eucerin UreaRepair ORIGINAL Washing Fluid 5% is a very mild cleansing fluid that has been specially developed for dry to very dry body skin. It gently cleanses without drying out the skin and has been enriched with natural moisturizing factors. The fluid is suitable for dry skin as well as for the treatment of diabetic skin, keratosis pilaris, psoriasis and ichthyosis.
Moisture for dry skin
The most important requirement of a moisturizing care for dry skin is that the moisture balance in the upper layers of the skin is restored. The natural moisturising factors (Natural Moisturing Factor = NMF) such as urea and lactate bind the moisture in the stratum corneum, the upper layer of skin. A minimum content of 5 % urea is recommended, even for slightly dry skin. Very dry skin generally requires a higher content of urea and other moisturizing factors. The care series Eucerin UreaRepair contains body lotions and creams with 5 and 10 % urea – including hand and foot creams.
Wet skin should not be rubbed dry with a towel, but only dabbed dry and then creamed immediately.
To prevent moisture loss, the skin should be regularly moisturized.
Dry, rough and tight skin can be caused by a disorder in the three main areas of moisture regulation: a weakened skin barrier due to a lack of the skin’s own lipids, insufficient moisture in the stratum corneum due to a lack of natural moisturizing factors and poor moisture transport in the lower layers of the skin. Eucerin UreaRepair lotions with dermatologically proven active ingredients address the main factors of dry skin.
- Urea and other moisture-binding factors are replenished in the skin, which improves the skin moisture in the stratum corneum.
- Ceramides stabilize the skin barrier so that the moisture remains in the skin.
Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS Lotion 5 % is ideal for the daily care of dry, rough and tense skin, and Eucerin UreaRepair PLUS Lotion 10 % for the daily care of extremely dry, scaly and itchy skin. The UreaRepair PLUS 30% Urea cream is intended for the care of extremely dry, rough and thickened skin areas, e.g. on elbows, hands, knees and feet.
Dry skin can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most often the areas that are most stressed, such as the hands, feet, knees, elbows and face, that are affected.
Daily care with products that are suitable for dry skin is an important factor.
Avoiding the additional factors
In addition to good daily cleansing and skin care, factors that additionally contribute to dry skin should be avoided. This can reduce the effects of dry skin and the need for treatment.
- Avoid dry air – in hot, dry or cold climates, spend more time in closed rooms and use a humidifier during the heating period
- Do not take hot showers or baths for too long – quick, lukewarm showers instead of long, hot baths.
- Wear gloves when washing up, so that hot water and aggressive detergents do not reach the skin.
- Wear clothing made of natural materials (e.g. cotton and silk) that do not irritate the skin. Although wool is a natural material, it can irritate the skin and should then be avoided.
- If possible, use a detergent without dyes or fragrances, as these remain in the clothing after washing and can irritate dry skin.
- Use care products without alcohol, fragrances and dyes to prevent skin irritation.
- Drink enough water – this recommendation is particularly important for older people
- No harsh soaps that dissolve the natural fats from the skin should be used.
- Drinking is vital, and our skin condition also depends on the body’s moisture balance.