Dry Skin FAQs
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Take the Dry Skin Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and
Test your Knowledge!
Q:Most cases of dry skin are caused by disease or infection. True or False?
A:False. Skin is the body's largest organ and is protected by natural oils that keep it soft while retaining moisture. While some cases of dry skin are related to diseases of the liver and diabetes, most cases of dry skin are caused by external and environmental factors that strip the skin's protective barrier. Some serious diseases can cause dry skin, but most people who have dry skin are perfectly healthy!
Q:What is the best way to treat dry skin?
A:Moisturize, Take shorter showers and baths and Avoid scented soaps. There are many causes of dry skin, including harsh soaps, environmental factors such as cold weather and dry heat, and prolonged exposure to water such as swimming, showers, and baths. No matter what the case may be, the best way to treat dry skin at home is to be nice to your skin! The best home remedies for dry skin include the following: moisturizing; taking cooler, shorter showers and baths, and skipping scented soaps and shower gels.
Q:What is a good substitute if skin cream or ointment is not available?
A:Cooking oil. Believe it or not, if skin cream or lotions are not available to you, cooking oils and shortening can work just as well as commercial moisturizers. Not only are they virtually scentless, they are less expensive, readily available, and ultra-moisturizing.
Q:What is the main symptom of dry skin?
A:Itching. The most noticeable and annoying symptom of dry skin is itching. Itchiness may worsen as skin becomes drier, leading to the "itch-scratch" cycle. The itch-scratch cycle is best described as itchiness relieved by scratching that causes greater itchiness and scratching.
Q:What is the most common area of dry skin?
A:Legs. In addition to the legs, dry skin commonly affects the hands and forearms. The legs, hands, and forearms are the most common sites of dry skin. Of course, dry skin can appear anywhere on the body.
Q:Certain types of dry skin are genetic conditions or disorders. True or False?
A:True. Ichthyosis is a genetic condition that causes dry skin. While there are many types of ichthyosis, the most common type is called ichthyosis vulgaris (also called fish scale syndrome). With ichthyosis vulgaris, skin on the shins is severely dry and appears similar to fishlike scales. Dry skin is also commonly seen in people with atopic dermatitis, which is also thought to be genetically related.
Q:Certain medications can cause dry skin. True or False?
A:True. Medications can cause dry skin. Diuretics prescribed for high blood pressure, antihistamines prescribed for allergies, and retinoids prescribed for acne are all examples of medications that may dry out the skin.
Q:After cleansing, how should your skin feel?
A:Soft. You might want to use a gentle facial cleanser with added moisturizers, especially if you have dry skin on your face. After cleansing, your skin should feel soft, smooth, and healthy. If your skin feels dry, tight, inflamed, or at all irritated after cleansing, try a different facial cleanser.
Q:The best way to clean oil, dirt, and dead skin from the face is to use a gentle cleanser and what else?
A:Your hands. If you have dry skin on your face, forget scrubbing. Friction from cleansing tools causes rubbing, and scrubbing can irritate and inflame your skin. So, what is the best, gentlest tool for facial cleansing? Your very own hands! Wash the skin on your face as gently as you would wash the skin on a baby.
Q:What is the medical term for dry skin?
A:Xeroderma. Xeroderma is the medical term for dry skin.
Q:Severely dry skin that is visible with the naked eye is said to be what in appearance?
A:Ashy. Dry skin is often felt more than it's seen, but on some people, it can be noticeable and embarrassing. For people with olive to dark brown skin, dry skin is a special concern, since the flakes of skin can look gray, or "ashy," says Vesna Petronic-Rosic, MD, assistant professor of medicine and director of the Dermatology Outpatient Clinic at the University of Chicago Medical School.
Q:A good moisturizer for very dry skin should be runny or drippy in texture. True or False?
A:False. Lotions, moisturizers, or emollients that run or drip are simply not thick enough to provide relief for dry skin. A good moisturizer should be thick in texture, and should provide a smooth, continuous application, and should feel soothing to the area applied.
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