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Dry Skin (Xeroderma)

(Xerosis)

By

James G. H. Dinulos

, MD, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

Medically Reviewed May 2021 | Modified Sep 2022
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Xeroderma is ordinary dry skin.

Normal skin owes its soft, pliable texture to its water content. To help protect against water loss, the outer layer of skin contains oil, which slows evaporation and holds moisture in the deeper layers of skin. If the oil is depleted, the skin becomes dry. Dry skin, unless it is an inherited disorder or is caused by another condition, is called xeroderma.

Dry skin is common, especially among people past middle age. Risk factors for dry skin include

Bathing washes away surface oils, allowing the skin to dry out. Dry skin may become irritated and often itches. Sometimes it sloughs off in small flakes and scales. Scaling most often affects the lower legs. Rubbing or scratching dry skin can lead to infection and scarring.

Diagnosis of Dry Skin

  • A doctor's examination of the skin

Doctors diagnose dry skin when they see dry, mildly to moderately scaly skin that comes off in small flakes.

Treatment of Dry Skin

  • Moisturizers

  • Other measures to prevent dryness

The key to treating dry skin is keeping the skin moist. Taking fewer baths and using lukewarm instead of hot water allows protective oils to remain on the skin. Moisturizing ointments or creams containing petroleum jelly, mineral oil, or glycerin can also hold water in the skin and should be used immediately after bathing. Moisturizers that contain certain substances such as lactic acid or salicylic acid can also be used. Harsh soaps, detergents, and the perfumes in some moisturizers irritate the skin and may further dry it.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Fleet, Kondremul, Liqui-Doss, Muri-Lube
Akurza , Aliclen, Bensal HP, Clear Away, Clear Away Liquid, Clear Away One Step, Clear Away Plantar, Clearasil Rapid Rescue Deep Treatment, Compound W, Corn/Callus Remover, Curad Mediplast, DermacinRx Atrix, Dermarest Psoriasis Moisturizer, Dermarest Psoriasis Overnight Treatment, Dermarest Psoriasis Scalp Treatment, Dermarest Psoriasis Shampoo plus Conditioner, Dermarest Psoriasis Skin Treatment, Dr. Scholl's Callus Removers, Dr. Scholl's Corn Removers, Dr. Scholl's Extra Thick Callus Remover, Dr. Scholl's One Step Callus Remover, Dr. Scholl's One Step Corn Removers, Dr. Scholl's Ultra, Dr.Scholl's Dual Action FREEZE AWAY, Dr.Scholl's Duragel, DuoFilm Wart Remover, Freezone, Gold Bond Psoriasis Relief, Gordofilm , Hydrisalic, Ionil, Ionil Plus, Keralyt, Keralyt 5, Keralyt Scalp Complete, MOSCO Callus & Corn Remover, MOSCO One Step Corn Remover, Neutrogena Acne Wash, Neutrogena T/Sal Scalp, Occlusal-HP, P&S, RE SA , SalAC, Salactic Film , Salacyn, Salex, Salimez, Salimez Forte, Salisol , Salisol Forte , Salitech, Salitech Forte, Salitop , Salkera, Salvax, Scalpicin 2 in 1 Anti-Dandruff, Selsun Blue, Thera-Sal , Trans-Ver-Sal, UltraSal-ER, VIRASAL, Wart-Off, XALIX
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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